Columbia Records Recording Studio – 207 East 30th Street – note the Empire State Building in the background left.

I’ve been wanting to post something about Columbia Records old recording studio on 30th Street for quite a while.  As a real estate guy based in New York, and as a music lover who grew up about 65 blocks (3 miles) from here, I find myself fascinated by what I like to call the “history of place”. Although the building has long since been demolished (in 1985) imagine the sounds that were created there. Perhaps the residents of the high-rise apartment building (The Wilshire) that is now on the site hear the ghostly echoes of Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis or Lenny Bernstein.

The studio was nicknamed “The Church” and was operated by Columbia Records for 33 years from 1948 to 1981. It was highly regarded as one of the best sounding rooms every used for recording.  Every genre of music was recorded there including some of the greatest jazz ever recorded.  Mile Davis recorded his master work Kind of Blue there in 1959.  Ellington recorded “Masterpieces” there the same year.  Bernstein’s West Side Story was recorded there as well as albums by classical pianist Glenn Gould, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Pink Floyd.


The Console Room at 30th Street during the Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations sessions.

The original building was designed by architect J. Cleveland Cady, and was dedicated on March 28, 1875 as the Adams-Parkhurst Memorial Presbyterian Church.  It hosted a number of different congregations over the years and even was the home of radio station WLIB in the mid-to-late ’40’s.  It sat vacant and unused for years until Columbia Records built the recording studio there.  As you can see from the photo above, it was very much a working hodgepodge of gear.  Not at all a sleek place like today’s studios.

The main studio had 100 foot high ceilings, and 10,000 square foot floor space for the recording area.  The control room was a tiny 8′ by 14′, box on the second floor that was later moved downstairs.

30th-St.-Studio-when-it-was-a-church    30th-St-Studio-C (1)

On the classical front, Glenn Gould recorded his now iconic Goldberg Variations for his 1955 debut album.  Vladimir Horowitz recorded his entire Masterworks releases at 30th Street.  The list goes on to include Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky and Bruno Walter.





Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded almost exclusively at the 30th Street Studio during his years under contract to Columbia, including his album Kind of Blue (1959). Other noteworthy jazz musicians having recorded in this place include Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Dave Brubeck.







In 1964, Bob Dylan and record producer Tom Wilson were experimenting with their own fusion of rock and folk music. The first unsuccessful test involved overdubbing a “Fats Domino early rock & roll thing” over Dylan’s earlier, recording of “House of the Rising Sun”, using non-electric instruments, according to Wilson. This took place in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in December 1964.




Photo: William Gottlieb

Bunty Pendleton (1914 – 1995)

Does this woman look happy?  You bet she does.  She’s jamming on jazz piano at “Riverboat on the Hudson” in 1947.  Try to picture the scene. The war is over, men and women are returning home to big band sound that’s morphing into be-bop and straight up jazz.  The boat is packed.  The bandstand (which looks to be jammed in between tables with the piano piled high with coats) has Marty Marsala, Albert Nicholas and none other than Baby Dodds behind the drums.


Photo: William Gottlieb

With another nod to Bob Brainen over at WFMU for including this gem on his 2015 DJ Premium compilation, I’ve recently heard the one (known) recording that Bunty committed to tape, the Hal David and Lou Ricca composition “Horizontal”.  Recorded by Bunty in 1946 with The Pat Flowers Group, reportedly the intention of the song was a nod to the returning GI’s wanting to recline and take it easy after the war, the double-entendre of the lyrics (“I just want to be horizontal…”) caused it to be banned – needless to add that it was, of course, first banned in Boston.

I’ve been doing some research on Bunty and haven’t found very much yet (but the search does continue).  Apparently born in Maine on March 23, 1914, and later married Bob Sylvester, the music critic for The Daily News, Bunty’s life is a bit of a mystery.

The 1940 Federal Census showed her to be living with a Villa Pendleton who was born around 1887 – presumably her mother (or perhaps an aunt) at an address in the 12th Assembly District (the east side of Manhattan in midtown),

I’ve found a few press references including a March 6, 1947 note by columnist Dorothy KiIgallen that said Bunty was tickling the ivory doing Gershwin sets at Jimmy Ryan’s East Side.  A restaurant review by columnist, Robert Dana, in Billboard from April 6, 1943 recommended a steak place called The Embers located at 161 East 54th Street,, where you could dine early and hear Bunty play “soft jazz” through dinner. I read a less  substantiated piece that noted she played regularly at the St. Regis which is entirely possible.


The Embers, 161 East 54th Street, NYC – 1953

She died on October 15, 1995 at the age of 81 in Far Rockaway, NYC.

I found one interesting reference post on a jazz site from a guy who claims he has a recording of four demos made by Bunty that have never been released.

I have only one final comment, “Watson, unleash the hounds!”




Jerry – July 3, 1995

I’ve officially given up trying to slow the passage of time.  It doesn’t work and, quite frankly, if you go along with “time flies when you’re having fun”, then I have to take hope that it’s whizzing past at an incredible while I’m slipping a Jerry disc into a CD player. Jerry’s been dead twenty years and just as I can still remember where I was when I heard the “breaking news”, I don’t miss him any less.

Although the Grateful Dead have never been far from my stereo or iPod over the last 40 years or so, it’s more or less always been about Jerry.  The “benevolent Buddha”, Captain Trips, who the New York Times acknowledged played with “his heart more than his hands”, was the heart of The Grateful Dead.  Jerry, in his wisdom, once compared Dead fans as being like people who like licorice – not everyone likes licorice, but the people who do like licorice – really like licorice.  A good analogy but it equally applies to Jerry too.


In my music collection I have a long list (numbering in the hundreds) of Grateful Dead concert recordings and a growing list of Jerry’s voluminous solo works.  They’re not all gems, believe me, but they are the soundtrack to his life. There was no end to his exploration of music and sound and ultimately, for me, that’s the draw.   Writing in Rolling Stone magazine, Carlos Santana once wrote (about Jerry)….

“Most people who play the blues are very conservative. They stay a certain way. Jerry Garcia was painting outside the frame. He played blues but mixed it with bluegrass and Ravi Shankar. He had country and Spanish in there. There was a lot of Chet Atkins in him – going up and down the frets. But you could always hear a theme in his playing. … Jerry was the sun of the Grateful Dead – the music they played was like planets orbiting around him.”

I’ve included one of my favorite Dead songs, “Ripple” from the classic “American Beauty” album.  Beautiful lyrics and music here.  I’ve also added one of the solo tracks Jerry did with the mandolinist David Grisman, and finally, take a listen to what Jerry does with The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”.


“There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.”

From “Ripple” (Garcia, Hunter)



Tomorrow is Jerry’s birthday. He would have been 73.  I’m re-posting my tribute to him from a few years ago.  I’ve also prepared a new post that is scheduled to be released on the 20th anniversary of his death on August 10th.  Enjoy….

Happy Birthday – Jerry Garcia (1942 – 1995).


Another tip of the hat to Bob Brainen over at WFMU-FM in Jersey City for introducing me to this amazing recording.

I picked up this two-disc, 34-track compilation of Aretha Franklin’s rare and unreleased recordings at my local public library on the basis of hearing a few tracks on Brainen’s show. Released in 2007, it’s absolutely stunning.  And these are the demos and outtakes!

Correctly titled as Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul, the compilation reflects songs recorded by Aretha for Atlantic Records between 1966 and 1973.  The man behind Aretha’s sound, the late Jerry Wexler, penned the liner notes (along with AF biographer David Ritz) for the compilation and they picked up a Grammy nomination for their efforts.  Unfortunately, my library copy didn’t include the notes but the search continues!


I’ve included a few of my favorite tracks below.  This isn’t just great singing – this is the kind of singing that gives you a little chill up your spine and a few goosebumps too.  Don’t take my word for it. Give “Talk to Me, Talk to Me” or “So Soon” a listen and tell me you don’t agree. For an even bigger treat, check out “Sweet Bitter Love” – a demo recorded in Detroit in late 1966, that’s Aretha on piano and vocal – including the false start.

Track Listing
Disc One, tracks 10, 14 and 18, and Disc Two, track 1, previously released.
Disc One
1. “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” (Demo)
2. “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” (Demo)
3. “Sweet Bitter Love” (Aretha Arrives Outtake)
4. “It Was You” (Aretha Arrives Outtake)
5. “The Letter” (Aretha Arrives Outtake)
6. “So Soon” (Aretha Arrives Outtake)
7. “Mr. Big” (Aretha Now Outtake)
8. “Talk To Me, Talk To Me” (Soul ’69 Outtake)
9. “The Fool on the Hill” (This Girl’s In Love With You Outtake)
10. “Pledging My Love/ The Clock” (Single B-Side)
11. “You’re Taking Up Another Man’s Place” (Spirit In The Dark Outtake)
12. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (This Girl’s In Love With You/ Spirit in the Dark Outtake)
13. “I’m Trying To Overcome” (This Girl’s In Love With You/ Spirit in the Dark Outtake)
14. “My Way” (Spirit In The Dark Outtake)
15. “My Cup Runneth Over” (Young, Gifted and Black Outtake)
16. “You’re All I Need To Get By” (Take 1)
17. “You’re All I Need To Get By” (Take 2)
18. “Lean On Me” (Single B-Side)
Disc Two
1. “Rock Steady” (Alternate Mix – Young, Gifted and Black Outtake)
2. “I Need A Strong Man (The To-To Song)” (Young, Gifted and Black Outtake)
3. “Heavenly Father” (Young, Gifted and Black Outtake)
4. “Sweetest Smile and the Funkiest Style” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
5. “This Is” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
6. “Tree of Life” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
7. “Do You Know” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
8. “Can You Love Again” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
9. “I Want to Be With You” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
10. “Suzanne” (Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) Outtake)
11. “Ain’t But The One” (with Ray Charles)
12. “The Happy Blues” (Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
13. “At Last” (Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
14. “Love Letters” (Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
15. “I’m In Love” (Alternate Vocal – Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
16. “Are You Leaving Me” (Demo)




Tony Promo 2

It’s no secret to the readers of The Eclectic Ear that my love of jazz seems to sometimes be stuck between about 1946 and 1966.  My own personal “golden age”.  More or less post-big band, the birth of be-bop, the rise of the great soul and R&B greats, and, of course, the time when giants walked the stage. Trane, Sonny, Miles, Monk, Coleman, Red, Bird. Just to name a few.

But modern music excites me too.  Modern fusion from Weather Report, Zawinul, Di Meola, McLaughlin, Krantz transfixes me in its complexity and sheer improvisation.  There are seemingly no bounds.

I had the pleasure of hearing Tony Adamo’s latest work this month and know that his artistry will continue to have a place in my CD player and through my ear buds as I ride the train into the depths of New York and back to Jersey in the evening.

Adamo has a unique blend of soulful singing with rap/ hip-hop and spoken work added in just the right mix.  Although there are clear strains of Lou Rawls meets Lou Reed, I also hear the syncopated rhythms of Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint in the City” loud and clear.  “The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street, showing me a hand I know even the cops couldn’t beat….”


Personnel: Tony Adamo: vocals, hipspokenword; Mike Clark: drums; Donald Harrison: alto saxophone; Tim Ouimette: trumpet;Michael Wolff: piano; Richie Goods: bass; Lenny White: drums (1); Bill Summers: percussion (1,4,5);Jean C. Santalis: guitar (4).

Although Adamo didn’t invent the “hipspokenword” genre he has clearly mastered it with his soulful baritone, a kick-ass band that lays down infectious grooves and a street-smart lyricism that hits home.  They only problem I had with this album isn’t a problem at all – it left me wanting more. Whether it’s an old gem (check out the cover of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” and Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip” below or a new original, it’s all good and it’s on Urban Zone Records.


Check out his site at : tonyadamo.com  or http://urbanzonerecords.com/










Check out this interesting piece on AD about a bootleg Velvet Underground tape that is surfacing   Max’s in the summer of 1970!


Aquarium Drunkard » The Velvet Underground :: The Freeman Tape Sampler, Max’s Kansas City, NYC, August, 1970.


I take a great deal of pleasure in discovering and, more or less devouring, music that is new to my ears. One place where I satisfy that need (some may term it addiction) is Bob Brainen’s weekly radio show on WFMU. Broadcast on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11, Bob plays a wide assortment of rock, jazz, blues and soul records most of which are sourced from his own personal collection. His musical knowledge seemingly knows no end and is more often than not in line with what I like to hear. If I’m not able to near a radio on a Saturday I can listen at my convenience on the web along with the playlist of what has been played. Not a single week goes by when I don’t hear something I’ve never focused on, enjoy, and/or want to add to my collection.

A few times over the past year, Bob has spun platters highlighting the amazing early-jazz drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds (1898 – 1959).

Born in New Orleans, he is widely renowned as one the greats from the era before big band arrived. I had heard his name but didn’t know his music until learning that it’s his talents behind the early work that Louis Armstrong did with his Hot 5 and Hot 7 groups. Dodds had his own style that included a lot of fanciful flourishes while keeping the beat with the bass drum. He was an early proponent of improvisation on the drums.


King Creole Jazz Band – circa 

Dodds – 2nd from left, Louis 3rd from left

“Baby” Dodds was the younger brother of famed early-jazz clarinetist Johnny Dodds (another cohort of Satchmo). His family was poor but very musical and Baby once described first making his own drum as “I took a lard can and put holes in the bottom and turned it over and took nails and put holes around the top of it. Then I took some rounds out of my mother’s chairs and made drumsticks out of them”. He eventually saved up enough for real drums and started playing in various New Orleans street bands including that of Bunk Johnson. Dodds’ presence as a teen on the New Orleans jazz scene exposed him to a lot of the greats of that time like Jelly Roll Morton and the mysterious Buddy Bolden. He also honed his chops by playing in funeral marches. He later stated “The jazz played after New Orleans funerals didn’t show any lack of respect for the person being buried. It rather showed their people that we wanted them to be happy”.


By the time he was 20, Dodds was playing in Fate Marable’s riverboat band and it was there he met a 17-year-old cornetist by the name of Louis Armstrong. The two became friends and played the boats for three years. Talk about your 10,000 hours of practice! These guys lived and breathed music every day on those boats and honed their craft to a razor-sharp edge. They parted ways and Dodds went off to King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, still considered one of the best of its kind. By the time mid-1927 rolled around, Dodds was back with Armstrong as part of the Hot Seven and later that year the Hot Five.




Although originally written and released in 1953 by Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters (under the title of “Jock-a-Mo”) on Checker Records (#787), this heavily covered tune didn’t hit the charts until 1965 when girl group The Dixie Cups had a huge hit with it.

The song tells the tale of a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade collision between two of the “tribes” and the ensuing disagreements.  Sugar Boy (Crawford) did a great job but the girls really ran with it in an almost accidental situation.  As legend has it, The Dixie Cups were passing the time in a NYC recording studio when someone started to jam on the “Iko Iko” tune.  Drumming on an ash tray stand, a Coke bottle, and a metal chair, the tape was rolling and the producers liked it, added background vocals and a hit was born.

The tune was the third single taken from their debut studio album Chapel of Love issued on Red Bird Records in August 1964.  The girls had learned the song from their grandmother and didn’t know the roots.  The song writing credit went to The Dixie Cup members (sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins and their cousin Joan Marie Johnson).  A lawsuit a few years later from Sugar Boy claimed plagiarism and it was settled with joint songwriting credits and 25% of performance going to Crawford.  The two songs are essentially identical (listen for yourself below) but years or lawsuits wore Sugar Boy down until he settled.





I was recently digging through the used vinyl bin at a record store I frequent (Exile on Main St, Branford, CT) and came across the 45 RPM of “Born in the U.S.A”.  The hidden gem here is that the B-side is a powerful Springsteen ballad titled “Shut Out the Light” recorded in 1983. The song didn’t make  it onto the Born in the U.S.A. album and for years it was the stuff of legend among Bruce fans who may have purchased the album but knew the 45 RPM was out there.  The song was later included on the Tracks box set and between that and the birth of YouTube, it’s no longer the rarity it once was.


As Bruce says in the introduction to the live version (below) “it’s about leaving home and not being able to find your way back“. Like the A-side, it tells the story of a Vietnam vet returning home.  It’s a much more quieter and reflective song than BITUSA, and although it never specifically mentions Vietnam, it addresses the middle of the night panic attacks and all-enveloping loneliness.  The heart of the message is how the singer returned home a different man than the one who left.

Give this a close listen.  This is Bruce at his most direct commentary on the lives we live.





One of the readers of The Eclectic Ear turned me on to a radio show titled “The Sound of the City” by the late Charlie Gillett.  Charlie was the ultimate musicologist and rock ‘n’ roll historian.  I had heard of his rock history book of the same name but hadn’t heard his show.  But the internet is a wonderful time capsule and listening in to one of Charlie’s shows led me to “Teasin’ You” by Willie Tee”.



Willie Tee (1944 – 2007) was an early pioneer of New Orleans funk and soul.  A keyboardist, songwriter, sand singer, Willie was on the Nawlins’ scene for more than 40 years.

Born as Wilson Turbinton, he led the band on the Wild Magnolias’ 1974 debut album and the success of that record propelled him to stardom in the New Orleans music scene.  He was the younger brother of modern jazz saxophonist Earl Turbinton and grew up on the same tough streets as The Neville Brothers.  Willie took his influences from a wide range of artists from NO dixieland jazz to John Coltrane.

Willie started recording as a teenager in 1962 and by 1965 had his first hit with “Teasin’ You” on Atlantic Records.  He had a few more hits and was a regular fixture on the New Orleans music scene.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Willie took a job as a visiting lecturer at Princeton University.  He eventually headed back down south and settled in Baton Rouge, LA until his death in 2007 (a month after the death of his brother Earl).




Written by the late Curtis Mayfield and recorded by Curtis and his band The Impressions in 1963, “It’s Alright” was the group’s most famous single . It’s among my favorite tunes and has been covered by numerous artists including Tommy James and The Shondells just three years later in 1966 and then by Etta James the following year. I never took to the Huey Lewis version.  Even though it was a big hit for Huey, I was never a fan of his brand of blue-eyed soul.


Although I’ve been listening to Curtis and The Impressions for decades, I loved the cover versions of their songs as showcased on the A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield recorded between November 1992 and September 1993 and subsequently released in February 1994.   Steve Winwood does a great cover of this week’s offering but there are a lot of gems on the album.  Well worth the purchase. I’ve included the original recording and Winwood’s version below.


The album has a truly all-star cast.  Check out this track listing:

“Choice of Colors” – Gladys Knight
“It’s All Right!” – Steve Winwood
“Let’s Do It Again” – Repercussions and Curtis Mayfield
“Billy Jack” – Lenny Kravitz
“Look Into Your Heart” – Whitney Houston
“Gypsy Woman” – Bruce Springsteen
“You Must Believe Me” – Eric Clapton
“I’m So Proud” – The Isley Brothers
“Fool for You” – Branford Marsalis and The Impressions
“Keep On Pushin'” – Tevin Campbell
“The Makings of You” – Aretha Franklin
“Woman’s Got Soul” – B.B. King
“People Get Ready” – Rod Stewart
“(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go” – Narada Michael Walden
“I’ve Been Trying” – Phil Collins
“I’m the One Who Loves You” – Stevie Wonder
“Amen” – Elton John and Sounds of Blackness

All songs written by Curtis Mayfield except “Amen”, by Mayfield and John W. Pate, Sr.





Zombie Garden Club


I’ve been digging through an inbox full of new music and came across a note from Bongo Boy records that introduced me to Zombie Garden Club.

ZGC is Johnny Douglas, a Canadian native who headed down to Nashville and is tearing up the roadhouse circuit.  He’s been quoted as saying that ZGC  “is all about fuzz tones, garage rock, Fender guitars and Vox Continental organs with a retro-modern vibe”. Works for me.

Personally, I’d change the name of the band but if you’re up from Stevie Ray Vaughan meets The Yardbirds vibe, Johnny’s your guy.

His latest release has some gems including “Burn”, and my favorite from the album “Ache of Love”.

Check it out below.







Another in an impromptu homage to the late Ornette Coleman.  This one from The Paris Review.

The Sound of Sound: Two Remembrances of Ornette Coleman.tk

Reposted from Wax Poetics – a music magazine from Brooklyn, NY.

Jazz experimenter Ornette Coleman finds the eternal. An interview from 2007.

via Jazz experimenter Ornette Coleman finds the eternal.