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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Home of the Groove: Naughty But Nice

Home of the Groove: Naughty But Nice Naughty But Nice

The booklet

"One Naughty Flat"(Roy Montrell)
AFO Executives, from New Orleans Heritage Jazz, Opus 43, recorded 1963


Back in the late 1980’s, I got the chance to buy a sealed, four LP box set put out by Harold Battiste in 1976 that contains jazz recordings from 1956 to 1966 by him and other founders or close associates of AFO Records in New Orleans. The groups included are the Ellis Marsalis Quartet (Marsalis, Nat Perilliat, Marvin Smith, and James Black), the Original American Jazz Quintet (Mr. Battiste, Alvin Batiste, Marsalis, William Swanson, and Ed Blackwell), and The AFO Executives (Battiste, Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler, Melvin Lastie, Peter ‘Chuck’ Badie, John Boudreaux, and vocalist, Tami Lynn); as well, other musicians sit in on various cuts. Compiled from the original master tapes and released on his own Opus 43 imprint packaged with a somewhat confusing, but ultimately informative booklet (pictured above), this set reveals the serious jazz chops of these players, many of whom made their living at the time playing R&B in the studio, on the road, and in clubs. Of those noted here, Blackwell, Marsalis, Black and Alvin Batiste went on to more or less full-time jazz careers.

The story of AFO (All For One) Records is too involved to rehash here. You can learn more at the link I’ve got below. But, suffice it to say that the label was established in the early 1960’s in the Crescent City by musicians for musicians in an effort to cut themselves in on some of the real record business money that, as session players, leaders, arrangers, producers or songwriters, they did not get. The aggregation was comprised of some of the premier players in town, headed by Harold Battiste, who was a top local producer and arranger. With the dream realized, some great records were made (you can find the R&B sides on Ace’s Gumbo Stew CD series), including one big hit, “I Know”, by Barbara George. But the non-utopian realities of the record business rose up to snuff the entire enterprise and by 1964 it was over, with many of the principals having relocated to Los Angeles.

Our cut from this project, “One Naughty Flat”, composed by guitarist and AFO co-founder Roy Montrell, is a hip, upbeat little number that is closer to R&B than the more serious jazz of the other groupings. The AFO Executives mixed R&B and jazz on a variety of tunes, using Tami Lynn’s vocal prowess on many to good effect. On this instrumental, drummer John Boudreaux supplies a fine funky second line feel to the tune, while Harold Battiste turns out some tasty solos on alto sax, with Red Tyler taking the tenor break in the middle. Chuck Badie plays the acoustic bass; and Melvin Lastie is on the trumpet/cornet. I’m a big fan of this tune, which Mac Rebennack covered on organ around this same time on an AFO side that was never released (it's on one of the Gumbo Stew CDs). The title is an inside musician’s joke, referring to the song’s key of F, which only has one of those nicely naughty flats in it.

To learn more about Harold Battiste, many of the musicians, and AFO, visit the AFO Foundation site. He's got this set still for sale, I think, plus CD compilations, too.

posted by Dan Phillips @ 11:21 AM

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