Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Friday Forgotten Song: Touch by John Klemmer

On the eve of the L.A. Times Festival of Books (this year the event is on my wife’s university stomping grounds on U.S.C.’s campus), the subject pairing of reading and the other pleasure in my life, music, arose. The two somehow coalesced into a disconcerting realization on my part. Though audiobooks have become the primary delivery platform for my reading material these days, all due to the hectic nature of commingling marriage, work, and parenting, it registered that the audio format I so enjoy had come with a hidden cost. I could no longer blend those treasured two.

Hear me out on this. How many times have you read or heard someone start an adage with these words?:

“There are two kinds of people…”

Well, in this case, there exists some truth to that. Many enjoy the act of reading matched with nothing else — see Paul VanDeCarr’s post explaining this. Then, there are those, like blogger Sharazad (and myself), who find magic in the melding of “notes and pages” for the ear and eyes. I can’t seem to do that with just an audiobook. I guess actual books will stay in my life, come what may. Sharazad’s fine music/reading list accomplished one other thing. It sparked a memory of mine to a favorite tune used for my music and reading enjoyment (among other reasons*).

As I confessed awhile back (in a post far, far away), it was during the mid-70s when I entered my jazz fusion music period. The likes of Bob James, Sadao Watanabe, and the original members to Return to Forever grew in stature and importance to my listening habits. Besides the music they produced, I would point you to one breakthrough recording from the era that won me (and a boatload of others) over to this music genre. Saxophonist John Klemmer ‘s 1975 album, and its lead song, Touch, became the soundtrack to my Seventies existence.

Arguably, John Klemmer’s career, and the genre that would eventually morph decades later into the entity that is Smooth Jazz, took off with this LP. Although, you could perhaps opine this jazz artist plateaued here, too. I believe writer and percussionist Stanton Zeff covered it best in his CD review of this seminal work, nevertheless:

“In interviews at the time, John Klemmer indicated he had taken a yearlong sabbatical of sorts to decide which musical direction he wanted to head in while writing the material for Touch. He then went into the studio to record with a stellar group of musicians, many who had not previously appeared on one of his releases to date. These included key sidemen from Tom Scott’s L.A. Express (John Guerin on drums and Chuck Domanico on bass) as well as established solo artists Dave Grusin on Fender Rhodes and David Batteau on backing vocals. It was a case of the right music, with the right musicians, at the right time.”

A John Coltrane inspired artist, the crossover appeal of his song influenced this and the next generations of musicians and listeners to a significant extent. Touch still sounds fresh, even more than 35 years later. Scott Wilson’s blog post offers another keen look to what makes this melody so hypnotic. If you’ve not heard the instrumental, it is worth catching.

To prevent any potential conflict with music copyright infringement, I’ll refer you to Klemmer’s own website, Amazon or iTunes to sample the tune that was key to a distinct music category.

* I’d also contend Touch along with Marvin Gaye‘s Let’s Get It On were the preeminent ‘making out’ albums for that decade [but since my wife reads this blog, I'll leave it at that].

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14 Responses to “Friday Forgotten Song: Touch by John Klemmer”

  1. Herbster

    Cool, might make this Klemmer day, its been a while. Love it . There’s my Jean Luc Ponty, there’s all of my Bob James, (did you know we named our boat after his tune?), Mathers, Ottmar, Getz, Spyra, Benson, check, check, check……………………

    ohhhhhhhhh, cr………………..ppp! I can’t find my Klemmer.

    Huge oversight, thanks for pointing out the hole in my on board collection. Must rectify.

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  2. Novroz

    A good switch of writing here,from books to music.
    I tried audio-book once but it didn’t work for me,I feel asleep in the middle of the story. It felt like listening to a boring speech. I was listening to my favorite author at that time and it still didn’t help.

    I enjoy reading and listening to music at the same time.While my eyes are focused on the words,my ears are focused on the music.

    Unfortunately, I still don’t get Jazz. I don’t hate Jazz,I just don’t understand it.

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    • le0pard13

      I do still appreciate the audiobook format, and I recommend (if you’re up for it) another attempt. A friend who is a studio manager for an audiobook publisher said this to a friend who had an inauspicious start with one:

      “I would recommend dropping this title immediately and going for a title that’s shorter, more fun and noted for the narrator(s) having connected to the text. To that end, I would recommend the audiobooks performed by John Stewart et al, David Sedaris or Neil Gaiman. These are all author-narrated audiobooks where there is no question of how it should sound vs what it actually sounds like. From there I would move on to basic linear narratives, books that you may have already read and so are somewhat familiar with what to expect. Listening to titles from your high school reading lists is a good place to start, as well as any of the Classics. This is also when you’ll discover who your favorite narrators are.”

      Additionally, it’s great to hear you’re like me and “enjoy reading and listening to music at the same time.” And it doesn’t matter that we have different tastes in music. The beauty of the form is universal. Always great to hear from you. Thanks very much, Novroz.

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  3. Novroz

    my very first audiobook is read by stephen king himself, I enjoy that one. it was only a short story. The second one is Salem’s Lot, I can make my eyes stayed open.

    I am planning to give another try one day, I have some audio books in my computer, all of them are Stephen King books.

    Did you know that most book lover (I hang around book blogger and movie blogger as I love both movie and book) find it unusual to read book and listening to music at the same time?

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    • le0pard13

      Audiobook narrators can make a big difference to the experience. Salem’s Lot is a great SK novel, but if the narrator didn’t work for you, I certainly can understand your reaction.

      I had a feeling my reading and music listening might be in the minority. Oh, well… I enjoy your perspective. Thanks for adding to this thread, Novroz.

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