Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Isaac Hayes

I've been spending so much time watching the Olympics the past few days that I didn't find out until Wednesday of the passing of Isaac Hayes. Of course, being relatively young, my first exposure to Hayes didn't come until the 70s in high school, playing the "Theme from Shaft" in the pep band. Even so, I wasn't actually conscious of the Black Moses until I began examining the composer credits on my Sam & Dave albums. It wasn't long after that Stax became my favorite record label, and Hayes one of my favorite musicians. The soundtrack to Shaft is still one of my favorite albums . . . ever . . . in any genre. There have been numerous versions of Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" but I wanted to share with you one of my favorites. It's from the 1974 album by Maynard Ferguson MF Horn 2. In terms of fusion/big band sessions from the 70s, this has to be near the top of the list in terms of both song selection and solos. The opener, "Give It One," is probably the best Ferguson track from the entire decade.

The Shaft theme is great not only because of the unique arrangement by Keith Mansfield, but also the funky piano by Pete Jackson, gritty alto solo by Jeff Daly, and a valve trombone solo by Ferguson himself. Although, having a great tune to cover is what finally makes it all come together. One of my favorite stories about Hayes was how, in the old days at Stax, they used to double-book Booker T. & the M.G.s into two clubs on the same night. Booker would go out with the second-string rhythm section--some of whom would go on to form the Bar-Kays. And at the other show would be Al Jackson, Duck Dunn, and Steve Cropper along with--you guessed it--Isaac Hayes at the organ. Isaac Hayes was a tremendous talent and a real driving force in soul music, especially the transition into the 1970s, and he'll be missed by many.

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