Johnny Frigo

Johnny Frigo

Collected Works

Luv N’ Haight / Ubiquity

Sometimes I simply have to sit back in awe, admiring Ubiquity’s imprint. The “Original Beat Minerz,” these folks scour the entire planet for the funk and unearth some jewels that would make DeBeers envious.

At the time of these recordings (late-’60s/early-’70s), Frigo was a studio jazz bassist doing mainly TV commercials in Chicago. He wasn’t into fusion, really didn’t know what funk was, and rock? His wife, though, was taking dance classes at Gus Giordano’s Evanston studio. Giordano was on a mission, trying to teach jazz dance (which really hadn’t been heard of at the time) and needing music. He formed his own Orion label, gave Frigo Sly Stone, Lalo Schefrin, Dennis Coffey, and Galt MacDermott records, and the two went on to create some funk whose stanky goodness could not remain buried forever.

Though Frigo admittedly was not into fusion, he must have caught on incredibly quickly. Combining jazz with R&B, rock, and Latin flavors, Frigo has a unique, category-less sound that is parts Bobo and Ocho, Herbie and Horace, with some off-hand psychedelica thrown in to boot. The music had to be percussion-heavy for the dancers, and you can feel the sweat-grind in each cut from the sultry beginning (“Gazebo”) to the grunting grit of “Eye of the Needle” and the sublime cover of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes.”

I have to hand it to Ubiquity for finding, salvaging, and reconstructing another soulful funk treasure. I hope this is a renewable resource that can never be exhausted.

Ubiquity Records:

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