Tracks 8



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The task of following up the phenomenally successful Headhunters album was potentially a difficult task but it only took a year for Herbie Hancock and company to come up with Thrust. This 1974 album was structured similarly to it's predecessor in only having four long tracks, and once again the quality is very high with a strong funk element still present. Many keyboard instruments are credited but it's the Fender Rhodes that shines through displaying it's varied qualities. On Butterfly(1) after providing background for Bernie Maupin's sublime sax solo Herbie creates a lovely dreamy sound while Actual Proof(2) contains a more strident and jazzy performance. Again a commercial success as well as an artistic one, Herbie was now a never to be forgotten electric piano legend.

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The presence of Steely Dan is long overdue on these pages as electric piano was an important part of their sophisticated sound. Gaucho was Becker and Fagan's last studio album and it continued their habit of using a whole host of top session and jazz players, including three electric pianists! Despite that Donald Fagan often provides the EP himself and on Hey Nineteen(1) his touches just sound so right. Don Grolnick provides keyboards on the album's other great song Babylon Sisters(2). Both these tracks highlight how the Rhodes' unique tone can be used as an excellent component in backing tracks.

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Pianist Dave Grusin appears to be getting in touch with his Colorado roots on the cover shot of this 1979 album. He is the 'G' in GRP and has very successfully combined both the artistic and business parts of the music industry in his career. He musically tends toward the melodic side of fusion and uses EP with a lovely lightness of touch reminiscent of Bob James on the cut Friends And Strangers. London based readers who are old enough will recognise this as the theme music to Robbie Vincent's weekday Radio London phone in show, Robbie's legendary Saturday Show was one of very few places to hear jazz-funk in the seventies, and he obviously could not resist using this tune in his day job. Dave has worked as an executive producer on dozens of projects, scored several movies and played keys on numerous albums.

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Released in 1970 Everything Is Everything was Donny Hathaway's first album for Atlantic records. A mainly instrumental track with title chants, The Ghetto has Donny playing excellent rumbling Wurlitzer throughout. I think this is a great and influential example of how the electric piano was the keyboard of choice for musicians wanting to represent gritty reality. It was co-penned by multi-instrumentalist LeRoy Hutson, a college friend who was a member (and eventual leader when Curtis Mayfield left) of The Impressions.

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Another one of those vintage club tracks I like turns up on this double compilation of authentic old school disco. The apparently rare Love Call(1) by the very obscure Ramsey and Co. is a song with a nice Rhodes lead riff and solo. This set was compiled by Dave Lee who reveals the original source for his own hit under the Raven Maize moniker. Exodus' Together Forever(2) contains a cool EP line that Dave borrowed, it also cropped up on the recent song House Music by Eddie Amador. Several of the other tracks on this album feature electric piano as a backing instrument playing that era's characteristic cool chords and touches.

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Recorded for Blue Note, White Russian is fine collection of contemporary jazz songs by a versatile singer from Sweden called Viktoria Tolstoy. Pianist Esbjörn Svensson's trio provides her musical backing and he also wrote the majority of the music. Acoustic piano dominates but on Invisible Changes(1) he uses a Rhodes, first accompanying the vocal then letting fly with a sophisticated short solo. On the bass driven, almost trip hop Casablanca(2), nicely effected chords add to the song's funky feel along with some wild trombone. Finally in case you are wondering, Leo Tolstoy the author of War and Peace was distant relative.

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