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Issue 1084

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Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09

Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com
Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com The Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com The Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Valencia Robinson, Jeneane Cranert &Larry Johnson: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Valencia Robinson, Jeneane Cranert &Larry Johnson: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Jack Ashford: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Valencia Robinson, Jeneane Cranert &Larry Johnson: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Valencia Robinson, Jeneane Cranert &Larry Johnson: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Larry Johnson (Part of Jack Ashford band): Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Larry Johnson (Part of Jack Ashford band): Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Jeneane Cranert (Part of Jack Ashford band): Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@B&S Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com Jack Ashford band: Borderline 09/11/09 copyright@bluesandsoul.com

There are but few living legends left to see live, so when one of them comes to town you know it's best to drop everything and haul your ass down to the action. We are talking big luminaries here and it doesn't get much bigger than the one and only vibes and percussionist Mr Jack Ashford, nicknamed "Mr Tambourine Man". The man from Motown was in our town and ready to spill everything.

Jack started the evening off with a long talk about his memories and the part he played along with his merry band of unsung heroes, the Funk Brothers who played on more hits than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones put together!! Jack's contribution is colossal, the tambourine accents all of Motown's backbeat along with the prominent and often busy electric bass lines - distinctive yet highly melodic chord structures, and the call and response singing style that originated from gospel. The tightly honed funk brothers, when recording in 'the snake pit" (the tiny motown studio) believed steadfastly in the kiss principle ("keep it simple, stupid!")

The audience were transfixed with Ashford's stories, here was a man who had 2 Grammy's and 91 gold records, and was cherry picked by Marvin Gaye and personally invited into the detroit fold. He was also one of the smartest cookies who hired himself out to other acts eager to capture some of his Motown magic In fact Jack had his own record label too as well as being Norman Whitfield's right hand man in Los Angeles. Jack played the game well his motto being "keep your mouth shut and bank the money!"

It was a real shame that Jack wasn't performing on the night but his very presence inspired his quickly assembled pick up band to do the night justice. I only stayed for four songs as I had another gig to attend to but I'm glad I caught the talk and group in full party mode.

First up the Temptations classic 'Aint To Proud To Beg', which set the tone and teed the musical extravaganza up extremely well. The trio of session singers Valencia Robinson, Jeneane  Cranert and Larry Johnson all different, but highly distinctive vocalists did the song justice. The twelve piece band were limbering up nicely as the unforgettable intro of 'Heard it Through The Grapevine' which chimed in sweetly.

Valencia ad-libbed to great effect when she went off on a rant to Larry about reading his texts sent from strange women. This was showbiz American banter at its best and poor Larry I swear, for one minute, thought it was for real!!

Stevie wonder's 'Signed Sealed And Delivered' worked a treat. Jack of course knew Stevie when he was but a boy and regaled stories of trying to make his hair look good but it was too coarse and wiry to control, no wonder he has braids now!!

Marvin's 'What's Going On" sounded stupendous, but I couldn't help thinking if only Jack was playing. I don't know what the story is there, but it was enough to hear this otherwise engaging man share his memoirs with us. You've earn't your retirement Mr Ashford, so peeps let me leave you with a eulogy and some forward notes from his book, 'Motown A View From The Bottom' (still in print) by Martha Reeves...

"Jack Ashford not only inspired me to pick up the tambourine and hold my tempos as I attempted to fit the words into the bars of music handwritten for us at Hitsville USA, the funk brothers that Jack was a permanent part of, never played too fast or too loud for the star of the moment.

We gave Berry Gordy his dream come true and filled the world with 'the sound of young America'. On our first Motown Revue Jack taught us discipline and how to make a meal of popcorn and sardines, by following it with lots of water. That got some of us through the night..............

Jack was always a tall, dark and handsome cool cat!

B&S copy and the photos from this review are strictly Blue and Soul copyright only, duplication of any part of this review and or image/s will result in immediate legal action.
Words Emrys Baird

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