Tag Archives: Sly and the Family Stone

Cynthia Robinson & Jerry Martini – one of the jammingest and most powerful horn sections ever!

27 Dec

It’s hard to know where to begin gushing about this incredible section of two of my favorite horn players of all time; Underdog, track 1 on the first Sly & The Family Stone album “A Whole New Thing”, released in 1967 is probably as good a place as any. If you know the song you’ll want to hear it again; if you’ve never heard it LISTEN NOW. And if you’re a horn player and you’ve ever played it, you know how good it feels to play it — Mackie Riverside & The Streetpushers covers this song sometimes and when we get jamming on it I can hardly refrain from jumping up and down when the horn break comes in. Cynthia and Jerry were a powerhouse of high octane ideas, just a tenor sax and a trumpet, a boy and a girl in super groovy outfits. Every song on A Whole New Thing has a sick horn part or three and the fun was just beginning. You can stream the whole album on myspace, along with the whole CATALOG. Despite my mailbox bulging with spam, I still like myspace for this feature — MILLIONS of albums can be streamed in their entirety for free on myspace (you just have to listen to the occasional ad in between tracks).

For the next 11 years, Cynthia and Jerry prolifically recorded and toured with Sly and The Family Stone laying down some of the most distinctive and famous horn parts in the history of pop music, recognizable all over the world as well as on about 50 lesser known album tracks. I particularly love the interplay of the two horns on Fresh, such as on In Time.

Obviously it must have been incredible to see Sly & The Family Stone in concert in their heyday. Joel Selvin’s book “An Oral History of Sly & The Family Stone” describes the atmosphere in the band when they were starting out and their onstage excitement is clear in any live footage I’ve seen. Check out the jam that gets going at the 3 minute mark of this clip from Sly & The Family Stone’s performance at Ohio State where they competed for and won $10,000 for being the “Most Outstanding New Talent of 1968” – that’s kinda groovy bread!

And if you still want more, check out parts 1 through 6 of their performance at the Harlem Cultural Festival at Marcus Garvey Park in 1969.