East-West The Butterfield Blues Band

Paul Butterfield met guitarist Elvin Bishop at the University of Chicago, they began playing local gigs and eventually hired Howlin' Wolf's bassist and drummer Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay away from his touring band to start The Butterfield Blues Band. Playing regularly Chicago club Big John’s, they met up with guitarist Mike Bloomfield, who joined the lineup at the advice of the future Doors producer Paul Rothchild, who helped A&R their recording contract with Elektra Records. East-West recorded in July 1966 and released in August, is the second studio album by the band and represents - not only a pinnacle of acheivement for the band - but a turning point in the history of electric blues and rock.

While the album contains a mix of traditional blues songs - the title and last track runs for over thirteen minutes, which the band would play onstage for over an hour. Mike Bloomfield is quoted as saying: " Pre-East-West I was listening to a lot of Coltrane, a lot of Ravi Shankar, and guys that played modal music. The idea wasn't to see how far you could go harmonically, but to see how far you could go melodically or modally. And that's what I was doing in East-West and I think that's why a lot of guitar players liked it." While other bands on the local scene were "jamming" most of the other guitar players were merely comping chords and throwing pentatonic licks over them - Bloomfield's playing by contrast was a mastgerpiece of all the posibile scales and modalities, arpeggios and fast time-signatures that other electric guitar players had yet to comprehend.

Santana's original keyboard/vocalist Gregg Rolie says the Butterfield tune helped Santana find their way: "The music that we were going after was blues and jazz based with conga drums on it. One of the songs that kind of kicked us into playing a little bit differently was from the Butterfield Blues Band, East-West. The way they jammed on that song we were enamored with and we started jamming our way through this stuff and doing a little bit more of it."

Keyboard player Naftalin gathered together a trio of live "East-West" recordings (1966-'67) for an album released in 1996. No modern blues album collection is complete without a copy of East-West.

— C. Warre


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