Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico- KING CURTIS

“Play that song called ‘Soul Twist,’ sang Sam Cooke with a small nod and a hip coat-tails pull in the direction of “King” Curtis Ousley. King Curtis played on practically every rock, soul, and R&B hit with a tenor solo between 1955 and the premature end of his soul serenade in 1971. Somewhere in him was the sound a shaving makes when a wood-plane curls it off a plank; that sound may be in all of us, but King Curtis knew how to set it free, turn it loose, and toss it out onto the dancefloor. Which was probably made of pine planks drenched with stale beer & cigarette butts.As people of all ages and races listened, danced and grooved to a _MUSICIAN_beyond category. King Curtis was very much in demand as a sax player by nearly every musician in the business. One of his memorable sax solos can be heard on the Coasters' Yakety Yak. The list of people that he worked with is in the hundreds and reads like a who's who of musicians in the early days of rock-and-roll. At this point in time...WHO ELSE played/recorded with-: Lionel Hampton, Buck Clayton, Nat King Cole, Joe Turner, The McGuire Sisters, Andy Williams, Chuck Willis, The Coasters, Buddy Holly, LaVern Baker, Bobby Darin, Brook Benton, Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, Solomon Burke, The Shirelles, Nina Simone, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Mann, Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton and John Lennon. He managed to put three songs in the top forty in the 60's, but all were instrumentals at a time when instrumentals were not popular with the record buying public [when you hear Sam Cooke say "Play that one called Soul Twist" in his 1962 hit Having A Party, he is referring to the King Curtis song]. One of my all time fav King Curtis records that was re-issued on CD is " Live At Filmore".The gig largely consists of soul staples the band had honed and perfected while on the chitlin circuit; Memphis Soul Stew, Soul Serenade, Freddie King's I Stand Accused and Stevie Wonder's big hit Signed Sealed & Delivered I'm Yours. Curtis rounds it out with with top 40 material such as Procol Harum's Whiter Shade Of Pale, Jeff Walker's Mr. Bojangles and Led Zep's Whole Lot Of Love. Listen to Kings SAXELLO preach on this music...as well as the THICK and BEAUTIFUL alto sax sound on " Ode To Billie Joe".. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TshDQXRglI
Another King Curtis favorite of mine was the record with Jimmy Forrest and Oliver Nelson.King really sounded great with Jimmy and Oliver and made those guys hit the groove hard.
Another gem...is the record called...KING CURTIS & THE SHIRELLES.King plays saxello-and it is really a treasure chest of unique music.I put that record on when I want to hear King really create a space in some music.
There's a lot of "lip service"...on who sounds like King Curtis or is influenced by him.There are SO many.I say his style even flowed into production and guitarists.King had that _THICK AS A BRICK_palm key sound King did and the ability to make a chord with a root-3ed-5th and MAJOR 7th sound funky and hip.Years ago it was called-SOUL.For those in the know- Shea Stadium 1965,King Curtis was the opening-act for The Beatles' concert. A side bit of info-I studied with Garvin Bushell on bassoon in late 70's...Garvin taught KIng when he came to New York from Texas.The point here is, King took a lesson with Garvin EVERYDAY first thing in the morning on weekdays ! Garvin told me Curtis was the hardest workin' student he knew. It showed didn't it? A total tower of power ( no pun ) musically King was in any bag.
King Curtis...someone I think about everyday. He created a lot of work/gigs for saxophone players world wide.
FOR SAXOPHONE PLAYERS...There are a few things lately I've been after via this style. Just some thought food-they are: - velocity = volume, pitch & energy- be aware of articulation at different dynamic levels-listening to your sound, not just imagining-internalizing your pulse-building off the quarter note -building up momentum to get tension- dynamics & evennes- consistency of sound- tension & release- keeping in the style
King Curtis...someone I think about everyday. He created a lot of work/gigs for saxophone players world wide. ~ Till next week- keep your groove going- TIM PRICE
~ This weeks blog is dedicated to ; Bruce McGrath....indeed we shared a great common bond. Talking to you was not only a joy- but a reassurance that there are players out the deserving world class attention. I am sad we never got the chance to play & hang in person. Much respect and saxophonistic brotherhood- RIP Bruce.


  1. Tim:

    Nice tribute to King Curtis!
    He didn't play a saxello, though. I have the same horn and thought it was a saxello, too, until a few years ago. It's actually a Lyon and Healy "Perfect Curved Soprano Sax."
    Here's a thread on the horn:




  2. Back in the 70's you'll recall when one could listen to FM radio and hear whatever the DJ was in the mood to play- Stravinsky, James Brown, Soft Machine, etc, all in one set. I remember one night I heard an entire side of King Curtis' Live at the Fillmore album. I was completely blown away by the fire and soul that I had to run out and get it the next day. That was one of my favorites for years!

  3. Thanks for this!