Earth Tones

This is a collage I did for the inside cover of the jazz CD Earth Tones, which I produced in 2004. The project featured guitarist Charlie Hunter, Earl”Chinna” Smith and Ernest Ranglin, the project had it share of legal problems as well due to a greedy & unscrupulous partner, besides that the music came out awesome. The amazing part for me was that other than Chinna and Ernest Ranglin these guys had never played together before just meeting in the studio. Being true professionals almost all the songs were done in one or two takes. Also playing was SNL band drummer Sean Pelton and from the band 1970’s progressive jazz band, Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena .

Chinna had always wanted to do a jazz recording, and here he is at his finest. We picked out some tunes, the band rehearsed a bit and we just started recording. Besides producing I also did the photos, liner notes and cover design. After all the problems we were very happy with the results and it got some great reviews besides, like the one below.

With the exception of McLaughlin/DiMeola/De Lucia’s Friday Night in San Francisco, this may be the greatest lineup of guitarists assembled in recording history (yes, I’m going that far). Each of the three guitarists has an instantly recognizable sonic signature, from Hunter’s Hammond B-3 organ imitation to Ranglin’s “Surfin Ska” Sound and also Chinna’s ethereal psalm-like strumming. One would be hard pressed to pick a dominant maestro; however, more often than not Chinna Smith seems to steal the show. Recorded in Smith’s “live” style, the inspiration and influences come from any and all directions. The powerhouse collective covers artists as diverse as Edie Brickell (“What I Am”), Garage A Trois (“Mestre Tata”), and former Coltrane affiliate McCoy Tyner (“Passion Dance”). Each tune may highlight a particular guitarist’s gusto — such as the Ranglin vehicle “Passion Dance,” with its relentless skank, and also the Hunter-propelled “One Foundation” — or a track may be a flowing free-for-all coated in spacious jazz. Highlights (if not the whole album) include a remake of Chinna’s “Fade Away,” the explosive septuagenarian Ranglin on “Mestre Tata,” and “Passion Dance,” or the dreamy “Rivers of Babylon” and “Island in the Sun.” The rhythm section of session musicians (even a SNL drummer) are superb, and Hunter’s 8-string maintains mind-defying bass lines. Let us pray this is not a one-time venture for such legends.

– John Francis


If any one can’t find the CD and is looking, contact me.

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