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2006-09-28

7:30PM

n/a

$35 Day of Show

Al Kooper & The Funky Faculty

A professional musician since his early teens, AL KOOPER enjoyed his first real taste of pop music success during the nascent days of rock and roll as popular music. He joined The Royal Teens, who had a Top 5 hit with the tune "Short Shorts" in 1958 and a Top 30 hit a year later with "Believe Me." Kooper was hooked.

"I was hanging around the fringes of the music business," he says of the period after he did his time with the Royal Teens. "I was playing sessions on guitar. People would hire me because their only alternative was to hire these jazz players to play this teenage music. These guys were smoking cigars, emulating what kids would play. So, they would hire me to get that 'dumb, kid sound.' I assume that's why I was hired, because I really couldn't play anywhere near as well as those other guys."

As time went by, Kooper got better, got confident and got known. Producers called on him to lay down guitar parts for scads of teen records, "Certainly, a lot of them you've never heard of," he laughs. "It was a very educational part of my life," he continues. "I learned how to read and write music for the studio. I made friends with the players. They were all very nice to me with some exceptions. I didn't claim to be up to their musicianship, but it was a great university. The difference between the first time and the fifth time I was on a session was immense. The first time they should have thrown me out, but I was lucky!"

In addition to session work, he apprenticed as an audio engineer. He also teamed up with songwriters Bob Brass and Irwin Levine. This partnership yielded the chart topping smash, "This Diamond Ring," performed by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It has now exceeded it's 3-millionth radio performance.

One of the friends he made during this time, producer Tom Wilson, invited Kooper to watch a Bob Dylan session. By the afternoon's end, Al had played the signature organ riff on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," alongside blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield. His association and friendship with Bloomfield lasted until the guitarist's untimely death in 1981, spawning the million-selling Super Session album with Stephen Stills, as well as the highly regarded Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper. His relationship with Dylan has been ongoing for the last 30 years. Kooper has played with him on record and on stage, as well as having produced his "New Morning" album. The catchy organ part on Dylan's first chart-topping single led to many offers of session work. "I'd get tons of calls," Kooper muses. "Some of them, I didn't even want to do, but I didn't want to say no. So, I'd just charge them triple scale, thinking that would deter them. It didn't."

One offer he couldn't refuse was to join the Blues Project. Along with guitarist Danny Kalb, bassist Andy Kulberg, guitarist Steve Katz, and drummer Roy Blumenfeld, the Blues Project helped spearhead the 60's urban blues sound with critically hailed records and widely acclaimed live performances. "Two Trains Running" on Kooper's fiery live album, SOUL OF A MAN (currently out of print), illustrates just how remarkable the Blues Project can still sound live. That album also contains live takes of the Project chestnuts - " I Can't Keep From Cryin'' Sometimes," "Flute Thing" and "Violets Of Dawn."

After two years and three records with the Blues Project, Kooper started hearing another sound in his head. It started with the blues, but added killer horn charts without losing the rock edge. That idea became the trend-setting Blood Sweat & Tears. The original horn section included Dick Halligan on trombone, Jerry Weiss and Randy Brecker on trumpets and Fred Lipsius on alto sax.

Kooper left Blood Sweat and Tears in 1968 after just one album, CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN, taking a job with the Columbia Records A&R department. Here he began recording albums; first with Mike Bloomfield (the top-ten SUPER SESSION), then Shuggie Otis, and his own solo debut, I STAND ALONE. He continued to do session work, adding his keyboards to records by The Rolling Stones (Al played on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"), Jimi Hendrix (“Long Hot Summer Nights”), The Who (“Rael”), and innumerable others. He also scored the Hal Ashby film The Landlord in 1970.