Archie Whitewater was an American brass-rock/soul band that released a self-titled album on Cadet Concept in 1970.
Members: Bob Berkowitz (keyboards), Fred Johnson (vocals), Jim Abbott (drums), Lynn Sheffield (alto saxophone, percussion), Paul Metzke (guitar), Peter La Barbera (percussion), Sam Burtis (trombone), Tony Vece (bass guitar), Travis Jenkins (tenor saxophone, flute, vocals)
Archie Whitewater evolved from a musical partnership between veteran saxophonist Travis Jenkins and keyboardist Bob Berkowitz.
Jenkins’ career stretched back to the late 1950s when he toured with bandleader Little John Beecher. In the early ’60s, he played in the pit band of the Follies Burlesque in Chicago and backed jazz musicians Roland Kirk, Stan Kenton, and Gene Harris. After a two-year stint in the 4th Infantry Band, Jenkins moved to New York City and gigged with Dizzy Reece, Don Cherry, and Pharoah Sanders. During the late ’60s, he gigged with Eddie Palmieri, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker, and Grover Washington. With clarinetist Woody Herman, Jenkins appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1968, Jenkins and Berkowitz played on the psychedelic folk album The Family of Apostolic, a project headed by multi-instrumentalist and engineer John Townley and released on his label Vanguard Apostolic. Soon afterward, they formed a big band in the vein of jazz-rock-soul hybrid acts like Blood Sweat & Tears, The Electric Flag, and The Loading Zone. The other members were saxist/percussionist Lynn Sheffield, bassist Tony Vece, drummer Jim Abbott, guitarist Paul Metzke, vibraphonist Peter LaBarbera, trombonist Sam Burtis, and singer Fred Johnson. The singular pre-credit belonged to Burtis, who played on the 1968 Pacific Jazz release The New One! by the Buddy Rich Big Band. Jenkins named the nine-piece Archie Whitewater, his adopted Cherokee name.
Archie Whitewater quickly rose on the NYC club circuit. Their four-night stand at the fabled Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village caught the eyes of RSO representatives Rick Gunnell and Eddie Choran, who notified Chess Records. The band signed to Cadet Concept, the underground subsidiary of Chess that housed soul-psychsters The Rotary Connection.
In March 1970, Archie Whitewater recorded their singular album at Apostolic Studios with producer Warren Schatz (Yesterday’s Children, Wilkinson Tri-Cycle, Vicki Sue Robinson, Evelyn “Champagne” King) and engineer David Baker (Coryell, Sonny Sharrock, Steve Marcus, Miroslav Vitous, Novac).
Archie Whitewater was released in August 1970 on Cadet (US) and Pye (UK). It features 11 songs: two composed by Jenkins (“Life Is a River,” “Lament for the Walking Dead”) and six by Berkowitz, including “Cross Country,” “Seacost,” “Friends and Neighbors,” and the brief instrumental closing track “Hulk.” The opening cut, “Don’t Be Short,” is a Berkowitz/Jenkins co-write. Berkowitz collaborated with outsider Charles Hyams on the songs “Northstar,” and “Mist of the Early Morning.” A tenth player, Cale Scott, guests on cello.
Sheffield sings lead on two numbers, “Mist of the Early Morning” (3:53) and “Seacost” (3:51). “Mist,” an uptempo jazz-pop cut in 3/4, spearheads with brassy charts over bobbing bass and muted guitar. Her sultry tone and elongated vowels ride over wah-wah chords and brush drums. One minute in, she soars on alto sax. Mid-way, glowing vibes take the spotlight. On the slow, misty “Seacost,” her voice glides over quiet chordal reverb and starry vibes. Later, the track swells with intensified rolls amid electric piano/trumpet interplay before resuming the late-night vocal vibe.
The remaining tracks on Archie Whitewater uphold the era’s jazz-pop-soul spectrum (3rd Avenue Blues Band, Chicago) with moments that foreshadow the slicker, funkier innovations of the later ’70s (Seawind, Pacific Eardrum).
- “Cross Country” (3:22): Jazz-pop ballad. Breezy trumpet and milky Fender Rhodes over smooth bass ostinato… 2/4 swing refrain heralds verses. Lamm-like vocals. Sprinkling vibe solo (30 seconds); cuts to rippling sax.
- “Northstar” (4:17): Baroque pop: Plucked guitar figure (Harpsichord-like in tone), chromatic descent from B minor. Astral metaphors of romantic doom (“What good is the northstar without you?”). Thick, searing guitar line splits the chorus.
- “Friends and Neighbors” (3:46): Bossa ballad. Spiraling sax entwines with darting Fender Rhodes over tapped/brushed rhythms. Smooth, emotive vocals; narrator bids farewell and talks of “going to a place where there’s no time.” Roaming, tinkling Fender solo accelerates over the laidback rhythmic setting
- “Hulk” (1:59): Funk instrumental. Tight, ensemblic brass riff over closed-cadence bass figure. Running open-cadence bridge with flowing bass and sax-trumpet counterpoint. Fuzzy, scaly fretboard runs.
- “Home Again” (4:09): Stately mid-tempo soul-rocker. Split-channel dual of tight trumpet (left) and fractious guitar (right) over an octave-darting bassline in F. Clipped, staccato brass interjections on the verses. Crisp, soaring alto sax solo over booming, Stax-like rhythmic pattern. Post-chorus/outro: sizzling chordal descent collides with rising sax/trumpet blasts.
- “Lament for the Walking Dead” (4:35): Dark cocktail ballad. Clean, hollow-body guitar over a deep, minimal bass backdrop. Plaintive verses. Rising instrumental chorus (optimism?) with modest, thematic brass.
Archie Whitewater sports cover art by photographer and illustrator Michael Kanarek, also responsible for visuals on albums by Purple Image, Banchee, Mardi Gras, The Blue Jays, Yesterday’s Children, Cedar Walton, Universe City, and the 1971/72 albums by producer Schatz.
UK brass-rockers Trifle covered “Home Again” on their 1971 album First Meeting.
Archie Whitewater gigged with Tony Williams’ Lifetime and started work on a second album with guitarist Bob Mann (Dreams, LaBelle, Free Design, Johnny Hammond) and alto saxist Monty Waters. Demos from this period, all instrumentals, later leaked on the internet. After the group dissolved, Jenkins backed Charles Mingus and pitched songs to Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. He sang harmonies (uncredited) on a 1970 rendition of the trad hymn “Amazing Grace” (US #15) by folk singer Judy Collins.
Metzke and Burtis became prolific sessionists and ensemble players. Metzke played on the 1971 release In These I Believe (En Ellos Yo Creo) by Cuban singer Xiomara Alfaro. In 1972, he played on the jazz-rock double-album White Elephant, produced by Michael Mainieri. Between 1974 and 1985, he played on albums by Charles Rouse, Gato Barbieri, Paul Motian, Gil Evans, Joe Chambers, Al Foster, and the David Matthews Orchestra.
Burtis played on the 1971 triple-album Escalator Over the Hill by Carla Bley and Paul Haines, released on ECM. He subsequently played on albums by Esther Phillips, Tito Puente, Eumir Deodato, Bill Watrous, Baird Hersey, Herbie Mann, and Aztec Two-Step. In 1977 alone, Burtis played on more than 20 albums, including titles by Jeremy Steig, John Tropea, Barry Miles, and Nona Hendryx.
Sheffield sang one track (“São Paulo”) on the 1971 double-album No More Walls by composer David Amram. La Barbera played vibes on the track “Summer’s Almost Over” on the 1976 album T Shirt by singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. Berkowitz earned a doctorate in cardiology and opened a practice in New Jersey.
Archie Whitewater was first reissued in 2011 by UK archivists RPM Records, a division of Cherry Red Records Ltd. In 2012, the album reappeared on vinyl on the Boston-based Get On Down label.
- Archie Whitewater (1970)
- Discogs: Archie Whitewater
- Rockasteria: Archie Whitewater
- Reed, John: Archie Whitewater – Archie Whitewater. RPM retrodisc – Retro 902 (CD booklet, 2011)
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