music clip of the day


Tag: Curtis Mayfield

Sunday, March 24th

sounds of Chicago

Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999), “People Get Ready” (C. Mayfield), with Taylor Dane (vocals), David Lindley (steel guitar), David Sanborn (alto saxophone), et al.,  live (TV show), New York, 1989




random sights

yesterday, Bellwood, Ill.

Wednesday, March 30th

sweet soul music

Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999), “Move On Up” (C. Mayfield), live (Master Henry Gibson [1942-2002], hand drums), Netherlands (The Hague), 1987

Saturday, August 23rd

voices I miss

Albert Collins (1932-1993), “Cold, Cold Feeling,” live, Switzerland (Montreux Jazz Festival), 1979

Nobody sounds like this guy, whose 1978 album Ice Pickin’, recorded at Curtis Mayfield’s studio in Chicago and nominated for a Grammy, I’m happy to say I co-produced.



art beat

Bruce Davidson (1933-), Birmingham, Ala., 1963


Saturday, October 19th

sounds of Chicago

Baby Huey, “Hard Times” (C. Mayfield), 1971
Stand Up Guys, 2012



art beat

Helen Levitt (1913-2009), New York, c. 1940


Friday, 5/25/12

two takes

“Kung Fu” (C. Mayfield)

The Dirtbombs, live, New York (Southpaw, Brooklyn), 2008


Curtis Mayfield, recording (Sweet Exorcist), 1974



found words

Yesterday, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (where I am for my son Alex’s college graduation), sitting on a brick sidewalk in Harvard Square, a panhandler with a sign:


Monday, 10/18/10

A few artists seem to hover over this blog, touching down, like angels, every now and again.

William Parker Ensemble (William Parker, bass, with [among others] Hamid Drake, drums; Dave Burrell, piano; Amiri Baraka, voice)

“Move On Up” (Curtis Mayfield), live, Italy (Milan), 2008


“It’s All Right” (Curtis Mayfield), live, New York, 2008

Want more of Curtis Mayfield’s music? Here and here and here and here and here.



William Parker on his Curtis Mayfield Project:

This is the first project, in my 30-year career, that I have devoted to the music of someone else.  It grew out of “Sitting by the Window,” a homage to Curtis Mayfield that I wrote for my band In Order To Survive. The current project develops this inspiration while trying to call upon the spirit in which Curtis Mayfield wrote his songs. We are trying to let that spirit find its voice today through musicians who not only know Mayfield’s songs, but more importantly, know themselves. They are familiar with the language of a music that includes Curtis Mayfield as well as Sun Ra.

I grew up listening to Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Martha and The Vandellas, Gladys Knight and The Pips, and Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. In my mind, their music was not separate from Marian Anderson, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Sarah Vaughn, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon, and Louis Armstrong. All this music is part of an African American tradition that comes out of the blues. The roots of the jazz known as avant-garde are also in the blues, the field holler, and the church. Avoiding artificial separations is the key to understanding the true nature of the music. All these artists ultimately speak using this reservoir of  sounds and colors that we can use to paint our own music.

The music that passed through the life and work of Curtis Mayfield cannot be duplicated. The question becomes, how can it then continue? I also ask myself this question in connection to Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk. It always seemed to me that when Ellington died, the music physically died with him. We were left orphaned, with just the recorded part of his work and all these notes on paper, but that is not the reality. Once you realize this truth, you can find a different way to proceed to re-create the songs. Paradoxically, you can only find a way to play the music by initially affirming that it cannot be done. Let us imagine the Creator: part of his voice was expressed through Duke Ellington, a part through Albert Ayler, another part through Curtis Mayfield. The method doesn’t consist in following or imitating anyone’s style; the method consists of plunging into the Tone World, which is the source of all music. You can’t counterfeit a music. One can only collect strands and begin to weave a new tapestry out of them.

Curtis Mayfield was a prophet, a preacher, a revolutionary, a humanist, and a griot. He took the music to its most essential level in the America of his day. If you had ears to hear, you knew that Curtis was a man with a positive message—a message that was going to help you to survive. He was in the foreground, always in the breach, both soft and powerful at the same time. For these reasons, his music still resounds in my heart.


More from the Albertina Walker Musical Tribute

Joe Ligon (Mighty Clouds of Joy), “I’ve Been In The Storm Too Long,” live, Chicago, 10/14/10

Like a lot of impromptu performances, this starts a little shakily; but then it builds, builds, builds.

Sunday, 10/3/10

three takes

You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board.

“People Get Ready”

Curtis Mayfield, live, England (London), 1988


The Impressions (featuring Curtis Mayfield), 1965

More Curtis Mayfield? Here. Here. Here.


Al Green, live, Washington, D.C., 1983 (Gospel According to Al Green, 1984)

More Al Green? Here. Here. Here.



radio gems: gospel

Gospel Memories
Chicago, Illinois
Saturday, 10-11 a.m. (CST) (archived shows)

Friday, 6/25/10

The other day, as I waited for a train at an underground station in downtown Chicago, an older black guy started singing this song, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and at that moment everything—this song, this singer, this place—seemed all of a piece and I was no longer waiting.

Curtis Mayfield (with David Sanborn, alto saxophone; Hiram Bullock, guitar; David Lindley, steel guitar; George Duke, piano; Phillipe Saisse, keyboard; Tom Barney, bass; Omar Hakim, drums), “It’s All Right,” live (TV broadcast [Sunday Night]), 1989

Want more? Here. Here.

Friday, 12/11/09

Wednesday’s featured artist, Curtis Mayfield, was so popular and influential among Jamaican musicians, including the early Wailers (back when the group included Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer [before becoming “Bob Marley and . . .”]), that one British deejay dubbed him the “Godfather of Reggae.”

The Wailers (with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer), “Keep On Moving” (1972)

Want more? Here (don’t miss “Soul Shakedown Party”).


The Impressions (with Curtis Mayfield), “I Gotta Keep on Moving” (1964)



reading table

It’s odd to think back on the time—not so long ago—when there were distinct stylistic trends, such as “this season’s colour” or “abstract expressionism” or “psychedelic music.” It seems we don’t think like that any more. There are just too many styles around, and they keep mutating too fast to assume that kind of dominance.

As an example, go into a record shop and look at the dividers used to separate music into different categories. There used to be about a dozen: rock, jazz, ethnic, and so on. Now there are almost as many dividers as there are records, and they keep proliferating.


We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.

I think this is good news. As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources—cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them—it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas. The sharing of art is a precursor to the sharing of other human experiences, for what is pleasurable in art becomes thinkable in life.—Brian Eno, 11/18/09



To: Elliott Carter


Happy 101st Birthday!

Wednesday, 12/9/09

Take away the hand drums and the music of this man—another of the great artists to come out of Chicago in the last 50 years—would have a whole different flavor.

Curtis Mayfield (with Master Henry Gibson on hand drums), “Move On Up,” live, The Netherlands (The Hague), 1987



In the Sixties, you had percussionists like Master Henry Gibson that was playing with Curtis Mayfield and he was pretty much used as melodic accents. When you listen to a lot of Curtis’ work after the Impressions, rather than a horn player he’s got Henry Gibson out front on percussions. A lot of people had missed that in the sense of compositional expression.—Kahil El’Zabar

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