Producer Jerry Wexler died at age 91. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of his existence, but I was aware of the music he had produced.

Wexler earned his reputation as a music industry giant while a partner at Atlantic Records with another legendary music figure, the late Ahmet Ertegun. Atlantic provided an outlet for the groundbreaking work of African-American performers in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, it was a home to rock icons like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. He later helped Dylan win his first Grammy by producing his 1979 “Slow Train Coming” album.

Wexler helped boost the careers of both the “King of Soul,” Charles, and the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin. Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge were among the other R&B greats who benefited from Wexler’s deft recording touch. He also produced Dusty Springfield’s classic “Dusty in Memphis,” considered a masterpiece of “blue-eyed” soul.

According to online biographies, Wexler was a MOT, so I think he definitely deserves some space here.

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froylein

24 Comments

  • Now you are talking to my heart Froylein. Aug. 16 is the the 31 year anniversary of the King of Blue-eyed soul…Elvis, obm

  • Chutzpah, I read years back that Elvis’ maternal grandmother had been Jewish, which would make him a MOT. Have you heard anything about this?

    Tom, Jazz, is one of the least appealing kinds of music to me, mostly because it’s lame by choice. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the sound of brass instruments, which always make me think of an elephant trying to improvise traditional Bavarian tunes with a congested trunk on a bad hair day. Also, even though it has often be likened to it, it doesn’t quite carry the emotions of good klezmer music (there’s a lot of mediocre-at-best stuff around hardly anybody seems to criticize on lack of musical ability or expression, a phenomenon an Israeli journalist once described as an example of “positive anti-Semitism”). Also, it doesn’t quite convey the energy, joy and sometimes melancholy of traditional, authentic African music.

  • Never read that about Elvis and I hate the “Who has Jewish Maternal Grandmothers? ” Game more than I hate Klezmer music and Jewish Rap. (Hock mier en chinik!)

    Since you brought us back to the ever popular “Who is a Jew” debate…my answer for 5769 is someone who declares themselves Jewish and has tsuvha, tefillah and tzedakah in their everyday belief system and actions. (I can feel Ephraim’s blood pressure rising this very minute)

    P.S. Contrary to popular belief, Tom Jones’ father was NOT the Chief Rabbi of Wales, but Dusty Springfield baked an amazing kugel.

  • froylein: (1) jazz isn’t an African music, but in its origins an American music with strong European and American folk elements; (2) there’s all manner of jazz that doesn’t involve brass instruments. You may want to check out piano trio records, or reed (e.g. saxophone) music, or vibes a la Bobby Hutcherson; (3) ‘lame by choice”? Well, check out ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ from John Coltrane’s Meditations a listen, then get back to me.

    Lack of melancholy? This is music of the blues, after all. Perhaps froylein is as yet unacquainted with weltschmerz, but any of the aforementioned Evans’ albums (especially the ones for Riverside) convey that as powerfully as any music I know (this side of late Schubert, anyway). Try Explorations and Portrait in Jazz to start.

    Jazz even froylein will like:
    Dexter Gordon, Go
    Miles Davis, In A Silent Way
    Keith Jarrett, Facing You
    Wayne Shorter, Adams Apple
    Tord Gustavsen, The Ground
    Joao Gilberto, Amoroso/Brazil

    And jazz vocals. Check out Sarah Vaughn, or Billie Holiday from the 30s, or the late, great Shirley Horn….

    Wexler, btw, made a great contribution to jazz via Atlantic Records, recording Mingus and Ornette Coleman, among others, at their peak.

  • Well, Tom, I’ve never claimed that jazz is African music (merely compared the two), but according to my encyclopaedia tried to employ elements of traditional African music. All jazz I’ve listened to so far has been lame, not melancholic. Having the blues does not equal to weltschmerz (a German term afterall), and IMO, jazz does not even translate such emotions by far as well as blues does. I’ve got several friends that are professionals in the music business, and one said the reason jazz sells is because it’s taken on an elite, sophisticated image and attracts an audience that wants to be considered such.

    All I was trying to do is to honour the late Mr Wexler, not to justify why I personally don’t feel dead enough to listen like listening to certain kinds of music.

  • Dolphy? Lame? So said lots of mainstream jazz critics circa 1960, when he began making his mark as a Coltrane sideman and through a series of strikingly original records. He still sounds advanced; even on a track like this one, a fairly conventional blues, his solo is completely free from cliche.

    Even today, Eric flummoxes a well-meaning but uncomprehending listener in Europe. Keep listening and you’ll get it eventually, froylein. As a prominent Jewish artist of the last century once said. the tricks of today are the truths of tomorrow.

  • Tom, Tom, Tom, as a not-so-prominent blogger of today says: I refuse to cherish the emperor’s clothes, and his knickers are quite the turn-off. 🙂

  • Ah well, Tom, I shan’t shift the discussion from that thread here, particularly since there cannot be an analogy as we’re merely quibbling over personal likes and dislikes and at that priority aspects in a certain field here, while over there I couldn’t bother anyone to even go out of their way and obtain the books I mentioned, which hardly makes for a fruitful discussion and has left us with the rhetoric quips, giving the benefit of the doubt, by far insufficient of contributing to what I’d learnt to be a critical exchange of concepts in academia. Also, as of yesterday, I’ve increased my work hours by 25% and will increase them by another approx. 30% next Monday, which adds to my lack of interest in going around in circles just to see who gets dizzy first. 🙂

  • I don’t know about Coltrane or Davis too much, but I don’t see how anyone could call Louis Armstrong lame. And I’m not sure what definition of “jazz” we’re using. Benny Goodman kicks some major ass, but maybe most people would consider that big band or swing, as opposed to “cool” jazz.

    Don’t flatter yourself, Chutzpah. You’re not the first person who thinks that simply being a mensch automatically makes one a Jew. Believe it or not, I think goyim are perfectly capable of being wonderful human beings and that Jews can be as low as anyone. This whole idea that one is a Jew so long as one is a nice person is pretty damn condescending to gentiles, since it is based, unconsciously perhaps, on the idea that good middos are what makes Jews Jewish. The flip side of that, of course, is the assumption that having good middos is not a goyish thing.

    This is nonsense, of course. Nobody has a monopoly on morality. And just saying you’re Jewish doesn’t make you so.

  • Goodman was a towering figure in jazz history, not only as the greatest clarinet player ever (active in an era in which that was a popular instrument), but in integrating jazz; he was a prominent white player who chose to work with leading black musicians of the 30s and 40s, like vocalist Billie Holiday and guitarist Charlie Christian.

    froylein tests and at times exceeds the limits of what’s doable in this blogalicious setting. But she makes a major contribution and shouldn’t get discouraged.

    All bona fide rootless cosmopolitans love jazz. Dude, think jazz and blues and soul and r&b can be neatly separated? These are permeable categories, originating in marketing agendas. (Jerry Wexler in fact invented the phrase r&b– that wasn’t the musicians’ doing.) Is Goodman jazz or swing? George Benson pop or jazz?…. Anyway, there’s something for everyone out there.

  • Tom, just because I dislike jazz doesn’t mean I’m an enfant terrible.* I also reserve the right to be critical of the singing abilities of almost everbody else’s on Jewlicious favourite Amy Winehouse, and I’ll simply refuse to consider her in one league with e.g. Shirley Bassey.

    *I might be an enfant terrible for wearing the coolest knickers of all Jewlicious bloggers though. 🙂

  • Perhaps out of graven-image concerns, erring on the safe side, etc., froylein never posts pics so that we can see for ourselves. Let’s have a look at those, uh, knickers.

    (Not to get all Christian on you or anything, but your jazz epiphany will come.)

  • Oh yeah:

    Fats Waller.

    I dare you to listen to his versions of “Lulu’s Back In Town” or “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and tell me jazz is lame. Nobody could play piano like that man.

    I do prefer the blues, though. Muddy Waters, essentially.

  • “George Benson pop or jazz?

    I wanted to stay out of this discussion but… But the above comment is, after all, the jumping off point for most music discussions. Why were Benson and Mangione going soft any different than Miles going Heavy Metal? Maybe Jazz Fusion was the ruin of Jazz – but it served a purpose – all the young bucks who toiled for years as Be Bop sidemen were trying to do something relevant and also finally put some money in their pockets. Tom – remember how huge Return To Forever were in post-Airto heyday. I bought into it – and in retrospect, yes, the stuff was/is crap. Almost no difference between Prog Rock and Jazz Fusion. And “Breezing” was bad commercial music. (But, btw, a guitar part that was to every beginning Jazz guitarist what “Stairway To Heaven was to aspiring Rock guitarists).

    Maybe Jazz was ruined by the Coreas, Hancocks, Weather Reports, Passports, etc., who were toiling as Be-Bop sidemen. But it’s a natural evolution for something meaningful and soulful to turn into something pablum – like Radiohead begetting Coldplay. People bought the crap. It didn’t last and doesn’t hold up. But it’s just a little bit of the timeline.

    Jazz of the 70s was either soggy cereal or loud and boring. (Although Lenny White was not boring and if Hendrix lived he would’ve been something like James Blood Ulmer.) So let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Jazz is Goodman and Krupa on the Rockin’ side and Monk, Rollins, Coltrane, Mingus and even Miles’ take on “Porgy And Bess” on the Soul side. (Because after all, Monk was Soul music minus the words).

    Jazz is awesome and Jazz is lame. Whitney Houston voice exercises are considered R&B. And then you have Duffy. And Coldplay.

    Funny thing is, Tom, that guys like Dolphy and Doldinger, after going through their rock star days, went back to doing something meaningful, if not still overproduced (I blame that on modern recording techniques rather than the artists).

    So there. Did I mention how lame Coldplay is?

  • Froylein…is Duffy hitting it big in Germany? “We” are anxiously awaiting a rumoured duet with another great export from Wales…

  • Chutzpah, she is doing ok on the mainstream pop scene, but her popularity’s currently fading again. Thick eyeliner on the top eyelid and heavily teased hair do not a ’60s singer make.

  • Great comment, ramon. Yeah, the funny thing is that Hancock et al. stuck around long enough to veer away from fusion to make some pretty good music– Hancock’s Grammy-winner ‘River’ last year, for example, or Wayne Shorter’s music over the last decade.

    I have a feeling some of the 70s stuff will be exhumed and we’ll think, ‘well, most of it was crap, but there was the occasional album that holds up well.’ The odd Return To Forever album (some of the stuff with Flora Purim was OK), early Weather Report, the odd Lonnie Liston Smith effort. Looks like late Miles is getting a re-think these days.

    Of course, today the pendulum has swung to such a degree that we’re beset with an avalanche of unadventurous ‘mainstream’ music, ‘My Funny Valentine’ for the upteenth millionth time. But as you note, jazz is vital enough to keep moving forward, and we won’t be stuck here forever.

    Contrast that with the Whitney Houstons, Coldplays et al. I don’t think Coldplay’s gonna morph back into Radiohead.

  • Tom –

    Never had a problem with the Purim/Airto RTF – in fact it was the quartet after that led me back to those records. There has been some exhumation of the fusion stuff. Five years ago I was visiting a friend at his office in a Sony Records imprint. He slipped me a remastered cd re-issue of “Romantic Warrior”. I loved that record when it came out and saw RTF and Clark and Dimeola solo whenever I could.

    I was thrilled to have the cd (hadn’t had a turntable for awhile), ran home, put it on, and asked myself “What the hell was I thinking”? I may as well been listening to a Rick Wakeman solo record. Please Tom, continue to do your part to keep Jewlicious informed. And I’ll continue to insult Coldplay and the rest of the no-talent grifters out there.

    And as far as your beloved Red Stockings: “Objects in rearview mirror are larger than they appear.”

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