Back to Basics with Raoul Guillaume et Son Groupe

It’s a been a while since I’ve shared any recent additions to the collection. Considering, I thought we’d get back to the basics with the simple, sunny tune – Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La Si, Do – by Haitian bandleader Raoul Guillaume et Son Groupe. I don’t remember learning the musical scale back in school being so groovy!

Do Re Mi

Do_Re_Mi_Raoul Guillaume_Et_Son Groupe



Podcast: Diggin at the record swap

For this podcast we decided to try something we have never done before — set out to do a show without any records from our collection. Instead we went to a local record swap meet with a set budget of $50 each to create our playlist for the day.

After a full afternoon of digging through many boxes of records from all over the world we headed straight back to La Sala to see if we spent our money wisely. We think we did pretty well, but have a listen and let us know what you think.




Fela Ransome-Kuti and Africa ’70 with Ginger BakerLet’s Start


20th Century Steel BandHeaven and Hell is on Earth


MonarcoSilenciar A Mangueira


Avohou Pierre Et L’Orchestre Black Santiago – Makoba Houi Dé O


Al HirtHarlem Hendoo


Chico Che Y La CrisisSagitario


The DovesGive Peace to the People


Orquestre Le Peuple – Massavi Fololo Y’ Africa

The NumonicsYou Lied


El Gran ComboEl Jolgoria (Wepa-Wepa)

Abdullah Ibrahim – Soweto (for Nelson Mandela)

This morning I woke up humming Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Soweto”. May-Li, who reads minds, nonchalantly put on some of his music for us to listen to while we got the day started. Then I went over to the kitchen, fixed an arepa de choclo and some coffee, and played this beautiful record over breakfast. I’ve been humming it all day.


This couldn’t be more fitting.


“Abdullah tells a remarkable story about two tunes that he performed in Cape Town in 1976. These became the anthems of children in the streets of the city. They were the tunes Mannenberg (named after a township in Cape Town that is parallel in significance to Soweto in Johannesburg) and Soweto. The saxophone solos were being sung to words all over the country, as anthems of anger and resistance to the apartheid regime. Just a few months after the recordings of these tunes were released, the Soweto uprising occurred. This was the turning point in South African history, when the South African security forces gunned down schoolchildren, who were protesting against [Afrikaans] language instruction in schools.” (Carol Ann Muller, in Kalamu ya Salaam’s great post on Mannenberg – highly recommended.)


Abdullah Ibrahim humbly tells that in the mid 70s, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer snuck in some of Ibrahim’s music into his prison in Robin Island; when he heard it, he said “Liberation is near”.

Thank you, Nelson Mandela. Rest in power.

3 Jazz and 7 Latin Drummers!


Like many DJs of my generation my initial interest in vinyl records began through my love affair with hip hop. In earlier years the goal was to find doubles of anything funky and especially with drum breaks to cut up. Of course, with this approach I let many other incredible recordings slip through my fingers during those days.

Honestly, it’s only been in the last five years that my ears have finally opened to the more sophisticated (but not always less funky) forms of jazz. Fortunately, from those dark ages there are a number of battered Blue Note and Prestige records with such irresistibly good music they escaped my shameful squandering.

Art Blakey’s classic Blue Note LP “Holidays For Skins” is one such record that defied the odds with four amazing Latin jazz arrangements, each chalked full of rich Afro-Latin percussion provided by some of the greats (check the full band lineup below!).  Even back then names like Sabu Martinez, Ray Barretto, Donald Bryd and Ray Bryant were obvious targets. This is definitely a record that has grown on me over time and has continually fueled my growing love for Afro-Cuban jazz.

Enough talk, let’s listen!


Reflection Side 2 Song 2


Personnel: Art Blakey, drums; Philly Joe Jones, drums and tympani; Art Taylor, drums and gong; Sabu Martinez, bongo and conga; Ray Barretto, Chonquito Vicente, congas; Victor Gonzalez, bongo; Andy Delannoy, maracas and cencerro; Julio Martinez, conga and treelog; Fred Pagani Jr., timables; Donald Bryd, trumpet; Ray Bryant, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass




Pharoah Sanders / Tyrone Washington

We told you we take requests, yes?

I was raving to my student Jose about the incredible stack of jazz (Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp) I got at Groove Yard last week. Jose is a diligent jazzero, surely does his homework more than I do, and he was saying that some of these dudes are not so easy to listen to. Fair enough. He asked for some recommendations, and here’s a couple of things he might like:


Daria by Pharoah Sanders With The Latin Jazz Quintet


Pharoah Sanders playing boogaloo?!

With absolutely no liner notes or list of musicians, and with an alternative cover that suggests he’s going to be a guest musician for ten seconds, I picked this record up a bit skeptically. I’m normally not a big fan of Latin jazz, and I definitely distrust those “so and so goes Latin” records you find all over the place – who doesn’t? But I had to pick this one up, had to be a crazy record.

As it turns out, Pharoah Sanders (and not only him) gets to spit a bit of fire, on top of a pretty tight group that keeps him more organized than usual. Not your typical Latin jazz, for sure, I’m tempted to try this on a dance floor sometime, heheh. There’s not much more I can tell you about this record, it seems to be a kind of a mysterious session, you can read a bit more here.


Natural Essence by Tyrone Washington

Natural Essence

This is a monstrous session led by 23-year old saxophonist Tyrone Washington. I’d never heard of him, and apparently he only released two albums after this one. (His “Do Right” from a few years later is too smooth for my taste.) But this record! You can definitely hear the influence of the soulful, spiritual-search sound of Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, but this is also the sound of a bunch of excited young kids having fun and swinging hella hard!

I’ve gotta thank Chris at Explorist International for recommending this killer album. Noone likes to tell the whole wide world where they buy their records, for obvious reasons. I don’t either. But when a couple of young music and design enthusiasts decide to set up a little neighborhood record store, in the middle of 2010, and when it’s the kind of shop where you walk in, get good, honest advice, and walk out with a pile of records you didn’t know you loved, they have all my support. If you’re in San Francisco, go buy music from them!


Charles Mingus, 1951

1951 was the year Charles Mingus arrived in New York, where jazz musicians went to make their reputations. He got right to it. Soon he was leading the Jazz Workshop, also known as the “Jazz Sweatshop” to some of his overworked sidemen. With a rotating cast of players, Mingus pioneered a collaborative style of co-creation that would serve as a template for many groups that followed. He sang out the parts to each musician, teaching them the song phrase by phrase in long, grueling rehearsals. He refused to let the musicians work from a score. In many cases, of course, the written music didn’t exist: it had all been worked out on piano, but only Mingus knew the piece completely. A soloist was usually given a set of scales from which to craft his improvisation, but he had to be aware of the shifting rhythms behind him. Performances were simply extensions of rehearsals, as fluid and unpredictable: arrangements were constantly mutating, songs might be rehearsed one way and performed another, all according to the unique and changeable vision of the band leader. As trumpeter Lew Solof put it: “He liked the sound of the struggle.”

Of course, not all musicians enjoyed working under these unpredictable conditions, and the tensions within these Workshop bands became the foundation of many myths that surround Mingus even today: Mingus chasing his trumpet player angrily off the bandstand and out into the street; Mingus smashing the piano at the Five Spot; Mingus stopping his aggravated band once and again, to the dismay of the audience, who might get a lecture on their own uncivilized listening habits should anyone dare object too loudly. He once had the children of his band mates play from behind the stage curtain, mocking the so-called avant-garde and free jazz sounds that were just starting to be heard in New York then.

He was protective of his music, sensitive to any perceived slight, and was always willing to defend himself with violence, if necessary. But he got results, and this is indisputable. Few composers demanded as much from their players, and fewer still were capable of eliciting such brilliant performances from them. His players, even those who had their disagreements with him, mostly credit Mingus with pushing them further than they’d imagined possible. He sometimes refused to let a sideman solo, might deliberately antagonize him, stoke him, insult him, only to finally let him blow, drawing a spark of genius from the frustrated and angry musician. Reedman Yusef Lateef, who played with Mingus in the early 1960s, recalls asking for guidance on a certain solo, and being given, in lieu of a set chords or scales, a line drawing of a coffin.

Many great albums came out of this period, including historic collaborations with drummer Max Roach (with whom he also founded Debut Records, jazz’s first artist-owned label), but Mingus’s first masterpiece was Pithecanthropus Erectus, an eerie, haunting album recorded in January 1956, starring an inspired Jackie McLean. The title track tells the story of the rise and decline of man, something easy enough to pick out in the McLean’s tense and freakish horn work. It is an album of brilliantly orchestrated chaos, a true milestone.

You’ve probably heard the title track before, but it’s so beautiful, why not listen to it again?

–franz tunda