Tag Archives: Johnny Pate

Monk Higgins: The Look of Love


An early Charles Stepney arrangement (who later worked with The Dells, Rotary Connection, and Earth, Wind, & Fire, among others), this record rumbles and slinks along with soul.

I love how the chunky electric keys interplay with the swirling strings, and Monk’s swinging saxophone.

Monk Higgins was born Milton Bland in Arkansas. He was already a staple on the Chicago Scene when he released this cut on Chess in 1968 (just before he went to LA, bringing fellow Chicago Scenesters Freddie Robinson and Mamie Galore for the ride).

UPDATE: For more Lovely versions of this classic composition (and a touch of drama), check the comments of this post.

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Come With Khari Lemuel

khari_lemuel_morning_music_albumLocal artist/instrumentalist Khari Lemuel performing his song “Come With Me” with Yaw (video by Bobby Rocwell)….Super talented brother who I’ve seen perform live multiple times.  His voice combines some of the best elements of Chicago Soul’s legacy: rootsiness, spirituality, truth, and beauty.

Below, Khari’s composition “Good Morning Love” summons the power of Curtis Mayfield (and arranger Johnny Pate) in their Impressions days.  The bells and snare brush conjure church, smoky jazz club, and brownstone rooftop at dawn simultaneously (quite a feat).

“Good Morning Love”

(NOTE: listen to The Impressions do the bell-and-brush back in 1964, below)

“Long, Long, Winter” (from the album “Keep on Pushing”)

According to Khari Lemuel’s official Bio:

[He] knows he will one day rise into heaven on a cloud of musical composition. For him music is a daily meditation; an alter where he can unfold the purpose of his life. Above all, Khari Lemuel is an artist painting with sound, composition and the mystical force of creation. Since the age of 3, Lemuel has been studying the instrumental aspect of music. First on cello then moving to flute, bass, guitar, violin, keys, trumpet and voice.

click here for more snippets of his album, Morning Music, or to purchase tracks.


Cult Movie of the Week: Shaft in Africa

I will start with the disclaimer: I am not really a blaxploitation film lover. I’m a lover of their funky romps-of-soundtracks. That said, I dig Shaft in Africa despite its more reserved soundtrack. Why? It’s titled Shaft…..in Africa! Not only Africa, but, specifically, Ethiopia… a country that holds a lot of romance for me because its people fought colonization (and won) in a time when Africa was being sliced up like hot apple pie.

Fast forward sixty years to this film. Shaft’s mission is to break up a human trafficking ring luring young Africans to Paris. Starring (former Ebony-Jet Fashion Fair model) Richard Roundtree and Vonetta McKee, Shaft in Africa (1973) also encompasses a love storyline between Shaft and Aleme. Lovely as McKee is in this film, amazing scenes of both Paris in the 70s and Ethiopia are enough reason to snatch up a copy of this film.

One of my favorite touches to this film is the Capoiera-styled fight scenes and the 007-outfitted wooden staff that Shaft uses when he goes undercover: the staff has a built-in camera and anything else he may need. It’s like James Bond, but he gets dirty…. and I like it.

shaft in africa5
One note about the soundtrack: the theme song was recorded by the 4 Tops (“Are You Man Enough”) and the soundtrack was composed by Chicago’s own Johnny Pate. Pate was the arranger for most of the early work by the Impressions and the man who Curtis Mayfield relied on as a orchestrator/arranger for years. In fact in Rolling Stone’s 1972 review of the Superfly soundtrack, Bob Donat stated,

…equal credit of course goes to arranger – orchestrator and long-time Mayfield collaborator Johnny Pate, who’s written charts for Curtis and the Impressions since the “Gypsy Woman” days.”

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