Song of the Week – American Lovers, Thomas Jefferson Kaye

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Have you ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye?

I didn’t think so.  But you should know about him because he had a very successful career in the music biz.

First of all, he was the producer on Gene Clark’s best solo album (IMHO), No Other.  If that was his only accomplishment, he would be noteworthy.  But there is so much more!

In the late 50s, while still a teenager, he hooked up with Scepter/Wand records.  Through the early 60s there, he wrote and produced material for The Shirelles and several notable soul artists.  He also produced ? and the Mysterians; possibly even on their big hit “96 Tears”, though that has been a subject of debate.

In the 70s he worked with Clark, produced “Dead Skunk” for Loudon Wainwright III, co-wrote the Three Dog night hit “One Man Band”, and produced the Dr. John, Mike Bloomfield, John Hammond Jr. super session called Triumvirate.

Of special interest to me is his association with all of the cats at ABC/Dunhill records that were producing (Gary Katz) and playing on Steely Dan records – including Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

This led Kaye to release two solo albums in the early 70s that allowed him full access to those great artists.  The first eponymous disc is almost a Steely Dan backed record.  Becker, Fagen, David Palmer, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and, Victor Feldman all make contributions, with Katz producing.

His second solo release, First Grade, even included two Becker/Fagen penned obscurities that they never recorded for Steely Dan.  “American Lovers” is today’s SotW.

“American Lovers” was recorded around the time that Steely Dan was working on Pretzel Logic.  While I wouldn’t claim that Becker and Fagen gave away their best song, it has the chord structure and lyrical intelligence we’ve come to expect from the boys.

Becker plays bass on this number and Jim Gordon pounds the traps.  Backing vocals are provided by Dusty Springfield, Clydie King and Shirley Matthews!

Kaye died in 1994 in Warwick, NY, just a few miles from my hometown of Newburgh.

So the next time someone asks if you’ve ever heard of Thomas Jefferson Kaye you’ll say – “Hell yes!”

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Doctor Wu & Chain Lightning, Steely Dan

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

As an amateur sax player, I always take notice when great players pass on from this earth. In September we lost two important jazz sax greats – Wilton Felder (September 27th) and Phil Woods (September 4th).

As I thought about their work, it occurred to me that both men played on Steely Dan albums. I couldn’t recall of the top of my head which songs they played on so I did a little research and was reminded that Felder played bass (not sax) on “Chain Lightning” and Woods was on “Doctor Wu” – both from Katy Lied (1975). Now that’s a pretty strange coincidence!

p13032t7y42Felder is most well known as a founding member of The Jazz Crusaders. In that band he was known as a tenor sax player. Check out his work on Carole King’s “So Far Away” from the live album Scratch, where he holds a near one minute long note toward the end. The audience is whooping encouragement at first. As the tension builds, some guy shouts “stop” and there’s some nervous laughter to break it. It’s a marvelous moment caught on tape.

But Felder was also was an “in demand” session bass player on recordings for many popular music artists. He played bass on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” to mention just a few of the hits. He also played bass on albums by Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell.

weather09240481443647101Woods was known as the “New Bird” in tribute to his influence, Charlie Parker. (He later married Parker’s widow.) The bulk of his career remained close to his bebop roots. He played with many of the greats including Dizzy and Monk.

But he also made some advances into popular music. He can be heard on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and Paul Simon’s “Have a Good Time.”

Sometimes, like this week, the SotW writes itself!

Enjoy… until next week.