Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jerry Hahn Brotherhood in the New York Times

A real blast from the past. I would have missed this if I hadn't been in Philadelphia for the American Postal Workers Union convention. I picked up the New York Times on Saturday and there was a nice, long column on the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.

Verlyn Klinkenborg writes:

The other day a song popped into my head, just a few up-tempo instrumental phrases — guitar, bass, drums and a Hammond B3 organ. I knew instantly what it was, though I hadn’t heard it in at least 20 years. It was a passing moment from “Martha’s Madman,” the first song on the first side of an LP called “The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.” I bought the record when it was released in 1970. I was a freshman at Berkeley.

It would have been easy to see the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood performing that year, though I never did. Its lone record was a sunny mixture of straight-up jazz with a blues spine, a music that wants the latter-day word “fusion,” though that word does so little good. Above all, it was a reminder of the eclecticism of the time. Audiences that would soon diverge found themselves packed in a hall together all night long, like one October weekend at Fillmore West when the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood shared the bill with Van Morrison and Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.

There will probably never be a movie based on the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, no commercial incentive to remaster and rerelease this album. The story of the band is a good one but all too familiar — the inevitable clash between the artistic and business sides of the recording industry. The band fell apart disputing the honesty of its manager.

What’s left is an orphaned vinyl LP. The inner sleeve, a space for record company promotion, says, “If It’s in Recorded Form, You Know It’ll Be Available on Records.” Well, I wish it were available on CD.

I talked to Jerry Hahn the other day. He teaches jazz guitar in Wichita, his hometown. He’ll be 66 in September, with grandkids. He sounds good. “You should have heard us,” he said

Indeed! I heard the JHB live several times circa 1970. The album is very good, but live they were something else.

Klinkenborg concludes with this plea

...someone needs to find those master tapes, breathe some air into them, and do this minor masterpiece (and all the outtakes) justice at last
It would be also be nice if someone rescued the slightly earlier LP by Mike Finnegan and the Serfs. Finnegan was the Hammand B-3 player and vocalist for the JHB. Finnegan and a couple of his mates from the band are heard on the jam songs on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland.

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