Herbie Mann Gets Gritty

Originally posted April 20, 2007

One of the fun things about the mp3 player I use – RealPlayer – is the ways it allows me to sort my collection. Some of the results tell a lot about me and what music I truly cherish.

For instance, I can sort by the songs by artist. When I do that, this is what I get:

Bob Dylan, 457
Bruce Springsteen, 288
Beatles, 223
Nanci Griffith 189
Eric Clapton 185
Fleetwood Mac 182
The Band, 177
Gordon Lightfoot 141
Moody Blues, 137
Howlin’ Wolf, 135
Richie Havens, 131
Everly Brothers 122
Muddy Waters, 107
Rolling Stones, 95
George Harrison, 93
Donovan, 87
Darden Smith, 86
Allman Brothers Band, 85
Elvis Presley, 85
John Barry, 82
Paul McCartney 82
John Hammond, 80
Taj Mahal, 75
Bonnie Raitt, 73
Sebastian 73

Well, that’s the top 25, and it’s a pretty good indicator of my favorite artists, and of my favorite years, too, if you think about it. It’s not that I don’t listen to new stuff. I’m always interested in new artists and new music. Just like the DJ over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, I try to “stave off terminal geezerhood.” (And thanks to the DJ for the tip on Amy Winehouse; her album is a fine one!) But I guess I am inherently conservative. I wait for some time, letting new sounds settle into me slowly, before fully adopting them.

And anyway, looking at the top of the list of performers will never tell you which new performers I’m interested in. To use a baseball analogy, that’s like looking at the list of career leaders in home runs and trying to determine who is the best current home run threat. The careers – both for new ballplayers and new musicians – haven’t been long enough yet to build those kinds of numbers.

What might be more telling is looking at the numbers of songs by decades.

1950s – 950
1960s – 4,524
1970s – 5,422
1980s – 1,406
1990s – 2,619
2000s – 2,245

While a large chunk of my music comes, not unexpectedly, from the decades of my youth – the 1960s and 1970s – those numbers indicate that I’m far more interested in music being produced today than I was in music produced during the 1980s. I’m not a fan of rap or hip-hop, but I do recognize the social importance and impact of both genres, and both are represented in my collection. And there are other types of music in which performers are releasing new works, sometimes reinvigorating genres (see Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse; Joseph Arthur, Jack Johnson and Ray LaMontagne), sometimes building on traditions long in place, as in the cases of Dylan, Springsteen, Nanci Griffith and others from the list above, as well as other musicians. A quick run through my collection shows current releases from artists as diverse as Anna Nalick, Big Bill Morganfield (Muddy Waters’ son), Chris Thomas King, the Corrs, Delta Moon, Eric Bibb, Five For Fighting, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (check ’em out!), Jimmy LaFave, KT Tunstall, Ollabelle, Mindy Smith, the Wailin’ Jennys (whom the Texas Gal and I will see in concert tonight) and many more.

So I don’t think I’m declining into geezerhood yet, although I suppose I’d be the last to know. I do know that the two college girls who live in the apartment above us think that the Texas Gal and I are a “cute older couple.” But I do try to stay current.

That’s never going to be reflected, however, in the music I share here. There is too much music worth listening to that is either out of print, never released on CD or otherwise forgotten, and that’s the niche I’ve chosen for this blog.

As for today’s album, like many that I share here, it was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama, and in fact, took its title from the studios. Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty by Herbie Mann is one of the flutist’s explorations in pop jazz. Funky and soulful, the record was recorded in 1970, when Mann was exploring the limits of jazz and the places where jazz met other genres.

For the sessions, Mann brought along his bandmates: Roy Ayers on vibes, Miroslav Vitous on bass and Bruno Carr on drums. Joining them was the Muscle Shoals rhythm section: Roger Hawkins on drums, David Hood on bass and Barry Beckett on piano. Also lending a hand were Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitar (listen for Hinton’s bottleneck work on “Panama Red’s Panama Hat”). In addition, the Memphis Horns – Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love, Ed Logan and James Mitchell – pitched in on four of the six cuts on the album.

Highlights of the record, for me, are the funky title cut; “Blind Willy,” with Hawkins coming out from behind the drum set and picking up a jew’s harp; and the slithering, smoldering version of the Beatles’ “Come Together.”

Track listing:
Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
Claudia Pie
Can You Dig It
Blind Willy
Come Together
Panama Red’s Panama Hat

Herbie Mann – Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty  [1970]


One Response to “Herbie Mann Gets Gritty”

  1. Disorder In The Center « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] The Herbie Mann track is from an LP I ripped and posted here almost a year and a half ago. Amazingly, the link for the album is still good. You can find the original post here. […]

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