=Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Easy Evil - Merl Saunders

Since Trunk of F.U.N.K. is coming to you from the Bay Area rather than the usual stomping grounds in the Midwest this week, it seemed only appropriate to highlight a funky single from an artist who calls San Francisco home.

Easy Evil - Merl Saunders - Fantasy

Merl Saunders has been working the keys for the better part of his life, beginning with the piano at age 10 and continuing on until just a few years ago. Throughout junior high, Saunders played in a band with his classmate Johnny Mathis (who would also have a notable career as a musician), at which time he made the decision to pursue a career in music. His biography indicates that the decision to pursue a career in music was centered around the energy of the audience and musicians Saunders felt at concerts by jazz greats such as Cab Calloway. Shortly after this time, Saunders attended a number of different music schools, and also apprenticed under “the greatest Hammond jazz organist of all-time” Jimmy Smith. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Saunders began collaborating with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, while also pursuing a career as a jazz keyboardist, adopting the Hammond B3 as his instrument of choice. In the early ‘70s he also lead his own group, Merl Saunders and Friends, with the “friends” encompassing a staggering array of musicians, such as Jerry Garcia, Tom Fogerty, Mike Bloomfield, and Shiela E. Saunders’ work in collaboration with Jerry Garcia would continue from the early 70s until the release of the album, Blues From the Rainforest, in 1990.

Today’s selection comes from Merl Saunders’ self-titled album released on Fantasy in 1974. The track was written by Alan O’Day, and features Saunders on clavinet and electric piano, Billy Fender on guitar, Bill Upchurch on bass, Jimmy Nelson on drums, and King Errisson on congas. Although not highlighted in today’s post, this same record contains a longer, alternate take of the nicely funky Hammond 45 from Merl Saunders and Heavy Turbulence entitled, A Little Bit of Righteousness*, which was released on the Galaxy label a few years earlier in 1970**.

I've recently been making my way over to the site AM, then FM, and I highly recommend you do the same. Aside from holding it down in the land of beer and cheese with yours truly, Jeff does some mighty fine work.

Be sure to tune in Friday for an all new mix featuring nothing but bold soul sisters laying it all out.

*On the 1974 s/t album, the title has been shortened to Righteousness. The track, A Little Bit of Righteousness, also appears on the album, Keepers, released in 1997.

**This 45 recently appeared in Funky16Corners radio vol. 53 for any listeners interested in checking it out.

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