Recording an improvisational vocal with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. 1972
Cannonball was glad I had come to Los Angeles and told me to meet him at the landmark Capitol Records building just north of Hollywood and Vine, where the recording sessions he wanted me to join were taking place.
Julian and I had had some pretty esoteric conversations those late nights after the shows in Denver when we had first met. I had received Knowledge from Guru Maharaj Ji almost a year before, and was getting a lot out of the meditations, so I was coming from a place of experience rather than theory regarding matters of conscious awareness and the related realms and rhythms of the inner world. He loved to query me on my master and the meditation techniques, but since it was forbidden to describe the ancient techniques in detail, I could only talk about what they were on the surface, and how they affected me. And this he drank up and got a kick out of talking about. It was all about inner peace and the soul, and who else but Cannonball would understand soul?
When I arrived at the session all the musicians were at their stations, as they had already been recording. George Axelrod was the producer and I liked him right off. He appeared to be a very cool guy. All of the musicians had a fun, lose camaraderie going, and they welcomed me like a long lost younger brother. Cannon and his brother Nat explained the nature of the session to me so I would know where I was to fit in.
The album was a concept record, the second one in a series. The first one was called Soul of the Zodiac. For that album they had recorded a bunch of improvisational music and later added the well-known L.A. DJ, Rick Holmes. He recorded his part, reading about each sign of the zodiac. The producer then edited Rick’s voice-over into the beginning of each song. So you had a little dialogue about the zodiac, followed by this great jazz that would underscore the theme.
The album they were recording now was to be called Soul of the Bible, and Rick Holmes would be reading from different scriptures this time. It wasn’t just Christian though, as he would also be reading from the teachings of the Buddha, Mohammed, and other Perfect Masters.
Cannon explained that I would be situated in a vocal booth with a microphone. I would be able to see the band, and hear them through the headphones. The band was to play whatever groove they had chosen, and at a given queue from Cannonball or Nat, I was to begin singing whatever came into my head. What if nothing came into my head? I didn’t even want to think about it. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me, and I didn’t want to blow it.
Since Cannonball knew I was having a deep experience of whatever you want to call it; soul, truth, meditation, he had faith that I would be able to let the words come, and he was right, they did.
The band began playing a wild improvisation that must have had some kind of structure as Nat was directing it in some unfathomable way I couldn’t detect. After about ten or fifteen minutes of this orgy of sound that went from being boisterous to calm to celebratory, they came to a pause and Nat pointed to me.
I opened my mouth and the words “There’s an energy that flows within every living thing…” came out, and I just went on from there telling a story, improvising. For four minutes!
I was listening intently to George Duke on grand piano at the same time I was singing. We followed each other, me leading him with my melody, and him leading me with his chords, back and forth in a timeless dance, blindly with no idea what note, chord, or words would come next. The other musicians followed us. After I hit the last high note I ended the just born tune with … “And we’ll never be alone”.
There was dead silence in the studio. We got up from our positions in the room and took a break. I started apologizing for what I thought might have been a flat note and they all looked at me like I was out of my mind. They told me it was more than fine, and that I had done a great job. We listened to the playback of the tune we had just recorded, and they congratulated me again. I could hardly believe my ears, but there it was captured forever on tape.
About six months later Cannon called me and told me I could pick up a couple of copies of the album at Capitol records. I rushed down to Hollywood and got my copies. When I looked at the credits I saw that the song I had sung was titled ‘Behold’, and I was given the name Arthur Charma by Cannonball. Because I was still legally under contract to Sire records at the time of the recording, and because they wanted to avoid any legal hassles, Julian decided to give me a nom de plume. On the writing credits I was given a fifty-fifty share with Nat Adderley.
Recently I received a royalty check for royalties from that album for overseas sales. This happens every few years; it’s a sweet reminder, of an unforgettable experience. And all I have to do is play that song and it takes me right back to that magic day at Capitol studios some thirty-four years before, a beautiful moment frozen in time, and one that I will always hold sacred.