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April 17, 1931|
Los Angeles, California, US
February 5, 2017 (aged 85)|
Burbank, California, US
|Genres||Jazz, funk, soul|
|Occupation(s)||Producer, arranger, composer|
David Axelrod (April 17, 1931[nb 1] – February 5, 2017) was an American composer, arranger, and producer. After starting out as a staff producer for record companies specializing in jazz, Axelrod became known by the mid-1960s in soul and jazz circles for his recording skills. In 1968, he embarked on a solo career and released several eccentric albums during the 1970s that showcased his characteristic sound, which combined heavily microphoned drums and baroque orchestration, and avant garde themes ranging from the environment to heightened mental awareness. With his early solo projects, Axelrod was one of the first recording artists to fuse elements of jazz, rock, and R&B.
After a stint as a boxer, Axelrod found studio work in the film and television industry, and was soon in demand as a drummer, producer and arranger. He produced his first album in 1959, saxophonist Harold Land’s The Fox.
In late 1963, Axelrod joined Capitol Records as a producer and A&R man. He encouraged the label to develop their black musicians. He began working with Lou Rawls, producing his successful Live album and a succession of gold albums and hit singles including "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing", "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)" and "Dead End Street", which Axelrod wrote and produced. He also began working with Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, one of the most successful jazz crossover artists of the 1960s. Axelrod produced Adderley’s 1967 album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at 'The Club', which spawned the jazz hit "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, written by the band’s pianist Joe Zawinul, which reached No. 11 in the US pop charts.
Around this time Axelrod also began working with a regular group of leading session musicians, including Howard Roberts (guitar), Carol Kaye (bass) and Earl Palmer (drums). In 1968, Axelrod wrote Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath in a contemporary rock vein for the Electric Prunes; they were released under the band's name, but because of their complexity were recorded by other musicians. The Electric Prunes disbanded during the recording sessions and Axelrod's team completed the albums. Axelrod’s success also encouraged Capitol to allow him to produce solo albums, the first two of which, Song of Innocence (1968) and Songs of Experience (1969), were homages to the mystical poetry and paintings of William Blake. These used sweeping strings, booming sound and heavy beats in a way that was unique for the time and became highly influential many years later. His third solo album, Earth Rot (1970), warned of the impact of environmental pollution and degradation.
At the same time, Axelrod continued to work with Adderley and Rawls, and with the South African singer Letta Mbulu, bandleader David Rose, and unsuccessful psychedelic groups The Common People and Hardwater. In 1970, he left Capitol and over the next few years issued a rock version of Händel's oratorio Messiah and further solo albums, as well as continuing to work with Adderley on several albums until the latter’s death in 1975. His approach fell out of fashion for a while, and three solo albums he recorded in the 1980s went unreleased.
His work as arranger and composer began to be rediscovered in the early 1990s, and to be sampled by artists such as DJ Shadow and Lauryn Hill. In 1993, he released his first album for over a decade, Requiem: Holocaust. Several compilations of his earlier work were also released. In 2000 he released David Axelrod, which used rhythm tracks originally recorded for a proposed third Electric Prunes album, with new arrangements. Dr. Dre used a David McCallum cut ("The Edge") for "The Next Episode" from 1999's 2001. Masta Ace also used a cut from "The Edge" in his song, "No Regrets" from the 2001 album, Disposable Arts. In addition, "The Edge" was heavily sampled on the Emperor Penguin track "Burnt Sienna and Avocado".
Axelrod appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 17 March 2004 as part of the Ether festival where he conducted a performance of his solo work. He was joined onstage by Richard Ashcroft who sang "Holy Are You", originally recorded by The Electric Prunes. During the intro of his song "The Edge", he spoke on the subject of sampling, saying "I'm such a hypocrite, I hate sampling because it takes jobs away from musicians, but it allows me to have fun. It's screw-you money. So I love this, naturally. Thank you Dre.". At the end of this rare concert he informed the audience that he was suffering from ill health. In 2006, Live at Royal Festival Hall was released as a DVD and CD. Axelrod signed with Blue Note Records in 2005.
Axelrod's music has been sampled many times by hip hop musicians:
In 2008, two tracks by Axelrod, "Holy Thursday" and "The Edge", were included in the soundtrack to the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
|1968||Song of Innocence|
|1969||Songs of Experience
|1993||Requiem: The Holocaust
|1995||The Big Country
|2004||David Axelrod Live at Royal Festival Hall
With Hampton Hawes
With The Electric Prunes
With Gene Ammons
With David McCallum
With Donna Loren
With Cannonball Adderley
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