Sunday, 22 August 2010

Lazy Sunday Afternoon - Live (not quite) at Fillmore West

For this week's music feature, a bit of jazz/funk/soul...

If you’re anything like me there’s a good chance you first encountered King Curtis in the film Withnail and I – that’s his smoky sax version of A Whiter Shade of Pale playing as we pan across the squalid flat in the wonderfully atmospheric opening sequence.

The track is taken from the 1971 album Live at Fillmore West, as is Curtis’s almost parodically funky ‘introducing the band’ number Memphis Soul Stew ("and now we need a pound of fatback drums...").

Curtis Ousley (born 1934) started as a New York session musician, playing saxophone for Buddy Holly and Andy Williams, amongst others. Later he headed up the Kingpins, opening for the Beatles at their 1965 Shea Stadium show. The Kingpins of course were Aretha Franklin's backing band, and the Live at Fillmore West recording was made during a run of concerts with Franklin in San Francisco. It was to be King Curtis's last recording. On 13 August 1971 Curtis was lugging an air-conditioning unit back to his brownstone apartment in NY, when he encountered a pair of junkies doing what junkies do on his front steps. Curtis objected and in the resulting dispute one of them, Juan Montanez, stabbed him in the chest. Curtis managed to wrest the knife from his assailant and knife him four times before collapsing. Montanez survived and was eventually sentenced for murder; Curtis died within the hour.

Jesse Jackson adminstered his funeral, at which both Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder performed. He is buried at the Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, New Jersey - a particularly jazzy graveyard as the remains of John Coltrane and Count Basie are there too.

Unfortunately there don't seem to be vids available from the actual Fillmore Street gigs, but the ones below will give the general idea...

1 comment:

  1. Great, great venue, I have so many good live recordings from Fillmore West, Lucinda Williams and Allman Brothers spring instantly to mind.
    Always thing that the Shepherds Bush Empire, now an Academy is our equivalent.