Classics: Nuyorican Soul – Sweet Tears (Talkin’ Loud)
A quick look at history tends to show as to how only those who released quality material happened to deeply love music and respect it. With Roy Ayers‘s name standing on top of the pile. Sitting on an impressive list of timeless classics. From ‘Running Away’ to ‘Don’t Stop The Feeling’, ‘Poo Poo La La’ and ‘Sweet Tears’ to name a few. Therefore meaning by extension that crap music is the work of the ones who have no clue nor taste. The latter unfortunately forming the majority.
Props are most likely due to Maurice Bernstein and Jonathan Rudnick of Giant Step Records in NYC. But also to Gilles Peterson at Talkin’ Loud for havin’ blessed us with the release of the Nuyorican Soul album back in 1996. A concept which most likely stands as the very last ambitious project that has seen the light in the history of contemporary music. Bringin’ us back to the souvenir of those super productions which appeared during the Disco heydays. With the first label names comin’ to mind being Philadelphia International Records, Salsoul Records or Prelude to name a few.
As for those who crafted this Nuyorican Soul album – Louie Vega and Kenny Dope – it stands as a brilliant digest of their roots. Jammin’ along with some of their heros, including Jazz Funk vibraphonist Roy Ayers. Meanwhile revamping his classic ‘Sweet Tears’. The latter admittin’ this version was even better than the original. And the fact is Louie and Kenny pretty much did what it takes to achieve this. Bringin’ Lisa Fisher, Cindy Mizelle and Jocelyn Brown to secure the backing vocals. But also hiring a violin 14 piece section, along with Vincent Montana, Jr. in charge of the strings.
‘Sweet Tears’ of joy. That’s most likely what we have here…
I wish there would have been a follow-up album. Alas, it unfotunately never saw the light. Most likely because of both production but even more promotion costs. As a result, no one has ever done any music like this since. This makin’ of this album such an unvaluable testimony. Don’t you think?
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– The first mention to Nuyorican Soul dates from 1993 with the release of ‘The Nervous Track’ on Nervous Records.
Nothing more from then on until 1996 and the release of a self-titled album. “Nuyorican” (meaning “New Yorker” in Spanish) being a reminder of both Louie Vega and Kenny Dope‘s Puerto-Rican roots. Although both of them have a slightly different background. With Louie (Hector Lavoe‘s nephew) inheriting from Fania / Salsoul Records’ influences. And Kenny being more of a Hip-Hop B-Boy guy. The twosome getting their connection via Todd Terry and makin’ themselves a name under various guises such as KenLou and Masters At Work.
As a result, ‘Nuyorican Soul’ stands pretty much as their legacy. Paying props to classics that have nurtured their teens such as The Salsoul Orchestra‘s ‘Runaway’ featuring Loleatta Holloway. Or Rotary Connection‘s ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’. But also collaborating with some of their heros from Roy Ayers to Tito Puente, George Benson and Vincent Montana, Jr. among others. This giving birth to gems such as ‘Our Time Is Coming’, ‘You Can Do It’ and ‘Sweet Tears’. Not to mention ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It!’ which received countless remixes, from Roni Size to Armand Van Helden or Mood II Swing.
Louie and Kenny told me about their aim to release a follow-up, eventually mentionning their will to collaborate with Manu Dibango among others. Alas, the project never saw the light. Most likely due to the promotional costs of the volume 1, with so many legendary artists on board.
– A native of South Philaldelphia, PA, Vincent Montana, Jr. grew up in an Italo-American neighborhood. He first began playin’ drums as a child before venturing into other percussion instruments such as the marmimba and the glockenspiel. By the late 40’s, one would find him playing in clubs with Jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker or Sarah Vaughan. Soon after, he went to perform in various hotels in Las Vegas, NV, accompanying artists such as Harry Belafonte and Louis Prima. Then he returned to Philadelphia by the late 50’s, eventually playin’ vibraphone on Frankie Avalon‘s 1959 smash hit ‘Venus’.
As a matter of fact, Vincent Montana, Jr.‘s contribution to the maturation of contemporary music has simply no equal. From setting up the legendary Sigma Sound Studio with Joseph Tarsia in Philadelphia, PA. Which is how he met Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. To his position as a major actor in the establishment of the Philadelphia Sound. Meanwhile gathering people from all origins/ethnics. Be they Blacks, Jewishes, Italians or Rednecks. And by that, embodying beforehand what Indamixworldwide is about…
All in all, the list of artists he arranged music for stands as a who’s who of the groove. Jamming along with The Intruders for instance. But also The O’Jays, The Trammps, William DeVaughn and Lou Rawls. Not to mention The Stylistics and Teddy Pendergrass to name but a very few. This in addition to being one of the founding members of MFSB with whom he recorded an impressive series of classics. From ‘Love Is The Message’ to ‘TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)’ to name a few.
Although promised to reach the upper heights, his partnership with Gamble & Huff brutally came to and end in 1974. And this, after financial issues. Hopefully, the wait didn’t last before Joe Bataan gave him the opportunity to jump on the next wagon. This while introducing him to the Cayre brothers. Three guys who were the owners of a NYC distributor of Latin Music whom he helped setting up Salsoul Records.
By that time, several members of MFSB had left for the same reasons. From John Davis who soon after formed John Davis & The Monster Orchestra to others who joined Ritchie Family. Not to mention Ronnie Baker, Bobby Eli, Norman Harris and Early Young who regularly joined Montana for recording sessions.
Montana put together The Salsoul Orchestra and soon after delivered the first release – ‘Salsoul Hustle’ for the label. An instant success, it opened the path to a string of 6 albums. Including classics such as ‘Getaway’ and ‘Ooh I Love It (Love Break)’ to name a few. But also collaborations with Carol Williams and Loleatta Holloway. This resulting in extra gems such as ‘Love Is You’ and ‘Run Away’.
By 1978, Montana left Salsoul Records and joined Atlantic. There, he put together Goody Goody along with his daughter, Denise, on vocals. Releasing one album – ‘Goody Goody’ – which spanned memorable cuts such as ‘#1 Deejay’ and ‘It Looks Like Love’.
Another 4 years on and Montana launched his own Philly Sound Works label. And then again, he would add a couple of goodies to his impressive collection. Beginning with ‘Who Needs Enemies (With A Friend Like You)’ and the infectious ‘Heavy Vibes’.
Last but not least, one might also remember him for his collaboration with Louie Vega and Kenny Dope back in 1996. The latter resulting in the release of their Nuyorican Soul album concept. A package which saw them comin’ up with a cover version of ‘Run Away’ with La India on vocals. And also span extra classics such as ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’, ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It’ and ‘Sweet Tears’ among others.
He sadly died at Cherry Hill, NJ, on Apr. 13, 2013, at the age of 85.
– Roy Ayers belongs to the category of those who’ve constantly redefined themselves. A reality which has most definitely contributed to the timelessness of his music. This makin’ of it the most sampled by the Rappers.
A native of Los Angeles, CA, Roy grew up in a musical environment. With his dad playin’ trombone and his mom playing piano. This in addition to the area where he lived – South Central – which happened to be the epicenter of the Southern California Black music scene.
He discovered his love for the vibes while attending a Lionel Hampton concert by the age of 5. Receiving his first pair of vibraphone mallets from Hampton himself.
He first studied piano during his high school years though. Having mastered both piano and vibes, he started playing professionally, Jamming with luminaries such as Wayne Henderson and Chico Hamilton among others. Not to mention Herbie Mann with whom he began recording. This bringin’ him to sign his first record deal as a solo artist on Atlantic Records. Then deliver his debut-album – ‘Virgo Vibes’ – back in 1967. Then givin’ birth to Ubiquity. A name he went for because “ubiquity” means a state of being everywhere at the same time. And, in the meantime, a band that saw him sharing the duties with Alphonse Mouzon, Edwin Birdsong and Bernard Purdie among others.
As a matter of fact, Ayers made himself a name as a pioneer of the then emerging Jazz/Funk. This while crafting an impressive series of killer jams where the infectiousness prevails. Beginning with the mythic ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ from his 1976 album of the likes. But also ‘Hey Uh-What You Say Come On’ which Defected Records CEO Simon Dunmore eventually sampled 24 years later. This on his remix of Monie Love‘s ‘Down To Earth’. Meanwhile blending it with Lonnie Liston-Smith & The Cosmic Echoes‘ ‘Expansions’.
1978 not only brought ‘Get On Up, Get On Down’ which Joey Negro reworked some 25 years later. But also ‘Running Away’, one of Roy‘s biggest classics. Meanwhile ‘Don’t Stop The Feeling’ (his only top 10 single on the Billboard’s Hot Disco/Dance chart) and ‘Love Will Bring Us Back Together’ saw the light the year after.
Makin’ a move to Columbia in 1984, he delivered ‘In The Dark’ featuring its slammin’ title track. Not to mention the cheeky ‘Poo Poo La La’ which he co-produced with Stanley Clarke. Meanwhile showcasing his ability to rap and come up with suggestive lyrics. The early 90’s seeing him dropping music on his own Uno Melodic label and live albums on Ronnie Scott’s. Then the end of the decade, collaborating with Louie Vega and Kenny Dope. Either on their Nuyorican Soul guise with a remake of ‘Sweet Tears’ which he did back in 1978 as a part of his ‘Let’s Do It’ album. Or as MAW while revisiting his 1982 released ‘Our Time Is Coming’ from his ‘Feeling Good’ album.
Soon after, unreleased music of his from back in the day would see the light on UK label BBE Music. This after Peter Adarkwah came to visit him in NYC. Thus giving birth to ‘Virgin Ubiquity (Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981)’ in 2004. Then a volume II of the likes the year after. And, by that, the opportunity to fully enjoy the timelessness of cuts such as ‘Baby Doll’, ‘Sugar’, ‘I’m Your Mind’ or Liquid Love’ among others.
A master on his own discipline, Ayers has shared the duties / bill with countless other artists. Beginning with the memorable ‘Music Of Many Colours’ along with Afrobeat mogul Fela Kuti back in 1980. A contribution speakin’ of which he never got his money for at the end. Two years later, one could hear him jammin’ along with Rick James on the firing ‘Dance Wit’ Me’. Then back in 1987 with Whitney Houston on ‘Love Will Save The Day’.
We then stumbled upon the rare and underrated ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ along with Rob Alexander in 1994. Meanwhile the end of the decade and the beginning of the third millennium would see him along with House producers. From Scott Grooves and Ferry Ultra. To Kerri Chandler and Dennis Ferrer aka UFP, if not Bah Samba. And I’m not even talkin’ about Hip-Hoppers and / or R&B artists whom he played with. From Coolio to Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and The Roots to name a few. This in addition to British Acid Jazz combo Down To The Bone on the memorable ‘Electric Vibes’ as remixed by DJ Spinna back in 2005.
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