Influences on The Band
by Peter VineyCopyright © 2000 Peter Viney.
This has to be read in conjunction with The Band & Blues and The Band and Ray Charles. Some blues artists might have appeared in jazz sections in stores as well as on "Jazz and Blues" festivals. I'm discounting them. I'm not going to argue the definition of jazz too far either. I'm counting jazz as what might be in the jazz section of the average record store. A lot of standards cross the line and move back and forth between jazz and easy listening. I'm not going to argue the individual merits. I'm not a jazzexpert. If I listen to jazz, it's usually at the popular end of the spectrum - Cannonball Adderley, Weather Report, Keith Jarrett.
The whole argument about improvisation and composition has been ignored. You could argue that many of Garth's instrumental pieces under the umbrella title of The Genetic Method are improvised in part and therefore veer towards jazz. But as Levon has said:
Hirth Martinez might be considered jazz - as much as Beefheart or Zappa. I've avoided this area!
Jazz was a minor element, probably more influential on Levon & the Hawks than the Band.
The Work Song (Nat Adderley / O. Brown)
Danko has mentioned four Gold Star studios rejects from Big Pink one of which was Sitting A Thousand Miles From Nowhere. This is the first line of Mose Allison's One Room Country Shack (Mose Allison). Allison was enormously important for British bands in the same era as Levon & The Hawks. The Who did Young Man Blues a little later. Georgie Fame based his career on him. Everyone did Parchman Farm. Then there are his covers of Eyesight To the Blind (Sonny Boy Williamson) and Baby Please Don't Go (Big Joe Williams). Allison, as a white piano playing singer who could translate the blues into a jazzier idiom is a vastly under-rated influence on early 60s rock. Against this is the fact that the reissues in 2000 only turned up one of these legendary tracks, Key to the Highway.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers?
There is an instrumental on some Levon Helm solo shows which is either a "loose" version of this, or a tighter version of something very similar by either Blakey or Cannonball Adderley.
Marion Brown is a jazz altoist who has played with Coltrane, Coleman, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp. ASCAP lists a composition, Afrisa co-written by Marion Brown and all five members of The Band (sounds like an improvisation). A track to trace. A fairly recent version exists on Soul Eyes, but none of The Band are credited on the album, and this would not appear to be the first recording. Otherwise the track is not listed on any Marion Brown album on the web. On the other hand, when asked in 1997, Levon Helm had absolutely no recall of this session, nor even of who Marion Brown was. So, it could be a remix using samples?
There should be a direct connection somewhere, but there isn't. Except for a little coincidence. The major Rolling Stone Robertson interviews appeared in December 1969 and November 1991. In both magazines the other major music article is about Miles Davis. When Musician interviewed Robbie in 1991 the lead article was about - you've guessed it - Miles Davis.
Miles Davis also opened for The Band at the Hollywood Bowl in 1970, an event described by Levon.
Caravan (Ellington, Tizol, Mills)
This is a 1937 classic. Garth Hudson & The Crowmatix performed it at the Forum in London March 1st 1999, and subsequently.
Levon has loved Caldonia for many years, and while Louis Jordan is usually found in the jazz section, you could say that it was 1930s pop music with a pre-R&B feel. It is variously spelled Caldonia and Caledonia. The former is correct, but they get confused to the point ewhere they label Caledonia Mission as Caldonia Mission.
Caldonia (Fleecie Moore)
Let The Good Times Roll (Thead -Moore)
Jordan's 1940s hit Open The Door Richard inspired the Basement Tapes 'song title Open The Door Homer (Dylan).
According to Levon's biography, Robbie first met John Simon while recording Third Floor Richard from the long-deleted 1965 jazz album Of Course, Of Course by ex-Cannoball Adderly sax player / flautist, Charles Lloyd. Lloyd was from West Memphis, and had met The Hawks after a Cannonball Adderly Sextet gig in 1964.
John Simon (quoted in Levon's biography)
On the sleeve, Robbie is not credited; Gabor Szabo is. Only one guitar is obvious, in a left stereo position, and it has no recognisable 'Robbie' sound about it. In support of John Simon, the guitar does sound a bit self-conciously 'modern jazz'. When describing the Port Dover set, Levon says that Peter Gunn had a Charles Lloyd inspired flute solo by Jerry Penfound.
Charles Lloyd visited The Band in Woodstock, and was present, watching with Levon and Rick as Garth Hudson recorded the Bengauli Bauls At Big Pink album.
Duane Eddy had had a 1960 hit with his simplification of Peter Gunne, a film soundtrack number originally written and recorded by Henry Mancini. Levon & The Hawks turned things on their head by following the jazzy Henry Mancini vision of the song with a flute solo from Jerry Penfound. This must have been slightly surprising as the Duane Eddy interpretation was a "beat group" staple at the time.
Original: many Mancini compilations, e.g. At The Movies
Levon & The Hawks version: Port Dover 1964 bootleg.
Bassist Charles Mingus was another Woodstock resident, and Levon quotes him (on heroin) in his biography. Hal Willner (who also produced the Disney tribute Stay Awake with Garth Hudson ) produced Weird Nightmare - Meditations on Mingus, a tribute album to Mingus, who had also been honoured by a Joni Mitchell album, Mingus. There is a basic group throughout including Bill Frisell. They are joined by guests Robbie Robertson, Leonard Cohen, Ray Davies, Dr. John, Charlie Watts. Robbie Robertson appears on one track with a record breaking title length : Canon (part 2) (includes 'Playing Chess with Bobby Fischer In Bellevue Reverie' from Beneath the Underdog') (Mingus).
Weather Report bassist who joined Danko, Hudson & Manuel on stage at the Lone Star Café in January 1985, where they performed Jimmy Reed's Honest I Do and a bizarre version of Blaze of Glory. Reed's Honest I Do is mistitled 'Stop Driving Me Crazy' on most collectors tapes of Danko shows.
Peterson was playing Yonge Street in 64. A very remote connection here - he appears on the Canadian Live-Aid single Tears Are Not Enough, as do Richard Manuel, Ronnie Hawkins and forty others. I'd also be surprised if The Hawks never performed Night Train live. Everyone else did.
Miss Otis Regrets (Cole Porter)
Standard by composer Cole Porter, associated twice with Band members: Robbie Robertson produced Libby Titus' 1977 version. Richard Manuel performed this song live, e.g. The Getaway, NYC 7 December 1985 (the same show as Before I Grow Too Old).
As We Speak (1982) is a jazz album featuring saxist David Sanborn with Marcus Miller, Omar Hakim, Paulinho da Costa, Don Freeman, Michael Sembello, George Duke. There is a long list of about fifty 'Special thanks' which includes Garth Hudson (and Gary Busey). However, Garth is not listed among the detailed musician credits. Sanbourn does a version of The Finer Things (Donald Fagen) on the King of Comedy soundtrack.
Hungarian-American guitarist. Garth has mentioned recording with him in the studio and live in Budapest. Gabor Szabo collectors were unable to provide any information whatsoever about these sessions. I suspect that there are many Garth Hudson sit-ins and collaborations not listed on this website discography, simply because his range is so vast that we contributors are unlikely to run across everything.
Robbie Robertson compiled soundtracksThese include various jazz or jazz-tinged numbers, or "standards" that might conceivably creep onto jazz compilations.
KING OF COMEDY
THE COLOR OF MONEY
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY Vol II
Covers of Band SongsThese covers mean stretching the definitions of jazz . There are so many Band covers by artists I've never heard of, nor have I heard their versions.
Blood, Sweat & Tears - jazz-rock, but they covered Lonesome Suzie.
Isaac Guillory - covered The Weight.
Dr Music, a Canadian jazz group with saxist Steve Kennedy who was in a pre-Hawks group with Robertson, covered Where Do We Go From Here?.