Monday, May 18, 2020

Bobbi Humphrey - Harlem River Drive - A Song That Sounds Exactly Like New York

Bobbi Humphrey, photo for the cover of her 1973 album, Blacks and Blues.  "Harlem River Drive" is on that album.  

I grew up in New York City, specifically the Bronx.

By my late 20s, I had become fairly prosperous.  And I bought a pretty phat car (phat for me, but let's not get carried away - it was a Honda Accord EX).

The car had a moonroof, a CD player, and a very nice Technics stereo system.  I had a CD called Jazz Greats, and on that CD was a song called "Harlem River Drive," by Bobbi Humphrey.

I had no idea who Bobbi Humphrey was.  I thought it was the man who was singing the song.  Wrong.  It was the woman playing the flute.  

And of an optimistic summer evening, cruising up the FDR Drive to the Bronx from Greenwich Village, a little bit buzzed, and then taking the Harlem River Drive to avoid traffic, with Yankee Stadium all lit up just across the river... was there ever a song that sounded more like New York City?

I don't think so.  Take a listen:

About the Girl

Bobbi Humphrey was born in Texas in 1950, and raised in Dallas.  She went to Southern Methodist University.  By the age of 21, she was so good at the flute, that Dizzy Gillespie heard her play at a college concert, and told her to move to New York.

She did.  Within weeks of arriving, she was signed to Blue Note Records, and had appeared on The Tonight Show.

Her breakthrough album, Blacks and Blues, was released in 1973.  Much of her playing on the album, including "Harlem River Drive," was improvised.

She says: "They would already have the chord changes and background vocals laid out. I just played what I felt off the top of my head against that."

Bobbi Humphrey hamming it up with legendary Parliament/Funkadelic bass player, Bootsy Collins.  Does Bootsy appear to be nine feet tall here, or is Bobbi just short?