In the very cool news department, Detroit R&B/"punk blues" pioneer Andre Williams was recently in town to record a new project with some of D-Town's finest musicians, past and present.
For those few of you who don't know, Williams first made a name for himself in the late '50s on Detroit's legendary Fortune Records label. During the next several decades, he had numerous historical landmarks -- such as writing "Shake a Tail Feather" (which was a hit for the Five Du-Tones and later Ike & Tina Turner, as well as a standout on the soundtracks to both The Blues Brothers and Hairspray films); co-writing Stevie Wonder's first-ever song, spending time doing various things at Motown (where he supervised the recording of two albums by the Contours and served as manager and roadie for Edwin Starr of "War" fame); recording for Chicago's pioneering Chess label; writing songs for Parliament/Funkadelic, etc., etc. In other words, the man who comedian Redd Foxx once dubbed "Mr. Rhythm" is one monster of an icon and has been on an artistic comeback after years of drug problems and even a brief period spent homeless in Chicago, where he now resides.
Still a major star on the touring circuit in Europe, Williams came to town last week in order to reportedly "return to his Detroit roots," enlisting an impressive team for the project that included Matthew Smith, Dave Shettler, Troy Gregory, Michael Alonso, Eric Villa and ace session guitarist /fellow Motown legend Dennis Coffey. According to our friend, Mr. Smith, "a very healthy and very together" Williams completed the project in four days, before heading back to Chicago last week. No release date is set yet, but the album will be released on Chicago's Bloodshot label in the near future. We'll keep you posted here.
Also according to Matt Smith, "Andre's new material is fantastic -- just a great batch of songs. And you can probably just imagine the great stories he told me over breakfast, about working for Motown in the '60's, spending the early '70's hanging out with Ike Turner and Mick Jagger and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Elvis Presley showed up backstage at one of his gigs. Just incredible stuff."
Like we said at the very beginning, very cool news indeed!
Also on the Matt Smith news front, he's heading up the band that will be backing Scott Morgan when he performs "The Music of the Rationals" (as we announced here late last month) at the Magic Bag on Friday, July 24th in conjunction with a new Rationals two-CD compilation being released in the UK that same week. Smith's assembled the same great group of musicians who backed Rodriguez during his great show at the Park Bar last year. In some ways, those dudes are becoming like Detroit's version of the Meters!
Finally, speaking of Dennis Coffey, who was one of the local musicians recording with Williams that we mentioned above, Matt Smith tells us the legendary guitarist's weekly Wednesday night residency at Northern Lights Lounge is absoutely fantastic. "Dennis is playing amazing endless psych/funk/soul/jazz improvisations with an excellent drummer, organist, and conga player," says Matt, "and he's in top form. Sometimes, he's been known to play the mellower stuff for the jazz crowd, but the night I went, it was full-on-fuzzbox freakout and Cass Corridor grooves!"
Andre Williams: "Mr. Rhythm" today...