Posts Tagged ‘stevie wonder


Johanan Vigoda – Who knew?

Johanan_VigodaFirst of all I must apologize for this blog coming to an abrupt halt a few years ago; we here at Hi-Fi Central just became pre-occupied in our lives and finding time to write for the blog, well…ok, that’s a bunch of bullshit.  We just didn’t take the time to keep it going, myself included, so now that that’s been said, let’s get back into writing about all things related to music in some form or another, shall we?

Recently I was thinking back about being a kid growing up in the suburbs of Schenectady, New York and all the hippie type characters my parents would run into during the mid-1970’s.  One unique individual was this guy named Johanan Vigoda.  I don’t remember Johanan very well, but from what I do recall he was a very kind man, who was incredibly soft spoken and ate frozen peas from a satchel bag.  My father father always remembered the frozen peas when recalling his initial meeting with Johanan.  I only met  him once when I was about 7 or 8; my father was selling either a BMW RT75 or RT100, it was metallic cherry red, many fond memories of my father taking me out for night rides when I was young.

My father had put the motorcycle up for sale, but after a few weeks had taken the bike out of the listings since he didn’t have any bites of interest, and then one day at random this guy and woman come riding down the driveway on a motorcycle interested in the bike.  My father came down and chatted for a bit; somewhere during the conversation it was discovered that Johanan was an entertainment attorney living downstate; he didn’t really elaborate, nor did my parent pry.  It was just a cool feeling out process, and clearly my parents and Johanan felt comfortable with one another.  After a bit of chatting Johanan asked if he could take the bike out for a test ride to see if it was what he wanted, my father obliged and off Johanan went down the road.  A short while later, Johanan returned with what appeared to be some minor scratches and damage to the bike.  The fairing was cracked and the left mirror and turn signals were gone;  apparently due to some slick conditions on bridge up the road he dropped the bike but was luckily Johanan unhurt.

My mother recalls that Johanan was incredibly apologetic and offered my father to pay all expenses incurred from the damage, and that he would purchase the bike once repaired, just give him the bill.  The bike was fixed a week later and Johanan asked if my father could bring the bike down to his house in Woodstock, New York, my father was more than willing to deliver the bike no problem.  As Johanan promised he asked my father what the final damages were with the repair and the purchase of the motorcycle, and without hesitation or discussion paid my father what he asked.  That was the last time we saw Johanan Vigoda.

A few months later my mother was watching the Grammy’s and as they focused the camera down the aisle who was sitting there, Johanan!  My mother never forgot seeing him and recalling what a kind soul he was and clearly, not that she doubted what he said, was a legit music attorney.

It’s been years since I remembered that story and recently Google’d “Johanan Vigoda” just to see what I could find out about him.  Sadly the first thing I came across was an obituary from 2011, apparently he died after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer; although sad to see, there was some humor in his obituary since it mentioned that he was known for his “exotic diets” and eccentric behavior.

Johanan was responsible for negotiating The Beatles first record deal in the United States with Vee-Jay Records, and was Stevie Wonders lifelong attorney.  He apparently lived months at a time at the Continental Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, a hotel made famous by the antics of Led Zeppelin in the 1970’s.  I was amazed to discover this much about him, and just adds to the “cool factor” of crossing paths with him unbeknownst to parents and myself on who he really was in the music world.


the jazz soul of little stevie

One of the greatest things about music is when you discover something that you never even knew existed, and it turns out to be a wonderful piece of ear candy.  I’m a big fan of Stevie Wonder – to be more specific, I’m a big fan of his music from the 1970’s.  His 60’s Motown stuff is ok – “For Once in My Life,” “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day,” etc…I’m not a fan of his 80’s work and beyond.  But those 70’s albums – Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life, Vol. 1 – are phenomenal works of R&B, funk and soul.

I have little knowledge of his very early career, when he was known as “Little Stevie.”  The only experience I’d had was from seeing his performance of “Fingertips, Pt. 2” in TV clips.  It’s a great tune, somewhat jazzy but more R&B-sounding.  Until the other night I never had any inkling of curiosity as to whether there was a “part one” to “Fingertips.”  Turns out there is!  It’s from Wonder’s first album called “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie,” recorded when he was only 11 years old.  I bought the album, and it’s a marvelous addition to any jazz fan’s collection.  Stevie co-wrote two of the songs, and plays all the drums, percussion, harmonica, piano and keyboards on the album…11 years old!  This is a true jazz album – all instrumental as well, save for a few hoots and hollers on a couple of songs.  “Fingertips” features great drumming as well as groovy horn playing.  The flute is featured on this track and several others as well, which for some reason is distinctive to me as typical of 60’s jazz.  “Square” features the classic Wonder harmonica sound, and “Soul Bongo” reeks of Puerto Rican-influenced salsa-style jazz.  “Manhattan at Six” has a similar sound, featuring a percussion jam mixed with high energy piano work.  “Paulsby” is light on its feet, with Stevie’s harmonica floating on the breeze, along with a nifty organ section.  Things slow down a bit with “Some Other Time,” but kick back up with “Wondering,” featuring quick organ playing and some horn scatting.  The album closes with two similar numbers, “Session Number 11” and “Bam.”  Both have nice mellow jazz grooves, slinking through piano and harmonica exchanges, with some nice sax work on “Bam.”

It’s a short album, clocking in at just about 30 minutes, but for jazz fans and early Stevie Wonder fans, I’m calling it a must-have.

The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

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