The ‘Lost’ Session - RLWK
Ron Levy - Hammond organ
Benny Benson - drums
Tim ’The German’ Wiechman - guitar
Garrett Savluk - trumpet
Henley Douglas Jr. - tenor sax
Recorded at: The Red Room, Salem MA 1999 - Dan Tarlow - engineer (trks #1-5)
and The Music Menu, Detroit, MI 1999 by R.J. Spangler (trks #6-8)
Mastering: EarAttica Studio, Arlington, MA - Henri Nigro - engineer
Oil painting of RLWK by Frenchy of New Orleans
Cover design by Tatiana Marcussian Design & Lev
PRODUCED BY RON LEVY for Levtron.com Productions
This album was recorded shortly after my return home to New England from my exploits in the Twin Cities. I had lost my record company, a.k.a. “my baby” Cannonball Records. They weren’t going to pay me royalties anymore and my productions would soon dustily languish in some warehouse storage area. That company within months after my departure, was soon destined to fold without me at the helm. To me, my songs had died and all my dedicated hard work of the previous three years was for naught. During a moment of despondence, Henley told me, “Hell, Ron, write some new damn songs!” So I did. “The Mayor” as I called saxophonist Henley Douglas Jr., soon helped me form a great group with some top-flight musicians from the North Shore area. It was my first Soul-Jazz-Blues instrumental group. We were all neighbors and part of a great local music community. Robert Bresovsky’s “Dodge Street Bar & Grill” became our ’official’ home. We all enjoyed many, many great times there.
“Dodge Street” was also a great restaurant that served food all day before the music started at night. We originally wanted to record ‘live’ at one of our weekly gigs, but because it was always too packed and truly unruly, we decided to record in another room a few blocks away. “The Red Room” served our purposes and we enlisted engineer Dan Tarlow to record us during the day so we wouldn‘t miss any of our gigs at night. We were well rehearsed and it all went smoothly.
However, the horns left the band before we even took band photos! They went on to continue with their own ten year old band (The Heavy Metal Horns). The rhythm section and I forged ahead in a new direction. In the end, it was all for the best for everyone concerned. Music is always made up of changes. Changes in notes, rhythms, meters, keys, styles, moods and even personnel. At the time, I decided to shelve this album because it didn’t represent what we were performing ‘live’ any longer, which was my intial intent recording these tunes with this particular band.
So, this recording was never previously released. In fact, it was ‘lost’ and no one had a copy of it until now, some twelve years later! Dan Tarlow, now Attorney Dan Tarlow, left me a message and informed me he had found the safety copy of the album and promptly mailed it to me. I’m happy we have a nice musical representation of those great times we all shared together with our beloved fans up on the North Shore of Massachusetts. That scene is long gone now but our memories still groove on throughout this album. (The last three tunes were recorded ’live’ at the Music Menu in Detroit.)
The deeper story of this time and many more, even better and humorous ones are included in “Tales of a Road Dog” - ‘THE LOWDOWN ALONG THE BLUES HIGHWAY’ by Ron Levy - Available at www.Levtron - online [along with all my other titles distributed by CD Baby] This unique Web-Book, (also available as an eBook and in print) candidly encompasses the 40+ year span of Ron Levy’s musical history and adventures beginning with his tenures with Albert and B.B. King and continues with his award winning work with a virtual who‘s who in Blues, Jazz, R&B and Soul. Logon to the website for a ‘test drive’. You won’t be disappointed.
1. GROOVELATIN' ACID BLUES - I originally wrote and recorded this with the great Lowell Fulson. I wanted to do this ‘live’ with my new band, so I had the horns play my piano part. It has a ‘false’ ending, inspired by Count Basie‘s/‘Wild Bill‘ Davis‘ “April in Paris.” We used to utilize that device 4-5 times in-a-row ‘live‘. It was always fun to watch the crowd stop to applaud then get back to dancing‘ and groovin‘ each time. I think we did it ten times one night!
2. DUKE IT OUT - Wrote this remembering the private times I shared with Duke Ellington during a State Department tour while I was with B.B. King. He was a gracious and generous gentleman. 100% class all the way. A very kind and great inspiring genius to this young musician, composer and pianist.
3. LIKITA'S LAUGH - was inspired by a lovely lady I met through my friends the Cases in St. Louis. She was a tremendous, cook, fabulous dancer and had a wonderful and expansive laugh that made everyone see and feel all the joys of life. Likita was from South America, so I definitively had to try and capture that vibe in the arrangement and beat.
4. CHICKEN FRIED SNAKE BOOGALOO - Always a fan favorite. I first recorded and wrote this for my first solo album on Blacktop Records during the mid-’80s down in Austin with the Roomful and my Fab T-Birds pals. When this version of the RLWK band was playing out, I got so many requests for ’Chicken’ I had to re-arrange and play it every night. This is a pretty cool version too!
5. FUNKY FIESTA - This is actually the original version (1999). I later recorded it again in 2011. [see “FUNKY FIESTA!” album] I wrote it in preparation for the infamous Millennium celebrations due soon at the time. Everyone was worried there would be a giant failure of all the computers and electrically powered devices by “unknown” evil forces. So, I had refrigerator magnet year 2000 calendars made up with the RLWK logo, that I guaranteed would still work even if your ice-box no longer did.
6. SOOKIE'S BE BOP BOOGALOO - Since the Rappers at the time were sampling and putting all different kinds of grooves and hooks behind their ‘Raps’, I figured we could do the same, only for real, ‘live’. This tune morphed into a patchwork of Soul grooves & BeBop riffs. Detroiters certainly ‘know’ their Jazz and gauging from their reaction, they definitely enjoyed those Bop quotes. It’s a long tune, but we always kept the crowd into it and it proved to be one of our most popular ‘dance’ requests from our fans.
7. U ROCKIN' ME - Another old crowd favorite from the ‘Zim Zam Zoom’ album. The Blues is always something you can expect anytime I’m performing and they sho’ nuff dig the Blues in Detroit, especially down in the Greektown area at the Music Menu. I’ve certainly had a lot of fun there through the years.
8. BAILA TERESA BAILA - Another original RL Latin flavored groove we always enjoyed playing for the dancers (Baila means dance in Spanish) wherever we traveled. Drummer Benny Benson got another chance to stretch out and beat his way through the world on this one. No one was ever as loyal, devoted or ‘worked’ as hard for the group as Benny. We still perform on occasion today and it’s always a pure pleasure. He always puts me in a good comfort zone.
All songs written & arranged by Ron Levy, Levtronic Music BMI/HFA
Browse: Home / 2014 / January / Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom offers another gem on The Lost Session album.
Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom offers another gem on The Lost Session album.
By Bill Copeland on January 29, 2014
Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom once recorded an album’s worth of music in a north shore recording studio. Those recordings, lost and forgotten when Levy’s record label folded, were eventually found and now they are being presented as The Lost Session and released on the Levtron.com site. Keyboardist/composer Levy was in top form back in those days, as was his Wild Kingdom players, and these songs, finally seeing the light of day, jump out of the speakers with startlingly good quality.
Like most of Levy’s compositions, every track on The Lost Session has a lot going on at once. Keeping numerous musical instrument lines boiling and in sync with one another is a challenge the maestro keeps presenting to himself and his players. Meeting that challenge results in a lot of fun, interesting music.
“Groovelatin’ Acid Blues” opens the album with two keyboard melodies chirping away simultaneously. A dense, heavy organ sound rides over a lighter sprawl beneath. The contrast creates an additional sense of movement and conjures a party vibe. It forces the mind to look around the room to see how large a place it is and how many people are in attendance, dancing, talking to one another, and having drinks. Levy along with saxophonist Henley Douglas Jr. and trumpet player Garrett Savluk (of Boston Horns fame) exchange blaring blasts of notes, making their biggest splash when all three hit a chord in unison. Any listener would appreciate the vibrancy and elasticity of horn and keyboard lines that so joyfully erupt in this piece.
“Duke It Out” glides in with a nudge of drums, low end, and a light, jazzy organ flight. Levy’s organ tinkling gives off plenty of luster as his notes skate by. A dazzling trumpet melody spirals over all, and the combination of airy melody lines create a thicker texture without changing dynamics or tempos. The peaks and valley here are all dug and erected with a tangle of light touches on the melody instruments. Soon, the horn takes off on its distinctive flight of fancy with organ notes darting around beneath. Skillful playing is plentiful here, but it is the architecture of this song that most inspires.
“Likita’s Laugh” gets its groove from a tasteful snappiness in the organ and horns. Here, keys and horns are all fulsome and vibrant while the rhythm section serves up an action packed groove. Drummer Benny Benson smacks his skins with an alluring pattern that draws one in with its primal call. Guitarist Tim “The German” Wiechman presses out a rangy, sweet melodic line that travels through this piece like he owns it. Not only can you dance to this piece, you can also daydream to it. There’s plenty of melodic twists and turns floating freely and or spiraling sprightly from each instrument to inspire one’s imagination from blank canvas to museum masterpiece. To label this tune as funk would be an unfair understatement. It goes beyond its association with heavy 1970s grooves to arrive at a place in the jazz strata. These musicians inspire and push each other to improv some sophisticated expressions of what they were feeling in the studio that day.
A fun, entertaining number called “Chicken Fried Snake Boogaloo” will have people on the dance floor with its initial offering of jumpy lead guitar notes. Drummer Benson plays a clever backbeat that inspires the feet to move. Hip organ progressions and a funky saxophone line wrap around that groove and then rise above it progressively, making the groove an all encompassing thing that pulls people onto the dance floor with a centrifugal force. That guitar comes back into full expression mode to strut its stuff next to the horns and keys. You get the feeling the players were engaging in some good natured competition over who can funk the coolest. Who wins in this type of competition? The listener. The bouncy energy here will put wind under anybody’s sails and make them feel like they’re the king of cool.
A Latin tinge flavors “Funky Fiesta.” The horns press out a Mariachi influenced melody while Levy taps out brisk organ line over Benson’s frisky percussion. Wiechman unfurls a speedy melodic guitar line that remains sweet in tone while cutting forward sharply. It’s the way these instruments are rubbed briskly together that makes the song’s energy speak to the listener. Douglas’s sax line darts around with precision to dazzle in its own light while finding it niche within this tightly woven number. The cleverness here lies in how these adept players can strut their stuff, wildly uptempo, while remaining in lock step. There is also a Benson drum solo that combines mastery of dynamics and tempo while offering a variation on the tune’s colors.
“Sookie’s Be Bop Boogaloo” is a thick bulbous offering of organ and horns. Here, the players play it big and blare their melodies with a bit of attitude. Weichman’s guitar line, as sprightly as ever, also gets more of an edge here. He’s playing a lot of notes in each measure and that makes you hear the attitude, a man getting a lot off of his mind by putting it out their with a furious offering of expression. Weichman soon forges it into more of a funk feel, with plenty of accented single notes dancing alongside a healthy dose of horn shots and melodic excursions. Levy eventually chimes in with a more accented line of his own. His simmering keyboard notes begin with a self-restraint that keeps the tension building just below the surface until he takes it higher and force his more expressive chords to flow over the top in sudden bursts of exuberance.
“U Rockin’ Me’ turns a simple down tempo blues structure into something with a lot of musical fruit growing on its branches. Benson keeps the beat steady but fulsome. Weichman picks off a tender expression with a plentiful offering of notes. Levy coaxes a gentle but sprawling organ line out of his keys. The horns play it mellow but wide. The tree never grows tall but it offers a lot of apples. This is the track you want to play when you’re slowing dancing with that special someone in a low lit room after the party is over. It’s easy on the feet but heavy with numerous melodic expressions that reflect the numerous things going on in the mind, body, and soul when one is in the moment.
Levy and his crew close out with “Baila Teresa Baila,” a piece with many shimmering moments in the melodic lines. There’s also a bulbous low end keyboard line that will make people want to move. It’s one of the smoothest bass lines that can be played, full of flowing momentum that gives the horns and organ a wide stage to dance around on. Savluk’s trumpet vibrant trumpet line sounds ever more full of life with that foundation. It shows how well Levy composes lines that, whether supporting or contrasting each other, build into something hugely likeable from the sum of all parts.
Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom offers a Kaleidoscopic conglomeration of colors, tones, instrumentation, melody lines, groove, and much more in The Lost Session. A reviewer could return to this album six months later and write an entirely different review because one could easily find a whole other set of qualities to focus on in each number. Suffice to say it’s another collection of fun, danceable tunes and impressive arrangements from one of Boston’s brightest stars in blues, funk, and R&B.