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San Francisco Jazz

Local S.F. Jazz LP: The Culprit’s Blues by Culp & Co.

Just before Covid-19 locked down San Francisco, I had stumbled into Noise Records in the Outer Richmond. Sara, the owner’s mom (and one of the sweetest ladies on the planet), was playing this amazing jazz record. I thought it was a Dexter Gordon or Horace Silver session. The musicianship was phenomenal. The sophisticated structure of the compositions were full of catchy melodies. The recording quality was high. This had to be a Blue Note or Prestige title.

However, turned out it was a record by a group of young jazz men from the Bay Area. The leader of the quintet is the pianist Nick Culp and features Sara’s son, Daniel Brown (owner of Noise), on saxophone. All the compositions are by Culp and the record was released in 2017 on his very own Oakland-based label Gutbucket Records. The cover photo, just as striking as the music it houses, is from the butterfly collection of and serves a beautiful ode to Culp’s late father. The featured genus of buttefly are termed “blues” – capturing also one of the jazz styles played on the record.

Besides being a fresh record, we’re extra happy its a local record. Like other noteworthy, contemporary jazz LPs being made around the world, this too keeps the genre alive by contributing a new vocabulary to its language. It does not merely regurgitate a bluesy hard bop style but rather make a new record within the sub genre. It’s not Dexter or Horace, it’s Nick Culp. For all you listening to Kamasi, Yussef Kamal, Greg Foat, Muriel Grossmann, and the like, we recommend adding Culp to that roster. Serious jazz is also being played right under our noses. Peep the opening track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6XmttyoJWY First batch has sold out but more should be available in shop when doors reopen.

German HipHop

More Prime HipHop Cuts for the Hungry Beat-Heads.

The Postpartum label continues to serve up those tasty beats. They kicked off 2020 by releasing both new and old material. All of which remains in line with the golden-era, boom-bap style they’re known for. The old material they re-issued on LP draws from their German roster of producers. Mr. Käfer and DJ Obsolete were the first two artists on the label (PPTLP-1 and PPTLP-2). However, the label put out their first LPs in a limited run of 150 copies on colored vinyl. Here, they are reproduced on black vinyl and issued in the same quantity. We hope PostPartum continues this trend since the early output is must-have and the first runs fetch cheddar on the secondary market.

The same goes for the 10 inch by AK420’s Rua Augusta (PPT10-), which dropped in 2017 on colored vinyl and this year on black. This has to be the shop favorite of the batch. This year, AK420 also released a second 10 inch called Loungin’. Pressed on slick marble green vinyl. Sure to be another future staple in PP’s catalogue. For their other new LP releases, the label reached across the pond to South America, adding two Peruvian beat-makers to their family. Skillz Flav’! and Ill’ J aka Mad Kid. Both bring a slightly different but equally dope sound to the label. Drum heavy and vocal sample laden, these are perfect beats for trading bars around the cypher. Give a listen on PP’s Bandcamp: https://postpartum.bandcamp.com/ For more on the releases we’ve carried in the past: https://originalsvinyl.com/postpartum-hiphop-drop/

108’s Mission Infinite Live HipHop

108 Mission Infinite

Moving from Germany back here to the Bay, we’d like to highlight the truly special issue of one of our dopest and rarest HipHop albums. 108’s Mission Infinite came out in 1996 on a CD only run of 200 copies. Not sure how anyone got their hands on this thing in ’96; we’ve been collecting the genre for over 20 years and have never laid eyes on it. Fortunately, this rare San Jose rap gem is available once again on LP, cassette, and CD from a small European label NBN Archives. To describe this album: it’s Bay-all-the-way. Live instrumentation with smooth, laid-back lyrics provided by Encore and Grand the Visitor (from Homeless Derilex). No show-boating, no battle-raps, no trying-too-hard; here, these two are kicking lyrics for the sake of kicking lyrics. Reminds us of riding around town in an old homie’s Cadillac while heads spit over old funk instrumentals. Peep it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsyduHPZImA&list=OLAK5uy_mBWO-L8n0NCWZvopBRJtF2toc4OvKBe9U

Boys Don't Cry Cure

The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry” UK 45 Single

Growing up in the 80s, New Wave music was always in our ears. Either from the stereo in mom’s Volvo or the rooms of older, much more musically dialed in, cousins. Joy Division, The Smiths, O.M.D. and especially The Cure. Therefore, it’s always exciting when Cure items walk in the door of the shop. Like this gorgeous UK only 45 single of Boys Don’t Cry, which had never appeared on our radar before. The B-side contains Plastic Passion. The Cure released the single in 1979 (#5 in their catalogue); one year before the release of their second LP of the same name.

Plastic Passion Cure

We love everything about this two track release. From the gorgeous cover art to the provocative song titles. The black-and-white, masculine military photo clashes with the purple and blue color scheme of the background. Perfectly underscoring the song title itself. 5’2″ Helga, on the other hand, reads like an advertisement in the back of naughty magazine. This also give the single that sort of do-it-yourself feel – typical of the post-punk, zine reading aesthetic. This rich texture is somewhat lost on the New Zealand version of the single, which opted for an all black-and-white look: https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-Boys-Dont-Cry/release/1045052

Cure Disintegration Picture Disc

From the same collection came a picture disc version of The Cure’s Disintegration. The packaging in and of itself is a work of art. The translucent inner sleeve is laced with light blue flowers. The disc is also translucent with the original cover art on one side while the other is a negative image of the flower layout on the sleeve. When you insert the disc inside the sleeve, you actually create another art piece. Unfortunately, the cover makes no mention of its designer but it’s safe to say they knew what they were doing. This has to be one of the most stunning cover packages we’ve seen on any album.

The Cure Disintegration
Idris Ackamoor Jazz

“An Angel Fell” by Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids

One of the pleasures of owning a record shop is getting a visit from musicians. Being Jazz heads, it’s extra special to get a visit from a talent like Idris Ackamoor. Tenor man and founding member of The Pyramids. Even more special when the legend comes bearing a bag of back stock from his hefty catalogue.

The Pyramids formed in Ohio in the early 70s under the tutelage of Cecil Taylor. After touring Africa and expanding their sound, the group settled in San Francisco. Around this time, they released three LPs on their own private label, Pyramid Records. Lalibela, King of Kings, and Birth/Speed/Merging. Must haves for anyone into Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry, and the like. Afrocentric, contemplative, avant-garde Jazz.

Jazz The Pyramids
Some of the many goodies Idris Ackamoor dropped off in the shop.

The Pyramids split in 1977 and for the next 30 years Idris spearheaded another Jazz outfit called the Cultural Odyssey but he reformed the Pyramids in 2010. Three albums soon followed: Otherworldly, We Be All Africans, and An Angel Fell. The last two released by the label Strut in the U.K. Here The Pyramids find themselves among the prestigious company of artists like the Ethiopian Jazz man Mulatu Astatke and Lloyd Miller (who merged traditional Middle Eastern instruments with American Jazz).

While we were familiar with The Pyramids’ early LPs (having pulled original copies from storage units or garages), the Strut releases had, unfortunately, slipped under our noses. Dropping the needle on An Angel Fell, we were blown away. It is an exceptional record. And totally in line with the contemporary Jazz sound we enjoy: like Kamasi Washington or Greg Foat. Well-recorded and funky with spiritual messages that concern the state of our planet. Hear it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcEj4A_3H2A.

Greg Foat 2019

The Latest LP From U.K. Jazzman Greg Foat

We first heard about the pianist Greg Foat while at a friend’s listening party a few years back. We thought he was playing a cut from Miles’ “Elevator to the Gallows” but we were pleasantly surprised when he corrected us. It was a new jazz record by a new artist from the U.K. Naturally, we delved into researching more about Foat and his work and soon discovered we were late to the game. Foat had already established a hearty catalogue of jazz in all its forms – the first, Dark Is the Sun.

The first print was long gone, fetching high sums on the secondary market, but had gone through a few represses. Timmion Records in Finland remastered and cut these second runs in Finland. A label known mostly for Soul records but also for the quality fidelity of their vinyl. Here Foat beautifully blends the harpsichord with floating electronic sounds. His subsequent release, Girl and Robot with Flowers, is that reminiscent of Miles’ Gallows, although the b-side drifts into a more electronic mix of jazz and hip-hip similar to the sounds on Dark.

Between his early work of 2011/12 and the two albums he put out this past year, Foat scored a number of albums. These were collaborations with other artists like Warren Hampshire and lean more in the direction of ambient, library, and classical. His 2019 LPs, The Mage and The Dreaming Jewels, are jazz all the way and both equally excellent. The first is Foat’s venture into a more spiritual sound. He captures the slow builds and vocal harmonies found on 70’s labels like Strata East or Tribe. The second, the release we’re featuring here, is straight raw jazz-funk in its most hard hitting form.

Foat plays the fender rhodes on the entire record. It also features the incredible drumming of Malcolm Catto. If you don’t know his work, it’s worth checking out as well. Every track on this album is fire. Great for listening at home or playing out. A must for those who love all those 70s jazz-funk records the hiphop producers sampled back-in-the-day. Give the album a fill listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nuc0Tvnb8R0&list=OLAK5uy_l4iVqU1xM-nqlED4jHKRuFkAdXMLeB3og First batch sold out before hitting the bins. Don’t let the second pass you by!

Pop Up Art Show San Francisco

“Enjoy Imaginary Music” by Brazilian Artist Fábio Benê

We’re excited to host our first art show at the shop and Fabio’s work could not be more fitting! Come join us Saturday December 14th from 6-10pm! A handful of San Francisco’s top DJs will be spinning all night!

Fábio paints over real album covers, creating his own world of imaginary musicians and titles. Each cover features a brief description of these fictional artists and their work. The audience is invited to imagine new songs based on this new reality Fabio creates. The covers, the portrayed musicians, and the descriptions.

Playfully riffing on conventional cover art, Fabio presents the collection as part of a spoof record label called Enjoy Imaginary Music. EIM becomes the first label to release un-recordable and un-streamable music, transforming the audience’s mind into a record player.

A little on Benê himself. He lives in San Francisco but hails originally from São Paulo, Brazil. His work draws heavily from street culture, music, and everyday observations. Benê explores a range of expressions from marginalized mediums to multimedia experiments, testing a different process for each series. With strong character-based work, Fabio creates images that spark curiosity and generate conversations. See more of his work on the his website: https://bene.studio/

Come have a cold beverage, listen to great tunes, and Enjoy Imaginary Music!

David Bowie Monsters

David Bowie Single “Up the Hill Backwards”

“Up the Hill Backwards” is the fourth and final single from Bowie’s 1980 LP release Monsters. The B-Side features an unreleased instrumental track entitled “Crystal Japan.” Particularly special to this 12inch is the accompanying bonus material. A 12 x 12 sheet of stamps designed by Bowie himself. The fact that the perforations holding the sheet together are still in tact is a miracle. Typically things like this don’t survive 40 years of handling.

The images are of Bowie in his Pierrot clown costume. It appears that Bowie took the photo sheet and colored them in with felt pens, adding some text to a few while crossing others out with an X, which gives the sheet a feel of a “work in progress.” The front and back of the single’s cover bear the same aesthetic with a dulled pastel variation. A must for any Bowie fan.

David Bowie Single
Durand Jones Colemine Records

Durand Jones & The Indications “Cruisin to the Park” 45.

There is a lot of throwback music coming out these days. New records that capture an old sound so well they actually seem like they were made in the genre’s heyday. For example, the rock group Drab Majesty emulates that 80s synth-pop style. Kaleta & the Super Yamba Band have fooled customers into thinking we’re playing Fela Kuti. In the hip-hop world, cats like Kluas Layers mirror the beats of the 93 Golden Age with boom bap drums and echoing horns.

One of the most abundant genres to experience this new birth is Soul. Sweet Soul, in particular, which is a favorite in our shop. There are so many new labels and artists who have studied that sound and boiled it down to its concentrate for their albums. Smooth all the way through. The new Durand Jones & the Indications 45 is a prime example of this laid back neo soul groove. Perfect for cruising around town, late night deejay sets, or that mix tape you’ve been planning for that special someone.

John Lee Hooker The Healer

Promo Cassette of John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer”

Released in 1989, John Lee Hooker’s “The Healer” was the first of a series of his later albums that reached chart success in the U.S. and U.K. It featured big names like Carlos Santana, Charlie Musselwhite, and Bonnie Raitt. The band backing Hooker for the session includes the jazz drummer Ndugu Chancler. If you’re into Jazz-Funk you’ve definitely heard this man on one of your favorite LPs. Check his featured performance credits on Discogs.

Shortly after releasing this record, Hooker started hanging out in San Francisco. In particular, he could be seen at a club here in the Fillmore at what was then called Jack’s Tavern. As the story goes, Hooker liked the house band and came whenever he could to hear them play. When one of its longtime bartenders purchased the club, he changed the name to the Boom Boom Room after Hooker’s most famous song. Some say the blues man was part owner of the club but it appears the rumor is untrue – Hooker’s manager wouldn’t let him do it out of fear that the association might besmirch his name.

For further info on John Lee and the Boom Boom Room check the article http://newfillmore.com/2011/08/01/was-it-really-john-lee-hookers-joint/

Open Sesame Blue Note Records

Freddie Hubbard’s “Open Sesame” on Blue Note.

This is one of those unbelievably rare jazz records. Freddie’s first album as a leader and his first on Blue Note. 1960. The players accompanying him and his trumpet are the best-of-the-best. Tina Brooks on Tenor Sax, who also wrote two of the six compositions on the album. McCoy Tyner on piano, who would soon become part of Coltrane’s outfit. Sam Jones on Bass and Clifford Jarvis on Drums. Here everyone brings their A-game and the energy of young talent on the session is palpable to the ear from the very first note.

Adding to its rarity is the fact that Blue Note did not repress the record as often as it did other titles in its catalogue: https://www.discogs.com/master/view/177623 This original has all the indicators of the first mono: 47 West 63rd. address, deep groove on both sides, RVG stamp, “ear” mark. The cover is split but since it’s laminated, the image has held up nicely. It plays a weak VG with some crackle and a few ticks but no distortion. Sounds even better after an ultrasonic cleaning. Might sound better yet on a true mono cartridge.

The fact that it has held up so nicely is a testament to the quality Blue Note put in to both their covers and pressings. This thing looks rough but sounds astonishingly rich, as if you’re in the studio with them. Some say it’s because of the “deep groove,” but this is a misconception often supported by collectors / fanatics. The sound quality of Blue Note persisted well into the 80s. Van Gelder, the recording engineer for all the early sessions, continued on to remaster the various pressing as technology changed. For more on the Deep Groove check out: https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/blue-note-deep-groove/