Woodstock Jazz Memories: Blood, Sweat & Tears


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With all the media attention focused this week on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, its worth noting that, while there was no jazz at the festival, there were some fine jazz musicians. Weve already looked at David Sanborns Woodstock memories; heres what some of the players in Blood, Sweat & Tears have said about the event.

Blood, Sweat & Tears were, hands down, the jazziest act to play Woodstock. What does it tell us, then, that most people remain unaware 40 years later that the band not only performed that weekend at Yasgurs farm but were among the headliners? A bit of background first. BS&T had been formed two years earlier by keyboardist-producer and all-around rock impresario Al Kooper with the intention of melding rock and jazz, guitars and horns. (His inspiration came from, among other groups, the Electric Flag; BS&Ts success would help spawn Chicago.)

Not surprisingly, the bands original lineup featured some heavyweight New York jazz-blues talent, including Jim Fielder, Fred Lipsius, Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, Dick Halligan, Steve Katz and Bobby Colomby. BS&T quickly got a deal at Columbia and received significant critical acclaim for its 1968 debut, Child Is Father to the Man. As sessions got under way for the follow-up, however, there was a schism in the band Kooper was forced out, trumpeters Brecker and Weiss left and were replaced by Lew Soloff and Chuck Winfield, and BS&T found a new vocalist in David Clayton-Thomas.

It all worked out for the best, as the groups eponymous second album became a sensation. Released in December 1968, the disc topped the Billboard chart, bested the Beatles Abbey Road for the Album of the Year Grammy and spawned three hits Youve Made Me So Very Happy, And When I Die and Spinning Wheel, all of which peaked at No. 2.

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