Capsule Info: CD two-fer of Gary Bartz' pair of classic social-consciousness albums from the early 1970s. Like a lot of vocal material from that period the lyrics are preachy and unsubtle, but the albums African-roots, political and spiritual consciousness content is moving, and its jazz right on. But then I can resist nothing Andy Bey sings.
Gary Bartz Ntu Troop: JUJU STREET SONGS
Prestige 1972/1973, 1997. Produced by Orrin Keepnews. CD.
Capsule Info: CD includes most of FOLLOW THE MEDICINE MAN album also. From Orrin Keepnews liner notes to the CD reissue: " 'Ntu' is a noun suffic in the Bantu language, referring to the common denominator that unified all things--time and space, livnig and dead, forces seen and unseen. Thus, the Ntu troop brings a message of unity, and it is both spiritual and physical unity. Among other things, it is intended to reflect the West and Central African tradition of music as more than just a form of entertainment, having religious and social significance as a method of communication."
Gary Bartz & Leon Thomas: PRECIOUS ENERGY
Mapleshade 1993. Produced by Pierre M. Sprey. CD.
Capsule Info: Recorded live at Ethell's, in Baltimore, March 1987. They've all sounded better, but still interesting. Leon Thomas stretches out "Precious Energy" (recorded as "Sun Song" on a Pharoah Sanders album) to almost 13 minutes.
Chief Bey and Ile Omo Olofi HAMIET BLUIETT EXPLORATIONS 11: CHILDREN OF THE HOUSE OF GOD
Mapleshade 1997. Produced by Pierre M. Sprey. CD.
Capsule Info: Combining traditional Yoruba chants to the Orishas, powertful drumming and percussion, and African-American Christian spirituals, this terrifically recorded album bridges time and culture to show the roots of gospel music and jazz. It gives new meaning to the song "Old Time Religion" and gets to the core of spirituality at the heart of this music. Amazing acoustics as well.
Joe Bonner: ANGEL EYES
Muse 1976. Produced by Joe Bonner and Michael Cuscuna. No CD.
Capsule Info: This is Joe Bonner's second solo album after the end of Pharoah Sanders' tenure with Impulse! While Joe Bonner was a key part of Pharoah's sound after Lonnie Liston Smith, the material here only shows passing reference to that sort of work. Best for Pharoah fans is the 9-minute plus "Celebration". The album also features "Love Dance" which was wonderfully covered by Woody Shaw. Joe Bonner is woefully under-recognized: if his playing since the early 1970s has been in a less fiery context than it was with Pharoah, it's still quite beautiful.
Marion Brown: AFTERNOON OF A GEORGIA FAUN
ECM 1970. Produced by Manfred Eicher. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: Although I first heard this album in the 1970s--when I was far too young to appreciate it--I confess to being a latecomer to loving Marion Brown's work and hence no expert on the subject. I was at first hesitant to list it in this context, if for no other reason than the fact the his music hints at such creative possibilities and meanings beyond my understanding. While this album is full of percussion you'd be hard-pressed to tap your foot to it: it's not about the rhythm of dance but about the rhythm of life. Taken with the following three Impulse! albums, it's a simply awesome evocation of an experience: of life in the Southern United States, of a bittersweet, half-remembered heritage, of summer heat, of roots and, well, of being. Spiritual the way earth is, this music makes the moment a revelation.
Marion Brown: GEECHEE RECOLLECTIONS
Impulse! 1973. AS-9252. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Continuing and deepening the experience of AFTERNOON... I think this album is also more accessible. It's about the meaning of "home." And oh those Japanese and their wonderfully packaged incredible 20-bit sound: if these CDs are really expensive at least there's some kind of payoff.
Marion Brown: SWEET EARTH FLYING
Impulse! 1974. AS-9275. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Well some of this music is scorching, it begins to show a mellowness and tranquility as well.
Marion Brown: VISTA
Impulse! 1975. AS-9304. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Very tranquil and introspective... the unnerving quality of the previous albums turns into a kind of peace and acceptance.
Doug Carn: THE BEST OF DOUG CARN
Universal Sound 1996. Produced by Gene Russell. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: Wonderful compilation of material on the legendary Black Jazz label originally issued from 1971 to 1974. Many of the songs have spiritual lyrics: including the vocal (!) versions of John Coltrane's "Naima" and "Acknowledgement" (pt. 1 of "A Love Supreme"). This stuff is great musically and has that wonderful optimism--perhaps naivete in retrospect--of much of early '70s political/spiritual African-American music.
Doug Carn: INFANT EYES
Black Jazz/Ovation 1971. Produced by Gene Russell. CD.
Capsule Info: Doug Carn's first (?) album for Black Jazz. Here he sets his style by covering instrumental works by contemporary masters (Coltrane, Tyner, Shorter, Hutcherson, Silver) with lyrics or vocalizations added and sung by his then-wife Jean. By way of interesting comparison, compare this version of "Infant Eyes" to the medley (with "Revelation") featured on Jean Carn's 1979 disco-era album HAPPY TO BE WITH YOU (available on CD). The version of Coltrane's "Welcome" is short but beautiful. The lp jackets of Carn's albums are a slice of history: on each the Carn family appear afro-headed and decked out in dashiki'd and African-garbed finery. Not only is this reissued in Japan, but also by the new owner of Black Jazz holdings, who has begun a domestic (US) reissue campaign that will hopefully be comprehensive.
Doug Carn: SPIRIT OF THE NEW LAND
Black Jazz/Ovation 1972. Produced by Gene Russell. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: A typical mix of originals and classic material: the classic material with vocals added for Jean Carn (later vocalist for Norman Connors and for Philadelphia International Records) to sing. If only I had more yen.
Doug Carn: REVELATION
Black Jazz/Ovation 1973. Produced by Ovation. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Deep religious content. Here the Carns add lyrics to McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation" and Coltrane's "Naima."
Don Cherry: SYMPHONY FOR IMPROVISERS
Blue Note 1966. Produced by Alfred Lion. CD.
Capsule Info: An avant-garde summit.
THE SONET RECORDINGS: Eternal Now/Live Ankara
Sonet 1969/1973; Verve 1996 Produced by Keith Knox. 2-CD set Europe.
Capsule Info: Cherry's trajectory away from the Ornette Coleman mode and into third-world and spiritual explorations is revealed in clear and fascinating way in this two-disc set of obscure recordings now released on CD in Europe. In the earliest, Cherry performs with Turkish jazz musicians (yes, they exist) and sings a heartfelt rendition of "The Creator Has A Masterplan." His trumpet dominates, and although it sure doesn't sound like an Ornette record the link is plain to hear. By the later recording, bells and gongs predominate and Cherry has broken all the rules of his old rule-breaking mentor.
Don Cherry: ORGANIC MUSIC SOCIETY
Caprice (Sweden) 1972. Produced by Jan Bruer, Keith Knox and Rita Knox. No CD.
Capsule Info: Talk about obscure. While living in Sweden and making "serious" avant garde records with European jazz heavies for international consumption, Don Cherry hooked up with Swedish hippies and expatriates of various stripes to let their hair down in a very cosmic fashion and cut this 2-lp set which seems to have sunk off into obscurity. Much more fun than his serious avant garde work, this record is also full of third world influences and an amazing document of a world gone by. Thanks to Bob Bannister for letting me hear his copy.
Don Cherry: BROWN RICE
A&M/Horizon 1976. Produced by Corrado Bacchelli. CD.
Capsule Info: From Stanley Crouch's liner notes: "There is joy laced with confidence in this music, and sadness, or pathos, that is as much connected to the Blues as it is to the huge yearning of that sound in Eastern music...This particular record begins with a mantra and ends with the dancing rhythms of an African string instrument. Throughout the record, one can hear the melding of Third World music and mysticism with western instruments."
Don Cherry: HEAR & NOW
Atlantic Records 1977. Produced by Narada Michael Walden. No CD.
Capsule Info: Coming in out of the far avant garde, this album is a pleasant pop-fusiony creation with Buddhist themes. Narada Michael Walden (a more succesful version of Norman Connors, perhaps) applied the gloss, heavy on latin percussion. And the background vocals are in part by the future Mrs. Bruce Springsteen. "Universal Mother" is a meditation on how "the dharma is everywhere" delivered by Don Cherry's warm voice.
Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society in collaboration with AfroCuba de Matanzas:
THE SIGN AND THE SEAL: Transmisions Of The Metaphysics Of A Culture
BMG RCA Victor 1996. Produced by Steve Coleman. CD.
Capsule Info: Collaboration between American jazz musicians (including Ravi Coltrane) and Cuban percussionists explores jazz mixed with rhythms of Santeria and Abakua; replete with screeching sax and chanted Lucumi. Recorded in Cuba.
Norman Connors: DARK OF LIGHT/DANCE OF MAGIC
Buddah 1972, 1973/Sequel 1993 CD reissue twofer. Produced by Skip Drinkwater & Dennis Willen. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: These two early '70s Norman Connors solo albums predate the pop gloss he applied to his music later in the decade. While far from avant-garde, these are fine early 70s jazz.
Norman Connors: LOVE FROM THE SUN
Buddah 1973. Produced by Skip Drinkwater. No CD.
Capsule Info: Very much still jazz. ("Love From The Sun" featuring the vocals of DeeDee Bridgewater--who also sang it on an early solo album--is available on the CD THE BEST OF NORMAN CONNORS AND FRIENDS).
Norman Connors: SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL/YOU ARE MY STARSHIP
Buddah 1975, 1976/Sequel 1992 CD reissue twofer. Produced by Skip Drinkwater & Dennis Willen. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: The Norman Connors production machine comes into full steam on these two albums, one of which featured his only real hits, the songs that made careers for Phyllis Hyman and Michael Henderson. But there's some nice pop jazz on the second album (including the "Creator Has A Masterplan" brought to earth), and interesting arrangements on the first album.
Norman Connors: SLEWFOOT
Buddah 1977/Unidisc. Produced by Skip Drinkwater. CD Canada.
Capsule Info: A formula Norman Connors album. And yes, that's the vocal version (!) of John Coltrane's "Welcome" being sung by Jean Carn. Recorded in 1974.
Norman Connors: ROMANTIC JOURNEY
Buddah 1977/Right Stuff 1994. Produced by Skip Drinkwater. CD.
Capsule Info: The remake of "Thembi" shows how Norman Connors tried to remold Pharoah Sanders' direction in tune with the general jazz-pop mood of the late-1970s. This album runs the gamut from disco to fusion lite to ballads to quiet storm. Not for purists, but fun.
Norman Connors: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
Buddah 1977/Sequel 1993. Produced by Skip Drinkwater. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: Glossy but fun Norman Connors album. Eleanore Mills sings vocals on Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" and a pleasant rewrite of Pharaoh Sanders' "The Creator Has A Masterplan" featuring solos by Pharoah himself.
Norman Connors And The Starship Orchestra Featuring Miss Adaritha: INVITATION
Buddah 1979. Produced by Norman Connors. Vocals produced by Norman Connors and Jean Carn. No CD.
Capsule Info: "I Have A Dream" is the standout cut: the Connors treatment of Herbie Hancock's 1969 tribute to Dr. King.
Norman Connors: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE
MoJAzz 1993. Produced by Norman Connors. CD.
Capsule Info: After a long absence Norman Connors returned with an album very much after his late '70s formula: good vocalists, jazz covers, glossy production. Some of this is great, some overproduced dreck.
Norman Connors: EASY LIVING
MoJAzz 1996. Produced by Norman Connors. CD.
Finally electronic production murders the spark of Norman Connors music. Now this is just another adult contemporary album. Oh well. Why would Norman Conors use a drum machine?
Stanley Cowell: REGENERATION
Strata-East 1976, Charly 1998. Produced by Viki McLaughlin & Jerry Venable. CD Europe.
A stellar cast of musicians perform a wildly diverse set of music. While much of the music veers to the pop then sweeping the jazz world, all of it enjoyably reveals an Afro-centric, spiritual perspective on the world.
Miles Davis: ON THE CORNER
CBS Records 1972. Produced by Teo Macero. CD.
Capsule Info: Miles Davis didn't have a spiritual period. But he did experiment with African and Indian musical forms and rhythms, and many of the musicians who played with his more spiritual peers passed through his own recordings as well.
Miles Davis: IN CONCERT
CBS Records 1973. Produced by Teo Macero. CD; 2-disc set.
Capsule Info: 1972 Live Recording, NYC. Miles' extended jam period. Spring for the domestic release in the deluxe packaging: a vast improvement over the Japanese import.
Miles Davis: BIG FUN
CBS Records 1974. Produced by Teo Macero. CD.
Capsule Info: More of Miles' early '70s groove.
Earth, Wind & Fire: THE NEED OF LOVE
Warner Bros. 1971. Produced by Joe Wissert. CD.
Capsule Info: In an interesting bridge across musical worlds, here on later-supergroup Earth Wind & Fire's second album is the cut "Energy" showing the roots of EWF in the same fertile African-American creative music community in Chicago that produced Jarman et al. Vocalist Sherry Scott, virtually reprises here her work on Joseph Jarman's 1968 album AS IF IT WERE THE SEASONS, in a narration and abstract vocal about prana and energy; of course then things get funkier.
Carlos Garnett: BLACK LOVE
Muse Records 1974. Produced by Joe Fields and Carlos Garnett. CD.
Capsule Info: Think Norman Connors. "Mother Of The Future" is one of those tunes that has become an anthem for the UK's acid jazz movement.
Carlos Garnett: JOURNEY TO ENLIGHTENMENT
Muse Records 1974. Produced by Carlos Garnett. No CD.
Capsule Info: I haven't seen this vinyl in a long time. A handful of its cuts are anthologized across the pHo Records "Freedom Jazz Dance" Series CDs.
Carlos Garnett: LET THE MELODY RING ON
Muse Records 1975. Produced by Carlos Garnett. No CD.
Capsule Info: I haven't seen this vinyl in a long time either. One of its cuts is anthologized in the pHo Records "Freedom Jazz Dance" Series CDs.
Carlos Garnett: THE NEW LOVE
Muse Records 1977. Produced by Carlos Garnett and John Lee. No CD.
Capsule Info: Never seen this, I confess only to knowing it via the stand-out track "Memories Of Coltrane" excerpted below. It's reissue time!
Carlos Garnett: COSMOS NUCLEUS
Muse Records 1978. Produced by Carlos Garnett. No CD.
Capsule Info: I haven't seen this vinyl in a long time either. One of its cuts is anthologized across the pHo Records "Freedom Jazz Dance" Series CDs.
Carlos Garnett: FIRE
32 Jazz 1997. Compilation produced by Lance Goler. CD.
Capsule Info: This compilation of material from Garnett's five Muse albums is as welcome as it is aggravating. The songs are all terrific, spiritual and cosmic, with an edge of commerciality ala Norman Connors. But most of the material reissued here is available elsewhere on CD, and one of the three songs that is not is abbreviated. Garnett's scratchy used vinyl is pricey and in demand: why oh why does promising label 32Jazz not reissue in full the four of his albums still relegated to historical obscurity?
Charlie Haden: "CLOSENESS" DUETS
A&M 1976. Produced by Ed Michel. CD.
Capsule Info: Charlie Haden in intimate settings with four of his long-time collaborators. The duet with Alice Coltrane's harp is beautifully contemplative.
Albert "Tootie" Heath: KAWAIDA
1969 ?? Records. Produced by ??. No CD.
Capsule Info: Not wanting to fork out $40 for a used copy I've settled for a taped dupe. This is more properly, I'm told, Albert's son Mtume's first album, and certainly it bears his percussive, and declaratively African nationalist stamp all over it: it's the prequel to Mtume's own ALKEBU-LAN, LAND OF THE BLACKS. It's a great album, with Herbie Hancock at the height of his jazz playing, swahili invocations, lots of percussion, and a deep spiritual vibe throughout. Now I'm looking for Heath's Muse album, FIRST KWANZA.
Jimmy Heath: THE TIME AND THE PLACE
1974 Landmark Records. Produced by Don Schlitten. CD.
Capsule Info: I was looking for Albert Heath's album KAWAIDA featured 2nd generation Heath and prominent kozmigroover Mtume when I found this album featuring a Kente-clothed cover. It's mostly very pleasant older straight ahead jazz, but at moments it shows Mtume's more adventurous influences, especially the wonderful "Fau-Lu" which is exactly the kind of tune that should be listed here, and sounds more like, well, an Mtume record. Meanwhile, anybody got a copy of KAWAIDA they don't need?
(Abdullah Ibrahim) Dollar Brand: AFRICAN SPACE PROGRAM
Enja Records, 1973/1991. Produced by Horst Weber. CD.
Capsule Info: Sorta Duke Ellington meets Sun Ra; from Ellington protege and South African muslim Ibrahim. Recorded in Nov. 1973.
Joseph Jarman: AS IF IT WERE THE SEASONS
Delmark 1996/1968. Produced by Robert G. Koester. CD.
Capsule Info: An exemplary AACM set from the creative music scene in Chicago. As Joseph Jarman writes in his liner notes: "WE are here to REVEAL the Revelations of ONE--sprit." Somewhere I read that musicians like the ensemble here (and musicians like Marion Brown, slightly later) sought to explore ways to free drums from the role of timekeeper in jazz: a pursuit of interesting spiritual implication.
Juju: A MESSAGE FROM MOZAMBIQUE
Strata East 1973/Black Fire 1994. Produced by Plunky Branch. CD.
Capsule Info: James Plunky Branch's first group, before they became "Oneness Of Juju". Orisha chants, creative jazz, great music. You'll know why he went on to work with Pharoah Sanders.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: NATURAL BLACK INVENTIONS: ROOT STRATA
Atlantic 1971/32Jazz 1997. Produced by Joel Dorn. CD*.
Capsule Info: Multi-instrumentalist Kirk's great mostly-solo album where he pushes music limits trying to spiritually convey the African-rooted black American experience. Reissued on CD as part of the collection DOG YEARS IN THE FOURTH RING.
Azar Lawrence: BRIDGE INTO THE NEW AGE
Prestige, 1974. Produced by Orrin Keepnews and Jim Stern. No CD.
Capsule Info: McCoy Tyner's early '70s saxophonist steps out with an album full of early-'70s spiritual optimism.
Jonathan Lomax/Nicholas Wrigley: SUNS
OroNeese 1998. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: Much of modern, creative music (jazz?) endlessly revisits the same emotional space first opened by the saxophone shriekers of the 1960s: Coltrane, Sanders, Ayler, Coleman. Thirty years later that is a necessary and vital space full of some fiery, intense, and talented musicians. But it shouldn't be the only emotional statement made by jazz musicians to the left ot of the straight-ahead, and here is a marvelous album that proves exactly that point. Lomax and Wrigley conjure up the sound of Alice Coltrane and Rashied Ali, dueting on piano or harmonium and drums or bells. The mood is introspective yet dynamic, avoiding the saccharine blandness of the new age, or the uniform austerity of the ECM sound; while the musicians revisit a different kind of familiar ground their own voice is definitely worth a listen.
This is a record anyone into spiritual jazz ala Alice Coltrane would love.
Cecil McBee: MUTIMA
Strata-East 1974. Produced by Cecil McBee. CD.
Capsule Info: From Geoffrey Hodson's liner notes: "The Legend Of Mutima (forces unseen) is a key to the spirit and culture of Black Africa. Through longing for Oneness with the Universe, mankind and nature are made One by Mutima." A great album.
Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre: FORCES AND FEELINGS
Delmark 1970. Produced by Robert G. Koester. CD.
Capsule Info: Very spiritual entry from AACM alum. Features those typical and very cool alternately declamatory and screechy free jazz vocals. ("Behold! God's sunshine!/Can you see it?/Can You see it in your heart?/It's always there!")
Mtume Umoja Ensemble: ALKEBU-LAN, LAND OF THE BLACKS
Strata-East 1972. Produced by ?. 2LP; No CD.
Capsule Info: Recorded August 29, 1971 at The East, New York. According to Jim Flannery of the Kozmigroove Mailing List, it's "Pretty damn wild...AACM goes to Africa... but I guess I'd
have to add 'Pharoahs go to Saturn' to get the picture complete. Starts
out with a four-minute speech describing the role of 'these jams' in the
service of Black Nationalism... and then backs it up. Cover is black
with white line-drawing of a sorta Egyptian-meets-subSaharan figure
(Pharoanic beard, pyramids for eyes, goat amulet), back side has an
eye-in-pyramid drawing with photo of Mtume leaning against it." Having finally heard this record finally, I love it. While it's certainly dated, it's a fascinating glimpse of the marriage of early 1970s Afro-centric music, politics and spirituality, plus it really grooves. To me reminiscent of Bartz' Ntu Group work, it's more energetic and colorful than those records. A treasure: Strata-East was an extraordinary label.
Mtume: REBIRTH CYCLE
Third Street Records, 1974/1977. Produced by Mtume. No CD.
With credits that read like a who's who of early 1970s jazz, Mtume, then with Miles Davis, produced his third solo album, including one cut with the Miles Davis band sans Miles. This album is full of spirituality, Africanisms, and real jazz. "Umoja" even includes invocations to Obatala, Yemaya, and the other deities of the Yoruba religion/Santeria. Fascinatingly, Mtume and Lucas went on to produce funk, and then disco, and then Madonna, all with a trademark conga plus electric guitar sound. There, I always wanted to include Madonna in this website.
Idris Muhammad: BLACK RHYTHM REVOLUTION/PEACE & RHYTHM
Fantasy 1971; BGP/Ace 1992. Producer not listed. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: CD two-fer of funky soul-jazz drummer's solo work. PEACE AND RHYTHM brings Muhammad's Muslim religion into the fray.
Oneness Of Juju: AFRICAN RHYTHMS
Black Fire 1975/1994. Produced by Plunky Branch and Jimmy Gray. CD.
Capsule Info: James Plunky Branch continued his explorations of Africanisms and wonderful grooves, great vocals.
Oneness Of Juju: SPACE JUNGLE LUV
Black Fire 1976/1994. Produced by Plunky Branch and Jimmy Gray. CD.
Capsule Info: Sounds like the album Pharoah Sanders would have made that year, and indeed, it's full of his alumni. Wonderful vocals. Even chants to the Orishas.
The Pharoahs: AWAKENING
Ubiquity/Luv n Haight 1996. Producer not listed. CD.
Capsule Info: Early 1970s recording of pioneer Afro-Centric jazz/funk ensemble in Chicago; this was where the future Earth Wind and Fire cut their chops.
The Pharoahs: IN THE BASEMENT
Ubiquity/Luv n Haight 1997. Producer not listed. CD.
Capsule Info: Live cuts from 1972 plus more. A great CD reissue.
Courtney Pine: UNDERGROUND
Antilles, 1997. Produced by Courtney Pine. CD.
Capsule Info: It's impossible, from this perspective, not to admire saxophonist Courtney Pine's reverence for the music of the 1970s. In the liner notes he thanks, among others, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, and Carlos Garnett for being the sources of his inspiration. He reaches enticingly for their vibe, but is, in my opinion frustratingly held back both by his attachment to hip-hop scratching on the one end and competent but straight ahead legitimate jazz musicians on the other. It strikes me that for him to break out of the acid-jazz rut he would be well advised to trade in his turntablist for a conga player and some percussionists and run with it. Now that would be a great record. Of like attempt also Steve Williamson's record below.
Sonny Rollins: HORN CULTURE
Milestone 1973. Produced by Orrin Keepnews. CD.
Capsule Info: I don't generally love Sonny Rollins' work, but this album marked the beginning of his interest in a less straight-ahead jazz sound. The relevant number here is "Sais", a wonderful eleven-minute plus cosmic jam by Mtume (also featured on Mtume's album above and on a record by Lonnie Liston Smith).
Carlos Santana/Mahavishnu John McLaughlin: LOVE DEVOTION SURRENDER
Columbia Records 1973. Produced by Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. CD.
Capsule Info: Santana's most completely spiritual album was made with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, the English guitarist who might be considered the driving force of Jazz-Rock Fusion music. Both Mahavishnu and Santana shared the same guru, Sri Chinmoy. Here they cover John Coltrane tunes including "A Love Supreme" (with chanting) and a number of spiritually-focused Mahavishnu songs. Musically it's what a Santana/Mahavishnu Orchestra summit might sound like.
Columbia Records/ Sony 1973. Producer not listed. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: My favorite Santana album. The group performs "Going Home" with the Alice Coltrane arrangement from her LORD OF LORDS album, and John Coltrane's "Welcome". This is the same Santana lineup mostly as the following LOTUS album, featuring Leon Thomas.
Columbia Records/ Sony 1974. Produced by The New Santana Band. CD; 2-disc set.
Capsule Info: Recorded live in Japan in 1973, during Santana's more religious period. The multi-panel cover art is full of religious icons combined with trippy space imagery. Leon Thomas is the vocalist, and the group performs "Going Home" with the Alice Coltrane arrangement from her LORD OF LORDS album. The story of Leon Thomas's involvement with Santana is an interesting one. Sadly, unrevealed on this CD is the fact that Santana interpreted many songs from the Leon Thomas/Pharoah Sanders songbook on the tour and those numbers are relegated now to bootleg tapes that offer only an enticing glimmer of that tour's excitement and Leon Thomas' central contribution.
Devadip Carlos Santana: ONENESS: Silver Dreams--Golden Reality
Columbia Records 1979. Produced by Devadip Carlos Santana. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: A fairly eclectic solo album from Carlos Santana, with an emphasis on spiritual themes. The first six cuts were recorded live in Osaka, Japan. The gatefold LP cover is filled with quotes from Sri Chinmoy and images of eastern religious icons. The tone of this album might be called "inspirational."
Atlantic Records 1971. Produced by Richard Bock. No CD.
Capsule Info: Not jazz but kind of Crosby Stills and Nash meets Transcendental Meditation. Well, it was 1971, and this is folk rock with Indian instruments and spiritual lyrics.
Sonny Sharrock: ASK THE AGES
Axiom/Island 1991. Produced by Bill Laswell and Sonny Sharrock. CD.
Capsule Info: Cool cover with a mandala of world religious images. Sharrock and Sanders first played together in Sanders' 1966 album TAUHID.
Woody Shaw: THE WOODY SHAW CONCERT ENSEMBLE AT THE BERLINER JAZZTAGE
Muse 1977/32 Jazz 1998. Produced by Michael Cuscuna. CD*.
Capsule Info: I've long debated whether to list the late Woody Shaw's many fine albums on my site. THE MOONTRANE, LOVE DANCE, CASSANDRANITE, SONG OF SONGS are great records full of kozmigroov elements, great grooves, and many of the players whose names repeat on this page over and over. This one is not really more or less eligible than the others but it gives a nicely rounded portrait of a player who was at least a fellow-traveller of the kozmik. This one is a live date from 1976, and Shaw's playing sounds more like Freddie Hubbard than Miles. *On CD as part of the two-disc compilation WOODY SHAW: TWO MORE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE.
Archie Shepp: YASMINA, A BLACK WOMAN
BYG 1969/Charly 1995. Produced by Jean Georgakarakos and Jean Luc Young. CD Europe.
Capsule Info: Recorded in Paris in 1969 when African-American jazz musicians were flocking to Europe (or should I say escaping from America?), resulting in a creative explosion. The long title track is a percussive, chant-laden, fierce collision of avant garde, European and African sensibilities.
Archie Shepp: THINGS HAVE GOT TO CHANGE
1971 Impulse AS-9212. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: An angry and emotional concept album (the chorus chants "Things Gotta Change God Dammit") featuring the brilliant work of Cal Massey and Romulus Franceschini. The form is like a revival meeting: the singing builds on a beat that becomes increasing persistent, the blues change to rage; the the feeling is of being in church as spirit descends, sweeping a tide of emotion over the participants and the listeners. On the title cut electronics and Leroy Jenkins' violin add a spacey flavor over a fierce African rhythm.
Archie Shepp: ATTICA BLUES
1972 Impulse AS-0000. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: A second concept album featuring the arranging work of Cal Massey and Romulus Franceschini complete with narration by radical lawyer William Kunstler memorializing the brutal suppression of the prison uprising at Attica. The tone is less angry than bittersweet, the final message one of spiritual hope.
Archie Shepp: THE CRY OF MY PEOPLE
1972 Impulse AS-9231. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Cal Massey's final work, this marries gospel traditions to avant garde jazz to orchestral string arrangements in a moving presentation of music as spiritual hope and resistance.
Archie Shepp: KWANZA
1974(?) Impulse AS-9262. Produced by Ed Michel. CD Japan.
Capsule Info: Recorded in 1968 and 1969, this is kind of an African-diasporic music sampler, covering blues, funk, avant garde jazz and all manner of rhythms; dedicated to the newly created African-American holiday of Kwanza. An all-star cast; a great CD reissue package.
Sun Ra: THE FUTURISTIC SOUNDS OF SUN RA
Savoy 1962/Dennon 1993. No producer listed. CD.
Capsule Info: Sun Ra predated Pharoah Sanders, and in general is a ball of wax too large for this website to chew. Which is not to say that his pioneering use of non-jazz rhythms and outer-space imagery are not exactly what I'm talking about. This album is a great introduction, a premonition of what was to come at the end of the decade. Marshall Allen could have taught Pharoah everything he knew. From the original liner notes: "Though he is well aware of the commercial impact of the 'space' costumes of his group, he is yet sincerely dedicated to the belief that the dawning of the Space Age offers mankind one last chance to achieve harmony, unity, and peace."
Sun Ra: THE NUBIANS OF PLUTONIA
1974 Impulse AS-9242 (earlier El Saturn; later Evidence CD). Produced by Ihnfinity Inc. and Alton Abraham. CD.
Capsule Info: When I first picked this album out of a cut-out bin in Chicago's Hyde Park in 1976, I had no idea it had actually been recorded in 1958 and 1959. It sounded as eye-opening and fresh as the other material from the same cutout bin (the famous end of Impulse! that brought me Pharoah and Alice). The incredible cover and photographs, the bent but seductive music were stuff I would invite friends over to see and hear in absolute disbelief. Who would have though twenty years later it still sounds as exciting. This was prescient music for the late 1950s: it was as though this were recorded in a time machine mixing up 1970s percussion and Africanisms (yes, chanting included) alternating with offcolor 1950s bop. An electric piano in 1959? This guy was a genius. Of course this was licensed by Impulse! from El Saturn in an ill-fated if timely episode; now reissued on a great CD by Evidence as a two-fer with another Impulse!/Saturn album: ANGELS AND DEMONS AT PLAY.
Randy Weston: THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS
Antilles/Polygram 1992. Produced by Randy Weston, etc.. CD; 2-disc set.
Capsule Info: Afro-Centric bigband music; much of it influenced by the Gnawa musicians of Morocco.
Michael White: PNEUMA
Impulse! 1972. AS-9221. Produced by Ed Michel. No CD.
Capsule Info: A less abstract player than fellow avant-garde violinist Leroy Jenkins, Michael White plays wonderfully spacey violin, to that early '70s outjazz rhythm. Vocals on two tunes. Impulse! in the early 1970s was an amazing record label.
Steve Williamson: JOURNEY TO TRUTH
Verve Forecast/Talkin' Loud/Nippon Phonogram 1994. Produced by Steve Williamson and Kazuhiko Yanagida. CD.
Capsule Info: At times more successful (musically that is, commercially this sadly sank without notice) than Courtney Pine's similar (see above) attempt to echo the cosmic vibe in an acid-jazz/hiphop context, Steve Williamson also teases and frustrates. In the opening cut Williamson duets with an African percussionist, revealing a marvelous tone remiscent of Pharoah Sanders. Unfortunately the drum machine programming kicks in on the following track and Williamson can't quite seem to figure out where he's going. The cover of Andy Bey's "Celestial Blues" is nice, though the original grooves better. The rapping would not be missed if it were to disappear, and why do acid-jazz drummers seem only to know that one funky-drummer beat? But there he is dressed in African garb and quoting John Coltrane in the liner notes so I remain a sucker for this stuff.