Category Archives: Uncategorized

For Once in My Life — An Appreciation of Michael Henderson

I think I own everything that Stevie Wonder has recorded and released, going back to the early 1960s.  On a recent plane ride to Omaha with my iPhone in shuffle mode I stumbled across a live recording of “For Once In My Life” that Stevie made at a London nightclub in 1970.

The first thing I noticed was that the tempo was brighter than on the studio recording.  The second thing I observed was the absolutely killer bass line that I was ready to attribute to James Jamerson.

It turns out the line was not by Jamerson but by Michael Henderson, a then 18-year old phenomenon who who soon catch the eye of Miles Davis.  Here’s a snippet from the live show.

I’m not the only one that’s been taken by how good this line is.  There are at least two YouTube videos that pay homage to Henderson’s bass playing, including this one.

Enjoy.

Highlights from The Cutting Room — May 2014

We had a great show on May 17 and have some video highlights to share. With

Russ Velazquez, Vocals
Edlene Hart, Vocals
Angela Clemmons, Vocals
Jon Cobert, Keyboard / Vocals
Peter Calo, Guitar
Gene Lewin, Drums
Norberto Goldberg, Percussion
Joe Giorgianni, Trumpet
Chris Pasin, Trumpet
Joe Meo, Tenor Saxophone
Jon Saxon, Alto and Baritone Saxophones
Alessandra Levy, Background Vocals
Carly Cantor, Background Vocals
Rosharra Francis, Background Vocals
Steve Wexler, Bass

(Videography by Larry Blumenstein; video editing by Ralph Scaglione, Flymusicman Project)

Montage

“Higher Ground”, “Love The One You’re With”, “The Letter”, and “Happy”, featuring Russ Velazquez, Edlene Hart, Jon Cobert, and Angela Clemmons.

 

The Letter

Jon Cobert on vocals and solos from Joe Meo and Chris Pasin.

 

Higher Ground

Russ Velazquez and Angela Clemmons on vocals.

 

Happy

Russ Velazquez on vocals.

New Bottles for Old Wine — Van Morrison and Moondance

I’m always impressed with artists that take a tune for which they are famous and change it in a way that is faithful to the original yet fresh.

In the mid 1990s Van Morrison started performing a “big band” version of Moondance, his hit from 25 years earlier.  Here’s one performance from 1995 that features Georgie Fame on organ.

I’ve always enjoyed this song and we will be adding it to the Top Shelf repertoire (with horns of course.)

Sounds from The Cutting Room — January 31, 2014

What a great show!  Full house and terrific performances from

Russ Velazquez, Vocals
Andricka Hall, Vocals
Lon Hoyt, Keyboard
Andrew Zinsmeister, Guitar
Mark Dodge, Drums
Norberto Goldberg, Percussion
Greg Ruvolo, Trumpet
John Trombetta, Trumpet
Joe Meo, Saxophone / Piccolo
Jon Saxon, Saxophone
Alessandra Levy, Vocals
Sarah Anne Sillers, Vocals
Carly Cantor, Vocals
Steve Wexler, Bass

Special Guests:

Angela Clemmons
Gene Lewin
Tom “Blues Buddha” Dudley

Here are some highlights:

Tail Feather / Proud Mary

Andricka Hall and the Shelfettes channel Tina Turner

25 Miles

Russ Velazquez performs the Edwin Starr classic

Higher Ground

Russ Velazquez and Andricka Hall get us higher and guest drummer Gene Lewin drives the band

Inside Out

Sarah Anne Sillers shines on this Imelda May song

Knock On Wood

A fresh take on this Motown staple featuring Russ Velazquez on lead vocals

An Appreciation of Quincy Jones’ Early Work

“Hey, you should perform One Mint Julep” suggested a friend after hearing The Top Shelf perform at a show in New York City last year.

I finally decided to follow up on this and went on a YouTube listening spree.  I found several great renditions, including one by Sarah Vaughn and, of course, the 1961 monster hit version by Ray Charles.

It turns out both versions were arranged by Quincy Jones.

The recordings also remind me of Soul Bossa Nova, Jones’ own composition released a year later.

You may know that tune as the theme to the Austin Powers movies.

Will we do these songs at our upcoming show at the Cutting Room on January 31, 2014? No promises… but…

In the meantime, here are some YouTube clips for your enjoyment.

Soul Bossa Nova (1962)

The “laughing” instrument is a Cuíca.  I also love the two piccolos playing the melody in harmony.

Soul Bossa Nova (The Late Show with David Letterman)

Not sure of the date, but probably 2002.  Check out the great flugelhorn and “mumbles” solo from Clark Terry.

One Mint Julep (1961)

Ray Charles’ instrumental hit.  The band just kills.

An Appreciation of Imelda May

Almost a year ago after performing with The Top Shelf at a wedding in Waltham, Massachusetts, I checked into my hotel room, tired, but not ready to go to sleep.

Rather than read my dog-eared edition of Ulysses I decided to do some channel surfing and stumbled across a great PBS special called Jeff Beck’s Rock ‘n Roll Party honoring Les Paul.

This may have been the best post-gig channel surf ever as the band was smokin’ and every song was a gem.

One of the standout performers was Imelda May, a killer singer from Ireland best known for her rockabilly recordings but who on that night performed a bevy of Les Paul / May Ford masterpieces.

I recently came across Imelda May again when I was looking for some new material for our July performance at The Cutting Room.  There’s a lot of great stuff in her book, but the song that best suited the band was “Inside Out.”

Here’s Imelda’s performance from the Graham Norton show.

Sights and Sounds from The Cutting Room — July 19, 2013

It was HOT, HOT, HOT outside and the band was smokin’ inside.

Here are some of the sounds…

Love The One You’re With
Edlene Hart channels Aretha

Higher Ground
Russ Velazquez channels both Stevie Wonder *and* Sammy Davis Jr., with Gene Lewin driving the band

Unchain My Heart
Tim Ouimette’s inspired trumpet solo

Oh, Darling
Russ Velazquez takes on this Beatles classic with Jon Cobert on keys

Georgia
Edlene Hart gives it her all on this original arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael Classic

Green Onions and James Bond
R&B Meets the movies

…And here are some of he sights from Amy Kerwin of Dragonfly Photography.

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