CTI Records

David Matthews and Whirlwind: Shoogie Wanna Boogie

When Creed Taylor was considering to hire David Matthews as the new chief arranger for CTI, in 1975, he gave a call to renowned jazz historian Leonard Feather, asking his opinion. “Feather seemed surprised, because he was not familiar with Matthew’s work”, remembers CTI’s founder Creed Taylor. “So I told him that the David Matthews Band, actually a 12-piece combo, was performing all Monday nights at the Five Spot cafe, in New York. Two weeks later, Feather called me back to tell that he had attended two sets performed by Matthews’ Band, adding that he had become very impressed with his arrangements. In this meantime, I had already signed David, who told it to Mr. Feather, who couldn’t disguise how much he was surprised. Actually, many people in the jazz business were shocked when I signed Matthews. But I knew he was going to do everything well”. 

Everything? Yes, everything. However, even today it is still hard to believe that the David Matthews who worked as arranger/conductor/musical director for funk legend James Brown in the early Seventies (on such albums as There It Is, Get On The Good Foot, Sho’ Is Funky Down Here, Hell and Reality) is the same David Matthews now very famous in Japan as the leader of the best-selling and poll-winners ensembles Manhattan Jazz Quintet and Manhattan Jazz Orchestra. Both groups recorded extensively in the Eighties on King Records, for which Matthews also worked as co-producer on albums led by Steve Gadd, Michel Camilo, and MJQ mates Lew Soloff and George Young, helping to increase their popularity in the Japanese jazz scene.

A tremendously versatile arranger, David Matthews (born April 3, 1942, in Sonora, KY) got the hard task to replace Bob James and Don Sebesky as the house arranger for CTI/Kudu. Both maestros were still signed to CTI. However, James seemed discontent with the label financial department, and was considering offers from other companies. And Creed was disappointed with the poor sales of Sebesky’s first CTI album as a leader, the superb and over-budget Giant Box, on which he had lavishly spent too much money. So, although Creed was planning another Sebesky solo album (The Rape of El Morro), as well as two albums that James owed to CTI, he decided to prepare David Matthews as the substitute of such illustrious predecessors.

Disco-music was then the new big thing in the musical market, and Matthews’ experience with James Brown seemed perfect to forge a mix of funk and r&b styles on disco-oriented albums, recorded for Kudu in 1975, by Hank Crawford (I Hear A Symphony), Idris Muhammad (House of the Rising Sun) and Ron Carter (Anything Goes). Plus: several George Benson sessions for CTI, also done in 1975, later released on the albums Good King Bad, Benson & Farrell, and Pacific Fire.

Finally, Creed Taylor offered to David Matthews the chance to cut his first solo album for Kudu, recorded soon after the arranger terminated his contract with Muse Records. The result was Shoogie Wanna Boogie, truly a typical disco-music album, although spiced with some real funky grooves (most specifically on the title track) and a few jazzy moods. Curiously, the basic tracks were recorded between March 20 and 22, in the same studio (Mediasound) and with the same engineer (Joe Jorgensen) and some of the same musicians (Anthony Jackson, Andy Newmark, Sue Evans, Jerry Friedman, John Tropea) employed on Lalo Schifrin’s debut album for CTI, Black Widow, recorded a week later.

At that time, Creed Taylor remained very attracted to Eumir Deodato’s work, still trying to capitalize on the success of his former protégé (and CTI best-selling artist ever), then signed to MCA. It was Creed’s idea to add the word Whirlwind in the album cover (pretending it was the name of Matthew’s band, who only became aware of such arbitrary decision after the album release), inspired by the title of Deodato’s debut album for MCA, Whirlwinds. As if it was not enough, soon later Creed Taylor suggested Lalo Schifrin to use Black Widow as the title of Lalo’s first album for CTI, that time inspired by the title of one of Deodato’s hits from his Very Together album, released on January 1976...

Throughout Shoogie Wanna Boogie, David Matthews succeeded in using an orgiastic vocal trio formed by Patti Austin, Vivian Cherry and the late Gwen Guthrie (1950-1999), fusing it with string and horn sections placed over contagious dancing grooves. The title track features a vocal riff written by Matthews, Austin and Guthrie, blessed by a killer bass line courtesy of Anthony Jackson, in one of his best recorded performances ever.

The underrated drummer Andy Newmark (a former member of Sly & The Family Stone, who later went on to record with Roxy Music, Pink Floyd and David Bowie) carries the beat and the late Joe Farrell (1937-1986) does the energetic tenor solo on a glamorous disco-version of My Girl, the Smokey Robinsin-penned Number 1 pop and r&b hit recorded by The Temptations in 1965, later covered by Michael Jackson on his Ben album (1972), and most recently rediscovered by jazz fans through Steve Gadd’s The Gadd Gang on the Here & Now album (1988).

Another architect of the Motown sound, Norman Whitfield wrote Just My Imagination, another hit for The Temptations in 1971. On Matthews’ version, that fine ballad gets another colours, with a baritone sax solo by seasoned studio veteran Ronnie Cuber.

A cop-show mood intro helps to set on fire one of Motown’s early hits by The Supremes, back in 1968: You Keep Me Hanging On, composed by the legendary production-team of Eddie Holland, his brother Brian Holland, and Lamont Dozier. The horn solo is by Fred Wesley (former James Brown’s trombonist), who began to record often as sideman for CTI after being recommended to Creed Taylor by David Matthews.

The next track is one of Creed’s favorite songs, The Mamas & The Papas huge hit California Dreaming (from their 1966 debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Years), which the producer had previously selected for albums by Wes Montgomery (California Dreaming – Verve, 1966) and George Benson (White Rabbit – CTI, 1971, and CTI Summer Jazz Live At The Hollywood Bowl – CTI, 1972). On David Matthews’ version, it is a showcase for bassist Jeff Berlin' stunning artistry.

The third bassist on the album, Will Lee, overdubbed his part on the most jazzy track, Gotta Be Where You Are, a David Matthews tune with lyrics by Gloria Nisseson. It is the only track on which David plays acoustic piano, doing a short but very interesting (and mysterious) solo over a conga/drums groove adorned by sinuous strings. Actually, it is the only track on which the leader plays any keyboard parts, since all others are performed by Don Grolnick, Pat Rebillot, Barry Miles and Kenny Ascher, with a vast use of the Hohner clavinet, a very fashionable instrument during the disco craze.

Shoogie Wanna Boogie didn’t became the commercial success it could have been. Anyway, David Matthews was kept as CTI’s main arranger until 1978, working on albums by Art Farmer (Big Blues, Something You Got), Urbie Green (The Fox, Senor Blues), Yusef Lateef (Autophysiopsychic), Hank Crawford (Tico Rico, Cajun Sunrise), Esther Phillips (Capricorn Princess), Grover Washington, Jr. (A Secret Place), John Blair (We Belong Together), Nina Simone (Baltimore) and many others.

He did a second and last album as a leader for CTI, Dune, an artistically successful project who turned out to be a commercial fiasco thanks to the imprudence of CTI’s legal management. Since CTI had not secured writer Frank Herbert’s authorization to use his novel Dune as the thematic centerpiece for the album, Herbert filed a law suit against CTI and won, forcing the label to delete it from catalog. For this reason, that magnificent album was never reissued in the USA, although a CD reissue came out in Japan by King Records in 1994. Now it’s time for Shoogie Wanna Boogie (for the first time available on CD) see again the light of the day!

Arnaldo DeSouteiro
London, May, 2001

Mr. DeSouteiro is Brazil’s leading jazz producer and CTI historian