Donald Byrd: WORD!
While researching the Fonce Mizell piece from the other day, I pulled out a record that I loved. Not only do I love this artist, but it was players like him, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, John Patton, and Brother Jack McDuff that really got me digging deeper for these grooves. When watching the ATCQ documentary last week there is a part when Q-Tip pulls out Lonnie Smith Drives (where he sampled “Spinning Wheel” for the “Can I Kick It”), and it just brought back memories of me going to record stores and scooping up Blue Note releases because I had to get my hands on that sound. So here is some more Mizell Brothers goodness with Donald Byrd and “Lasanna’s Priestess” from the Blue Note release Street Lady from 1973.
Street Lady seems to be laid out like a concept album, a tribute of sorts to the street walker, the lady of the night. As a whole, it definitely is on par with many OST’s of the early 70’s (even though it isn’t an OST), and could easily fit in with those early 70’s police or detective shows. You know the ones, where the detective is under cover like Serpico, jumping out of a garbage can waving his pistol at the perp, eventually pinning him down on the corner while ladies working the corner giggle. It’s almost as if Larry Mizell said to Donald Byrd: “We need to get a record moving like Curtis or Isaac, or maybe even Sly at some point, you dig?” The addition of the funky wah wah guitars, synth like keyboard sounds (played by Fred Perren on Arp), and a pounding back beat go from R & B to Funk to Fusion to Jazz, but never really stop on one genre. This keeps the listener’s attention, because before you know it, that Jazz beat has gone into some synthesizer groove with spacey vocals. It’s definitely a ghetto anthem of sorts overall, crafted around ladies walking their beat. Perfect listening for a Sunday morning on your stoop, coffee in hand, just chillin’. A superb output from Byrd and the Mizells.
“Lasanna’s Priestess”, an ode to the street lady among other anthems, that weaves in and out of grooves with a bad assness. A Mizell personal Blaxploitation soundtrack that has Byrd going for a more mainstream type of approach, dragging along Roger Glenn on flute, Chuck Rainey on bass, Jerry Peters on piano and Fender Rhodes, David Walker on guitar, while the ferocious beat is kept by Harvey Mason on the drums. Mason picks up the pace midway through, as Byrd gets his groove on majorly, and side players like Fonce Mizell and King Ericsson lend a hand as a horn section and on percussion. Rainey’s flute shines too, along with some soothing background vocals which the Mizell’s surely had their hands (and voices) in as well. Towards the end, as the vocals fade, Mason hits some killer fills and before you know it, the 7 minute song is over, but your head is still nodding. A great indication that the Mizell Brothers knew how to craft a song. RIP Fonce once again. Keep Diggin’!
Here is a great remix by DJ Spinna from the Lp Blue Note Revisited