Reel Time: The Impressions
As Sharon Jones & The Dap-King’s longtime guitarist, Binky Griptite has helped keep new soul music relevant for more than a decade. In the near future, he may also be responsible for introducing one of the genre’s true architects to a new, younger audience.
Griptite is currently producing a studio album for The Impressions, the pioneering Chicago soul group best known as Curtis Mayfield’s onetime band. Early this year, Impressions singers Fred Cash, Sam Gooden and Reggie Torian spent time with Griptite and his fellow Dap-Kings at Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Daptone studio, recoding the first tracks for the R&B/doo-wop trio’s forthcoming Daptone release.
The Impressions also performed with Griptite and an assortment of Daptone family members—including jam scene stalwarts like keyboardist Victor Axelrod (Antibalas), saxophonist Cochemea “Cheme” Gastelum (Robert Walter’s 20th Congress), bassist Hagar Ben Ari and drummer Eric Kalb (Charlie Hunter/Deep Banana Blackout)—during a show at the now defunct Brooklyn club Southpaw.
Soon after, President Obama included the classic Impressions song “Keep on Pushing” on his campaign trail Spotify playlist. From his current home in Tennessee, group co-founder Fred Cash explains why 2012 is going to be a good year for The Impressions.
Our representative DJ Perry introduced us to those fellas [the Dap-Kings]. Binky sent me some material with Sharon Jones and the band and I thought, “Man, what a great sound they have.” But my first time really hearing them was when we went to Brooklyn earlier this year to rehearse with them and record. Binky and I are basically selecting the songs for this album. So far, we’ve cut four songs: two originals, one that Curtis Mayfield wrote called “Homeless” and the old Major Lance song “Rhythm.”
The Lost Curtis Mayfield Cuts
I was cleaning my office out one afternoon and I found a whole bag of cassette tapes. One cassette fell out and it was “Homeless” by Curtis. He had given it to [fellow Impression Sam Gooden] when he was sick. We stopped in to chitchat with him and see how he was getting along. In the process of doing that, he played us this particular song. I asked him if we could record it and he said, “sure” and gave me that tape. We were between labels at that particular time, so the tape got lost in the shuffle even though I always meant to record it.
[After I found it], I put the tape in to play it and thought, “Oh my God, this is what I’ve been looking for.” And it sounded just like when Curtis played it for us 20 years ago. So we cut that song with Binky.
A Successful Marriage
Binky went in and cut the tracks with the horns before we got there. He [had] just about completed the session when we got to New York, and we went in and put the vocals down. We sang along with the tracks he already produced. It was an honor to meet [The Dapand to perform with them. We’re looking forward to more things that we’re going to be doing with them in the future. It’s been a good marriage so far.
Compliments for the King
Binky is going a great job—I am proud of him. [As a] matter of fact, I just got off the phone with him—we’ve been talkin’ for an hour today, just getting our ideas together. I’m going down to Atlanta to meet with Curtis’ son sometime this week to see what unfinished or unreleased material he has from his dad. If he can find it, we’re going to record that as well.
I sent Binky a couple of things that I had written and we reached out to some other writers as well for this album—like this fella who used to be our band director in Chicago named Paul Richmond. He wrote “You Are My Shining Star” for The Manhattans. I think he sent Binky a couple of songs for The Impressions recently. We’re searching for good material.
“Keep on Pushing”
I’ve never met President Obama but one of my fellas was in Washington, D.C. a few months ago and met him at The White House. He also talked to him about us doing a Chicago show for him since he had Smokey Robinson and the Detroit crowd do a show recently. He said that he and Michelle would do it, so we’re still looking forward to that. 2012 is going to be a good year for The Impressions.
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