Tonights post is a very rare piece of 70’s disco funk for which the label rare groove seemed to be invented… or better it was a rare gem since Ubiquity Records re-released this album a couple of years ago. This self-entitled album from Tommy Stewart was originally released in 1976 and is best known for the essential party anthem Bump and Hustle Music but frankly looking back, that track is just a mere side dish. It’s now a puzzle to me why those UK DJ’s who rediscovered it in the 80’s only played this one track to death on the dancefloors and left the other ones untouched. This album has so much more to offer.
I picked it up in 2005 while going trough crates of newly or fairly new released vinyl – ubiquity is a good reference, it always has something worthwhile – because of the Bump and Hustle track but Gee, there really isn’t a thing as great and rewarding – well ok, I can actually think of some other things – as coming home with the loot, a stash of fine music only to discover on first listening that the rest of it is way much better than what you thought it would be. My mind was set on one or maybe two great songs and the rest as mere fillings, because I never heard much talk or a buzz about the rest of the album, only that one famous track. Songs as Get Off Your Seats, Make Happy Music and Riding High are among my most favourite pieces of 70’s funk.
Especially Riding High has everything a rare groove should have. A magnificent piece of slow but steady going symphonic funk, lots of strings and horns, only sparse but strong female vocals chanting the title of the song and plenty of layers of advanced instrumental interplay, all building a massive groove without necessarily finishing in a single climax. As if hearing a passing train. Hopping on to a groove that's going steady and still goes on way, way after you jump off.
It still sounds fresh today, some people state that this track could easily have been released in 1988 so close is it in style to early house music with it's soaring strings and strong female vocals and certainly all the short edgy hooks and vampish riffs.
The record was a relative flop on release which is hard to grasp. It’s as good or even better than any dance record released in those days.
Apart from the info in the interview further down, I can only ad here that trumpeter, pianist, arranger and composer Tommy Stewart was born on November 19th, 1939. His mother, a songwriter, vocalist and choir conductor, set him on a musical path at the age of 10. As a teenager, Stewart studied with the legendary Fess Whately, attended many fine schools and served as the leader of the well-known Alabama State Collegians. Stewart taught music as a band director while performing and arranging outside of class.
Tommy Stewart is always described as a quintessential musician. This description is evidenced by his impressive musical career, which has spanned over 40 years now. In 1964 he played with Fred Wesley and members of the 55th Army band. He wrote and composed for TV and played with Blue Note recording artist Duke Pearson. Stewart has worked as an arranger, producer, performer or writer for an impressive list of various artists in the field of Jazz, Soul, R&B, funk and disco, including Sonny Stitt, Joe Newman, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Bobby Blue Band, Gladys Knight, Barry White, Wynton Marsalis, Loleatta Holloway, Isaac Hayes, Lou Rawls, Clarence Carter, Johnny Taylor, Major Lance, John Edwards, Eddie Kendricks, Erskine Hawkins, Luther Ingram, Millie Jackson, Flip Wilson, Roy Gaines, Tamiko Jones and many others.
In 1973 he arranged and composed a musical score called The Burning of Atlanta for Buddha Records, another rare collectible LP. However, it is the self-titled 1976 album, TOMMY STEWART that most people associate him with, mostly because of the song Bump And Hustle Music.
Tommy Stewart is the co-founder of the African-American Philharmonic Orchestra. He now stays busy playing jazz trumpet and is helping develop R&B acts. His regular live gigs are as the Tommy Stewart Orchestra and with Cleve Eaton and Friends. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988.
Interview from the Ubiquity Site
This is the first full-length LP and CD re-issue for Tommy Stewarts self-titled tough-to-find album. It’s a legend amongst collectors and DJs for the party anthem Bump And Hustle Music. That tune appears on many play lists because it is on so many bootlegs and compilations. Featuring a killer vocal hook by Hot Buttered Soul (Isaac Hayes backing singers) it’s a little known fact that this track almost did not appear on the original record, it was only an afterthought put to tape last minute when the band
thought they were a track short.
Recording began in Atlanta, Georgia at Sound Pit Recording Studios, and was finished in Memphis, Tennessee in 1976. This was the latter end of the rare groove era, which is reflected in the combination of funk with early disco style production. In fact, Stewart is often labelled as the innovator of disco-funk because of this album and his production on releases like Southside Connection and Sil Austin. In addition to Bump and Hustle Music tracks like Riding High and The Fulton County Line qualify the album as a classic and one that sits pretty next to the likes of releases by The Headhunters, Roy Ayers, and the Mighty Ryeders.
In his High School he was voted most musical by classmates at graduation time. Stewart taught music as a band director while performing and arranging outside of class.
Bump And Hustle Music was a last minute song, recorded on the spot, laughs Stewart. It was the one we expected would do least well. He adds. The band was packing up their instruments after the album recording session. We had a drink or two, kidded around for a while and then I came up with the bass line, he remembers humming the instantly catchy 3 or 4 notes. Everyone kicked-in ideas and we laid down the instrumental version based on my arrangement. I then took the instrumental to Ardent Studios in Memphis and recorded the vocals with Hot Buttered Soul.
The LP has a peach on the cover. Not because it is Stewarts favourite fruit. In fact it was purely a marketing gimmick that was intended to help album sales through the popular Peaches music chain. Unfortunately the label wasn’t able to capitalize on the gimmick and the album didn’t achieve instant notoriety.
I didn’t really hear any buzz on it until the 1980s. DJs in the UK had picked-up on it, I saw a review in their Blues and Soul magazine, I guess Bump and Hustle Music was quite a hit over there, says Stewart. Then when the 1990s rolled around I was able to use the Internet and find out that it was getting lots of plays all around the world!
In the meantime Stewart had kept himself busy working with Loleatta Holloway Salsoul Records diva, and John Edwards, a vocalist for the Spinners who had releases out on Ace Records.
I never expected this album or that song to become an anthem, admits Stewart. But I do hear the connection with dance music produced today. The main difference is new music is mostly made electronically. On Bump and Hustle Music we did it live, those are live strings and horns recorded on the spot.
82 Fulton County Line
83 Practice What You Preach
84 Bump And Hustle Music
85 Get Off Your Seats
86 Make Happy Music
87 Riding High