Tag Archives: Harvey Brooks


Yet another true gift to music has died: Ray Manzerek. Born Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. on Feb. 12, 1939, in Chicago, the keyboardist and founding member of The Doors died yesterday, Monday, May 20, 2013 at a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. He was 74. As every member was, Manzarek was an essential element to what truly is one of the most idiosyncratic—and just plain strange—dynamics ever applied to the traditionally bricks-and-mortar art of Rock & Roll. But he always kept it in the pocket and he always let it simmer before he let it burn.

Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore of The Doors: Venice Beach, CA 1969 (photo by Henry Diltz).

Before, I’ve touched upon his creations with The Doors here where I described their sound with these words:

When at their best, what distinguishes this group’s sound

from the majority of their contemporaries is that they not

only sound extraordinarily alive and on a journey, but filled

with dread at the awesome wonder of being so; the sound of

there being “something not quite right.” It is that underlying

but persistent sense of creation confronting dread that has

bestowed their music with longevity despite (or perhaps as a

side-effect of?) our desperate-for-the-next-hit culture.

[…] I still believe to this day that together, keyboardist Ray

Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, vocalist Jim Morrison,

and guitarist Robby Krieger had one of the most singular sounds

ever created by a rock band. I’m not even certain they qualify

to be labeled as “rock.” Cinematic in scope and theatrical in

presentation, The Doors fluidly merged jazz associated time

signatures with Latin rhythms, the primitive stomp and lustful

swagger of the blues, and the sinister yet jaunty gait of a

vaudevillian circus—the whole sound given flight by extended

flourishes of flamenco, surf-rock riffs, and sharp apoplectic

convulsions of psychedelia. Inexplicably, this sound could still

urge the listener to tap his foot and sing along. Play any album

by The Doors and tell me what other group (even those that are

attempting to emulate) sounds like this? I suppose the only

appropriate genre label for this group would be “weird.”

Yes, they were a band of weirdos.

The Doors in 1968 (photo by Gunter Zint).

Take for example their rough performance of “Universal Mind” on the night of August 21, 1970 at the Civic Auditorium in Bakersfield, CA, where a showtune lament suddenly cascades to take on Mongo Santamaría’s “Afro Blue” (in an arrangement made famous by John Coltrane in 1963). Morrison and Krieger might be placed sinuous in the front and center by Densmore’s precision driven rhythms, but it is a turn on an evil tone from Manzarek’s combo of Vox Continental organ and Fender Rhodes piano (which he used to simultaneously “play bass” for the group) that steers the whole ensemble further out into other zones.

The Doors, live at the Civic Auditorium in Bakersfield, CA, 8/21/70 (photo by Patty & Spike )

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The Doors on December 17, 1969 (photo by Henry Diltz).

On a more playful note, I’ve always loved the cool-jazz demo version of “Queen Of The Highway” recorded during the November 1969 sessions for The Doors’ fifth LP, Morrison Hotel; the album would eventually be released on February 1st of 1970. Here, Morrison’s brooding mythology of regret and his relationship with Pamela Courson within an American vortex of fame, madness, and open roads is plucked up by the band (accompanied by session bassist Harvey Brooks) and dropped into the set of some lounge-act long-stranded at some slightly sleazy club on the Sunset Strip. Here, it’s been 3am for thirty years but they just can’t seem to feel anxious about it, not even the heart-broken singer. The piano player has never sounded more carefree.

(Photo by Henry Diltz).

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The Doors live in 1970

Another two fine examples of The Doors’ exceptional sense of musical communion in a live setting (which I feel is their true context, where they were able to reach out in unison and achieve something other) come from their August 29, 1970performance at The Isle Of Wight Festival: the certainly familiar,Light My Fireand the medley ofThe Endthat they used to close their set. It might beKrieger and Densmore who place the cinders under Morrison’s ass here, but it’s Manzarek who serves as both the steam that drives the engine and as the excess vapor spitting out the top so that the pressure does not combust the whole operation. As melodramatic and histrionic as the overall desired affect could be, the components employed are often actually quite subtle in their shifts: from the chug of a blues train to a Latin shuffle to the stock sounds of suspense from a radio mystery play to a raga drone to the slash of flamenco to the snippet of a standard or two to anywhere else from always as long as it works to serve the theatrics of the piece.

“Morrison required all three of us diving into his lyrics and creating music that would swirl around him,” Manzarek told Rolling Stone in 2006, “[…] The Doors was the perfect mixture of four guys, four egos that balanced each other” (Greene, 2012, May 20). Together these four would construct an intricate lattice to prop up some strange new sound of expression, something monstrous and funky, something sincere and more than a little kitsch.

God, can you imagine how irritating even the titles of these two songs could have been to them by now, shouted as they were incessantly by fans who desired to show up to the show for a greatest hit or two and then be on their way with their heads remaining more-or-less in the same order it was in when they arrived. And yet, The Doors live would tear into what could be a tired number, split it open to descend into the interior of the nautilus shell construction of the tune and arrive at its center, to search for a new angle on its essence to stretch, to tease it out and present it when they come out burning on the other side. Manzarek was quoted as saying in January of last year, “If you’re interested in knowing what existence is all about, I highly recommend LSD” (Appleford, 2012, Jan. 23) and it is something to this effect that The Doors were trying to achieve.

Light My Fire

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“The End Medley: The End/Across The Sea/Away In India/Crossroads/Wake up/The End”

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To leave off my little tribute to the exceptionally talented Ray Manzarek, about a year ago I acquired his solo debut from 1974, The Golden Scarab, and it really is quite stunning at times. Handling all the organs, pianos, and synths himself, Manzarek assembles a superb crew for the sessions helmed by Bruce Botnick (such as Jerry Scheff on bass, Tony Williams on drums, Larry Carlton on guitar, and percussion by Mailto Correa, Milt Holland, and Steve Forman). Here, Manzarek expands upon certain territories of mystic rhythm & blues first explored in his time with The Doors, and he maintains that band’s quirky sense of comedy and theater. The standout track for me here has always been the instrumental “The Moorish Idol,” which sets out on a journey and just keeps going:

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As one last bonus, here’s Manzarek showing his Chicago roots with that album’s take on Chuck Berry’s blues burner “Downbound Train

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Ray Manzarek, R.I.P

“But now we must descend for there is another side to this vision”—Ray Manzarek.

—————————————–BOBBY CALERO——————————


Appleford, S. (2012, Jan. 23). The Doors Rise Again with New Documentary and Unreleased Song. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from http://rollingstoneindia.com/the-doors-rise-again-with-new-documentary-and-unreleased-song/

Greene, A. (2013, May 20). Ray Manzarek, Doors Keyboardist, Dead at 74. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ray-manzarek-doors-keyboardist-dead-at-74-20130520


—Although these pages are filled with who I consider to be tremendously talented artists, musicians, and performers, I might call someone brilliant but it is rare that I’ll actually label someone a genius. The subject of my last post, Bob Dylan is one, and today I bring you another post on another genius in the field of music.—

(Photo: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis)

If he had not died on September 28, 1991—May 26 would have marked the 86th birthday of Miles Davis. To my mind, Miles is single-handedly more responsible for the evolution of modern Jazz than any other artist; and he was so goddamn cool while he did so too! So, in tribute I present four of my favorite tracks by this brilliant trumpeter and eccentric bandleader:

Miles Davis plays the trumpet during a recording session for Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else album in 1958. (Photo by Francis Wolff.)

Julian “Cannonball” Adderly

On March 9th of 1958 Miles Davis would enter Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey—with a talented ensemble of musicians that included pianist Hank Jones, “hard-bop” drummer Art Blakey, and bassist Sam Jones—to record alto sax player Julian “Cannonball” Adderly’s debut album for the Blue Note label: Somethin’ Else. Although Davis here is billed as a sideman in Cannonball’s quintet (a rarity for the man who notoriously refused to play second-fiddle for anyone) many debate that Miles in fact creatively helmed this record. Miles himself stated that he “did it as a favor” for the man who had already been playing as a member of his own sextet for the past several months. Regardless of who here truly deserves the title of “band leader,” each musician’s dexterity for improvisational expression just shines; particularly on my personal favorite, album opener: “Autumn Leaves.”

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A languid treatment of a standard (of French origin, “Les Feuilles Mortes” was made popular in 1946 by actor, singer, and one of my grandmother’s favorites—Yves Montand),

Yves Montand chatting up Marilyn Monroe in 1960

this composition’s inherent melodic potentialities are explored on a spacious framework that allows each member of the quintet to elaborate, some with a more stately and straight approach than others. I’ve always loved how Hank Jones’ brooding piano intro tows in the rhythm section accompanied by the ominous horns before Miles and Adderly trade sweet solos, with the trumpeter leaping from shrill, metallic notes down into deep, sonorous melodies and back again to create an emotional mood evocative of sensuality and the odd comfort to be found in sadness.

(Photo by Francis Wolff, 1958)

Miles Davis would further explore this emphasis on mood a year later for his masterpiece of “modal jazz,” Kind of Blue, from which comes our second track for today.

Nearly everyone has put in their two cents on this best-selling album, so I won’t pitch in more than a penny.

Miles, pensive while creating Kind of Blue

Creating only a series of sketches for each composition, which served as scale parameters for each performer to improvise within, Miles assembled some of the finest musicians of his day (and brilliant producer Teo Macero) to participate in this exploration of musical possibility: Cannonball Adderly, alto saxophone; Paul Chambers, double bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, piano.

From left to right, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans

With this work Miles fully abandoned bebop’s foundations, placing the music’s focus on melody, economy, and mood rather than on rhythm, speed, and chord progressions. One fine example of this is the cerulean vapor that is the Bill Evans co-written ballad: “Blue in Green.”

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Ten years ago at the age of twenty-one, wallowing in post-break-up anguish in the weeks that followed 9/11, I once spent an entire weekend (AM-PM) listening to this album on loop while writing a long-form poem that I’ve always considered my essential “break-through,” in terms of my creativity. Kind of Blue contained the only music that could match frequencies with the sullen, yet reticent emotions that I had roiling inside me. I would end up entitling the book-length poem The Cartoon Menace, while as a subtitle in parenthesis (Blue-in-Green). Although I’ve never needed that album in quite that way since, I cant help but feel that some furtive spasm in Miles’ psyche had me and my predicament in mind when creating this astonishing work. That’s the thing, Miles music lends itself to a belief in things unseen, a belief in that there is more than just all this.

Miles Davis. Photo by Don Hunstein

From his “Blue Period” we jump on to the era when Miles burst through the last remaining formal barriers of what was commonly considered jazz, and birthed a new musical expression that at times can be described as sublime, and at others, could only be described as sounding like pure fucking evil; not malicious, not devious or angry, but the sound of voodoo evoked evil. The best example of the latter is certainly the 1970 2xLP masterpiece Bitches Brew.

Cover art by Mati Klarwein

It’s as if during those three days in August of 1969, he and his crew of musicians (regular sidemen Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette augmented with Bennie Maupin, Larry Young, Harvey Brooks, Lenny White, Don Alias, Airto Moreira, and Jim Riley) had opened a portal to some Lovecraftian dimension, however, instead of being inhabited by tentacled elder-gods it was a realm filled with music to make you tap your foot, bob your head, and slowly lose your mind.

Miles and Betty Davis in 1969 (photo by Baron Wolman)

Influenced by the sonic territories opened up by the bombastic blues and acid rock of Jimi Hendrix and the intelligent funk of Sly Stone, as well the being introduced to the cultural milieu of the late-sixties by his new wife Betty (herself a musician, releasing some heavy lascivious funk records that you definitely should pick up) Miles’ was both creatively and stylistically electrified.

The innovative intensity of the jazz-rock fusion first explored on Bitches Brew would carry over to his live concerts and would help propel him on a creative edge through a decade marred by massive depression, cocaine and sex addictions, osteoarthritis, bursitis, and sickle-cell anemia.

Miles Davis circa 1970

Our third cut for today, however, comes from a recording session Miles held just a few months after the ones that produced Bitches Brew. Returning to the studio with a similar cast of musicians, Miles further explored his new approach of gnarled phrasing and warped effects twisting over polyrhythmic textures by introducing elements of Indian music, such as Khalil Balakrishna’s sitar and Bihari Sharima’s tabla and tamboura. The results would exhibit a much mellower mood that nevertheless retained an assertive “dark magus” edge.

Dark Magus: Live (photo: Anthony Barboza, 1971)

Dark Magus: Evil (photo: Anthony Barboza, 1971)

The majority of these recordings would not be released until 1974’s Big Fun.

But one track, “Guinnevere,” would not see light until the end of the decade on the outtake collection: Circle in the Round. “Guinnevere” is a David Crosby song first released on super-group Crosby, Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut album of 1969.

(photo: Henry Diltz, 1969)


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The song is essentially in the “Albion folk” tradition but is rendered with a mystic hippy serenity through Crosby’s talent for strange time signatures and peculiar tuning; and it is these elements that Miles and company delve into on their lush, extended rendition:

Miles Davis at Tanglewood, August 18, 1970, (photo by Amalie R. Rothschild)

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Over the next couple of years Miles’ music would place an emphasis on the more electric funk elements hinted at in his earlier work, and it is from this era I present the final song for today’s tribute.


In June and July of 1972 Miles recorded the landmark (but critically derided at the time) album On the Corner. Incorporating the psychedelic-funk styles of Sly and the Family Stone with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s electronic music, and inspirations taken from classic composer Paul Buckmaster, and “free-jazz” visionary Ornette Coleman—all filtered through a musique concrète approach pioneered by Miles and producer Teo Macero—On The Corner is a jazz album that you can just almost dance to, if you didn’t find yourself missing a few too many of the appendages required to maintain the groove. With its wah-wah and echoplex trumpet, afro-centric rhythms alternately sinuous and convulsive, and tape manipulations (the album was created by cutting and pasting recordings made of extended improvisational jam sessions) Miles had this to say regarding his intentions with this music:

            The music was about spacing, about free association

            Of musical ideas to a core kind of rhythm and vamps

            And bass line. A music where you could tap your feet

            to get another bass line (Belden, 2000).

The concise centerpiece for this album is the mysterious and cyclical gem of condensed funk: “Black Satin.” This slice of “street” jazz is simply captivating:

Cover art by Cortez “Corky” McCoy

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Miles Davis – electric trumpet with wah-wah

Dave Liebman – soprano saxophone

Herbie Hancock – electric piano, synthesizer

Harold I. Williams – organ, synthesizer

David Creamer – electric guitar

Michael Henderson – electric bass with Wah Wah

Khalil Balakrishna – electric sitar

Badal Roy – tabla

Jack DeJohnette, Al Foster – drums

Jabali Billy Hart – drums, bongos

James “Mtume” Foreman, Don Alias – percussion

Paul Buckmaster – cello, arrangements

Well, there you have it; four of my favorite tracks from the hundreds produced by this genius over his lifetime. —The man played it cool right up to the end and it’s a shame he’s not here today to celebrate his 86th birthday.

Miles Davis Group – Jazz Fest, New Orleans, 27 April 1991

[I have to mention, the most entertaining biography I’ve ever read is Miles’ autobiography: Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe.

Written in his distinct cadence, you get to hear him—whether in praise or disgust—call absolutely everyone a “mother fucker.” Highly, highly recommended.

—————-Bobby Calero———–