A parallel trend during the emergence of jazz rock in the late 1960s was of artists coming from popular music backgrounds such as rock, soul, R&B and folk to head towards jazzy territories. I am calling this trend rock jazz. This was usually achieved by adding a horn section and creating arrangements that borrowed from jazz esthetics established by big bands and smaller jazz combos. A number of factors made these groups more palatable to wide audiences than their jazz rock counterparts: They did not abandon popular song structures with recognizable melodies and hooks, and most importantly – they wrote lyrics and had a lead singer. Some of these bands were quite successful and had high charting albums and singles.
We open the review with a band to whom Jimi Hendrix said, after the legendary guitar player watched them perform as an opening act for Albert King at Whiskey-A-Go-Go, “You have a guitar player who’s better than me and a horn section that sounds like one set of lungs.”
After releasing a fantastic debut album in 1969 under the name Chicago Transit Authority, the band smartly shortened their name simply to Chicago, avoiding a threat for legal action by the real Chicago Transit Authority. The city, unlike its transit company, had no issue with the new name.
In January of 1970 Chicago released their second album, another ambitious double-LP. This was the first appearance of the famous band logo, nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover. Graphic designer John Berg was inspired by a much better known logo, that of Coca-Cola. Over the years the band’s logo remained a consistent fixture on the band’s album covers, always with the same font, size and position.
While most of the band members came from a rock background, when they were asked about their influences in a DownBeat magazine profile in October 1970, they cited jazz musicians including Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Burrell, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Jimmy Smith.
The influences were even wider, expanding beyond popular music and jazz. Keyboard player Robert Lamm told Melody Maker in January 1970: “This album has more classical influence. Terry Kath and I have been listening to classical composers for the last couple of years and we’ve been trying to find ways of working some classical things into the arrangements. We listen to everyone from Bach and Stravinsky to Edgar Varese.”
Lamm continued to talk about their producer: “Jimmy Guercio produced this album as well. He’s more than a producer to us, he’s been a close friend and l think our relationship is going to be a lasting one.” He was right. Guercio produced the band’s first eleven albums.
The album’s centerpiece is a 13-minute suite named Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon. It was written by trombonist James Pankow as an attempt to win back his ex-fiancée, Terry Heisler, who was at the time attending West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, West Virginia. The attempt failed, but the suite remained a classic. It produced two hits for the band, Make Me Smile and Colour My World. The gifted musician said of his composition: “Our producer, James Guercio, broke it down into titled movements. I mean, I titled them, but I didn’t imagine them being listed on the album. Guercio might have seen the potential of some of the parts. I had absolutely no idea. My desire was to emulate the great classical composers and put it into pop perspective. I wasn’t thinking ‘how many singles can I stick in this thing?’ I’d been listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and it inspired this arpeggio that became Colour My World.”
In August of 1970 the band performed a set at the Isle of Wight Festival, playing the full suite:
The album carries a political message, appropriate for the time it was released. On the back cover it has a dedication to “ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the revolution… and the revolution in all its forms.” Robert Lamm, who was the main lyrics writer in the band, added: “It’s impossible for me to get up in the morning and write a love song. It’s not what I see in the world.” Trumpet player Lee Loughnane: “We are trying to entertain people, but the music has to have some kind of punch. It has got to hit someone – like Nixon. I’m sure he hates us. I hope he does. We’ve said a few things about him he wouldn’t like to hear.”
Beat Instrumental magazine, in its feature about the band in February 1970, was wondering if the rich sound the band produced was the result of more than seven members in the band, or that multi–tracking techniques have been employed to give Chicago their full sound. To that James Pankow replied succinctly: “It’s all a matter of correct voicings.”
The biggest hit from the album was the now-classic rock radio mainstay ‘25 or 6 to 4’. For those baffled over the song title, its writer guitarist Terry Kath gives a simple answer: “It was at 25 or 26 minutes to 4 in the morning when that particular song was written.”
The song opens with one of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, and features a wonderful guitar solo with an effective use of a wah-wah pedal. It climbed to number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 7 on the UK Singles Chart.
Peter Cetera – bass, vocals
Terry Kath – guitars, vocals
Robert Lamm – keyboards, vocals
Lee Loughnane – trumpet, vocals
James Pankow – trombone
Walter Parazaider – saxophone, flute, clarinet, vocals
Danny Seraphine – drums, percussion
The next band has been compared stylistically to Chicago for its use of a horn section frontline and jazzy arrangements. Its second self-titled album from 1968 was also produced by James Guercio, and it topped the US album chart. In 1970 Blood, Sweat and Tears was able to repeat that success with their 3rd album, aptly named Blood, Sweat & Tears 3.
The album consisted mostly of covers, including James Taylor’s Fire and Rain, the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil and Laura Nyro’s He’s a Runner. It also included the hit Hi-De-Ho, a reworking of Carole King’s song from her band’s The City 1968 sole album Now That Everything’s Been Said.
Saxophone player and arranger Fred Lipsius said this about the makeup of the band: “If we’d all been jazz players, it couldn’t have come off. We have a little something for everybody. Besides, when jazz players get into rock just for the bread, the music comes out very stiff. Only people who love rock can make it come out right.”
Singer David Clayton-Thomas added: “This band does more free blowing on stage than any rock band, but we do it with very literate and educated framework.”
The band got noticed by rock and jazz publications alike. DownBeat magazine, in a feature article about Blood, Sweat & Tears in September 1970, wrote: “Their arrangements, mostly by Fred Lipsius and Dick Halligan, are on par with the best jazz has to offer and there isn’t less than a first-rate musician in the group. Their debt to jazz—including Gil Evans—is great, but jazz is indebted to them, too, for they are paving the way for young rock fans’ appreciation of a music which never died, but came close to being overlooked.”
The same magazine issue selected to feature a transcription of trumpeter-extraordinaire Lew Soloff’s solo from Lucretia’s Reprise, one of the few original tunes on the album, noting these highlights: Great rhythmic variety, Contrast between busyness and repose, Skillful and musical use of the upper register and Humorous quote from Prokofieff’s Peter and the Wolf.
David Clayton-Thomas – lead vocals
Steve Katz – guitar, lead vocals, harmonica
Jim Fielder – bass guitar
Dick Halligan – organ, piano, electric piano, harpsichord, back vocals, recorder, celeste, trombone, flute, alto flute
Fred Lipsius – alto saxophone, piano, electric piano, music box, back vocals
Lew Soloff – trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet
Chuck Winfield – trumpet, flugelhorn
Jerry Hyman – trombone, bass trombone, baritone horn
Bobby Colomby – drums, backing vocals, percussion
Rock songs with horn arrangements made it big in the charts in 1970. Another fine example is a lesser known Chicago-based band, Ides of March, which had a #2 hit with the single Vehicle. The song has the distinction of being the fastest-selling single in the history of Warner Bros.
For those not familiar with the song, upon hearing it for the first time it immediately brings Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears to mind. Lead guitarist and singer Jim Peterik does not deny the influence: “When we went down to the Kinetic Playground in Chicago to see Blood, Sweat & Tears, they had just gotten David Clayton-Thomas. They started the set with ‘More and More’ and we go ‘Holy mackerel, this is unbelievable.”
Peterik talked about the song’s subject matter: “At the time, I was madly in love with this girl named Karen. I had a souped-up 1964 Plymouth Valiant, and she was always asking for rides. I drove her to modeling school every week. I was hoping flames would ignite—but they didn’t. I came home one day, dejected, and thought: all I am is her vehicle. And I thought: Wow! Vehicle!”
Peterik also remembers the recording session in which he sang the lead vocals: “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing a spot-on David Clayton-Thomas imitation. People in the studio said it was scary. I thought that was it, that was the take. And producer Frank Rand says, ‘Peterik, would you stop trying to be David Clayton-Thomas and just be Peterik”’ I go, ‘I am, I am. He says, ‘Just do it again.’ So I did a real pissed-off take and that was, of course, the money take.”
Jim Peterik – lead guitar, lead vocals
Larry Millas – rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Bob Bergland – bass, saxophone, backing vocals
Ray Herr – bass, backing vocals
Michael Borch – drums, percussion
John Larson – trumpet, flugelhorn
Chuck Soumar – trumpet, backing vocals
There must have been something in the water in Chicago to breed rock groups with horn sections, for our next group, like Chicago and The Ideas of March, also started in this city. The Flock had something unique, though – a violin player named Jerry Goodman. Yes, the same Jerry Goodman who a year later would join John McLaughlin in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The band had started in the mid-1960s and released a few singles before Jerry Goodman joined their lineup. Guitarist Fred Glickstein remembers: “One of the group suggested that we hear a friend of his play the violin. This was Jerry Goodman, who was a classically trained violinist and also a darn good guitar player. We attached an electric pick-up to his violin and, voila, it sounded great.”
Fronted by four horn players, the Flock was also frequently compared to Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Jerry Goodman on that topic: “We were far less commercial. Our material kinda wandered into strange areas at times. We were a 7-piece band, and everyone was free to contribute. I guess we all had the chance to throw a little something into the pot.”
In 1970 the band released their second album Dinosaur Swamps. Glickstein: “It came to us while on chemically enhanced visit to Boston!” The album includes an attempt at a hit with the song Big Bird, featuring blue grass and country influences. Think Grateful Dead with horns.
Jerry Goodman – violin, guitars, vocals
Fred Glickstein – guitars, lead vocals, Hammond organ
Jerry Smith – bass guitar, vocals
Ron Karpman – drums
Rick Canoff – tenor saxophone, vocals
Tom Webb – tenor saxophone, vocals
Frank Posa – trumpet
John Gerber – alto and tenor saxophones, flute, banjo, vocals
We cross the Atlantic and discover that horn-fronted rock acts were not solely an American phenomena. We first come to a band that its early incarnation found success during the British Invasion with hits such as Do Wah Diddy Diddy and Pretty Flamingo. After releasing increasingly more complex albums in the late 1960s, Manfred Mann decided to go all out with an experimental rock and jazz outfit that he labeled Manfred Mann Chapter Three. He quickly found out that the new music had a much smaller mass appeal compared to his previous band. He told Melody Maker in May of 1970: “We’re hindered in England because of our name. It has association; it’s just not hip; it’s not a hip thing to dig Manfred Mann. Its associated not with the teeny bopper thing but with top twenty records. What we’re doing now doesn’t fall into that market and it’s difficult to get the audience.”
Bass player Steve York, who joined the band after a couple of years with another fine band, East of Eden, talked about his experience with Chapter Three: “The concept of the band included a lot of free improvisation space but on the other hand Manfred was meticulous about the arranged parts. He was never satisfied with something that worked until he had tried every other option! It was unique because there was no guitar. That gave me a lot of freedom both harmonically and in terms of my sound.”
The band’s lineup was quite diverse, with folks from multiple ends of the music spectrum. Talking to Melody Maker in October 1970, Sax player Bernie Living talked about his listening habits: “Nowadays I listen to every sort of music, from Bobby Gentry to John Cage – I like any music with fervour. I like Zappa for his compositional technique and his craftsmanship.”
The band released its second and last studio album in October 1970 on the progressive Vertigo label, following a tour of the US. York was impressed by the acts the group shared the stage with: “We toured the US. It was my first visit. Our first date was three nights at the Fillmore West in San Francisco with Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller and the reunion of Janis Joplin & Big Brother and the Holding Company. I was humbled!”
The album included the epic track Happy Being Me, which was released as a single with a shortened version.
Manfred Mann Chapter Three:
Mike Hugg – vocals, piano, electric piano, arranger
Manfred Mann – organ, arranger
Steve York – electric bass, acoustic bass
Bernie Living – alto saxophone
Brian John Hugg – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Craig Collinge – drums
Dave Brooks – tenor saxophone
Clive Stevens – soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Sonny Corbett – trumpet
David Coxhill – baritone saxophone
Andy McCulloch – drums
We finish the review with one more group from the British Isles, this one comes with strong jazz credentials. They were able to gain respectable audience by adding concise song structures and excellent vocals to their soloing abilities. If, formed in 1969 by Dave Quincy, Dick Morrissey, and Terry Smith, added vocalist J.W. Hodkinson. That made their mostly instrumental music much more accessible to young audiences. After signing with Island Records, If released their self-titled debut in 1970.
The band toured the UK and US extensively in 1970, opening for Yes and Traffic in the UK, and supporting nothing less than Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Laura Nyro, Black Sabbath and Ten Years After in the US. Miles Davis came to see them at a club gig in NYC. Bass player Jim Richardson remembers: “We were playing in a tiny club. I looked up and suddenly saw him in front of me. I was so scared I threw up in the sink!” Miles gave them a compliment of the highest order, saying, “They don’t sound white.”
Unfortunately, unlike the big name American tickets such as Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago, If were never able to produce a successful single. Reed player Dick Morrissey said: “We don’t make singles as such, in fact we don’t even like taking singles from albums. Primarily we are a blowing band and most numbers take about ten minutes. Our strength is in the solos; so you can’t really take a track, edit out the solos and release it as a single. It just doesn’t work that way. If we issue a single we’d lose what the band is all about.”
Saxophone player Dave Quincy wrote in the band’s retrospective CD Anthology 1970-72, released in 2008: “I remember when we played our first major gig at the Roundhouse in London. There were various American record executives due to watch us. We came to London on a long distance train and unfortunately the bar was open on the train. We did the gig ok, but I’ve got this memory of Terry chasing his wah wah pedal around the stage while we were playing ‘I’m Reaching Out On All Sides’, which is in 7/4 time. So it was quite difficult to play. This track was also included on a very successful Island sampler called Bumpers.” Here is that fine track.
J. W. Hodkinson – lead vocals, percussion
Dick Morrissey – tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
Dave Quincy – tenor and alto saxophones, flute
Terry Smith – guitar
John Mealing – organ, backing vocals, piano
Jim Richardson – bass
Dennis Elliott – drums
Categories: A Year in Music