Summerheat (Symphonic Reggae)
It was mid-1978 in Atlanta, Georgia. I was between sessions with southern soul singer Len Wade with my long-time Jamaican drummer and guitarist Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul and Wayne McGhie in town and hanging at our bungalow in Marietta, Georgia. Wade was pacing about, stretching out studio time. With time booked and still in play, I realized that why not drop a few studio jams on tape? So I grabbed a pen and pad and started writing chord patterns and basic themes. Then, one by one, we recorded. I do this with two rhythm sections, one anchored by legendary NYC bassist Harvey Brooks of Miles Davis Bitches Brew and Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait, and Florida’s King of White Soul—Wayne Cochran’s drummer Kevin White, Pablo, and Wayne. We recorded nine tracks over the two sessions. The radio hit, ‘Summerheat,’ featuring McGhie, King, Billy McPherson, and Paul—string arrangements by Skip Lane came out of those tracks.
While on tour with saxophonist John Klemmer a year earlier, we played the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and hit a jam session downtown afterward. From that session sits a memory of an illustrious saxophonist who embraced the best of southern soul and contemporary jazz, Billy McPherson. That memory sent me searching for this local hero and hiring for the recording.
Summers in Atlanta were a mix of excessive humidity, and temperatures hovered in the mid-nineties. Late at night, sweat drips from the leaves of magnolia trees. You could hear the constant howling of cicadas view the rigid grip of the Kudzu vine wrap its massive tentacles across the landscape. Summerheat captures that life with its bracing reggae rhythms, lush strings, and melodic and harmonic inflection.
A note about the cover photo: Before Atlanta, the players in the picture were part of my house band at the El Mocambo in Toronto. Everton Paul, Wayne McGhie, and Tommy Cosgrove played on these sessions. Kenny Baldwin down front was my long-time tenor man, and George Philip (right) introduced me to reggae.
Band members: Bill King – Keyboards, Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul – drums, Wayne McGhie – guitar, Anthony Holmes – bass, and Billy McPherson – tenor sax. Skip Lane arranged the Atlanta Strings. Les Horn and Greg Webster engineered Summerheat at Axis Sound Recording.
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