Chico Freeman – The Search
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/192 kHz | FLAC | Web scans | Jazz
1.52GB (24/192) + 806 MB (24/96) ||
1983 India Navigation IN 1059
I have not posted on this blog in nearly 6 months. For those of you still hanging around, I hope you are all doing well. A lot has been happening in the world, and in my personal and professional life, that have kept me away. But I will try and check in more frequently.
Ramsey Lewis passed away at a dignified age as an elder statesman of jazz since I last posted. Gal Costa, among the first artists to attract my ears to Brazil, passed away this week suddenly and in a manner that sent the country into a spasm of collective grief. At least she got to see the country kick the fascist scum Bolsonaro out of office. I don’t really do “memorial blog posts” any longer but I will probably post about both of those artists in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, I have been listening to a lot of Chico Freeman lately, who is alive and well.
The search for peace in times of war, for stillness in times of agitation – that is the basic sentiment that motivates, opens, sustains, and closes this nonchalantly beautiful record by Freeman (who is from a prolific jazz family that includes his father Von Freeman and brother George). It builds on a tradition of ‘spiritual jazz’ whose efflorescence was happening when Freeman was just getting started, and brings it into that most un-spiritual of decades, the 1980s. But there is nothing nostalgic or backward-looking about this record; it could have been made at any time in the last fifty years. And Freeman is still out there making good music, having recently returned to New York after a long period living in France.
This album was never released on CD and it is very, very good. It is one of several examples of great work Freeman has done with jazz vocalists — in the year following this album, he also released a collaboration with Bobby McFerrin, titled ‘Tangents’, which is excellent as well. Vocalist Van Eley is better known for her work in musical theater than for jazz sessions (this is her only credit on the resource Discogs); a few years before this she participated in the and this appears to be her one and only album credit, so that is a bit mysterious.
I have a handful of Freeman’s output on India Navigation (not all of them, but getting close) as well as stuff he recorded for other labels. I’ll make a banal observation about a difference between the worlds of jazz and pop music here: the ability, or maybe insistence, of artists not to be tied to exclusive contracts is interesting to me (although it can also work the other way around – the unwillingness of major labels to commit to promoting and fostering an artist in the long-term). Freeman maintained a relationship with the indie label India Navigation that allowed him to continue his warm embrace of the modal and the experimental at the same time he was releasing more commercial recordings on labels like Elektra. The interested vinyl collector will be happy to know that you can find those releases on Elektra and other labels like Contemporary on the cheap out there at your local record shop — and they are all solid and worth picking up. . The India Navigation titles will cost you a bit more.
An example of the Freeman’s ease with taking risks can be found as soon as the needle hits the vinyl here, opening with the only the voice of the relatively unknown Van Eley reassuring us that there IS peace, if we look within. It is one of those sentiments that sounds trite when spoken, but get a good vocalist to SING it on a jazz record and it becomes an invocation, or at least an invitation – Freeman has a message he wants us to hear, something he feels strongly enough about that a purely instrumental jazz record just won’t cut it. As bold a statement as the opening title cut, things really get moving with the second piece, which heavily features Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos doing all the things he does, opening the track with one of his trademark musical invocations on the berimbau. Cecil McBee contributes a pretty traditional jazz balad, Close To You Alone, which is an refreshing grounding back in the element of Earth and the more ordinary varieties of love and loneliness. Soweto Suite brings back the hard edges and merges Earth and Spirit, a drum solo from Billy Hart near the beginning along with an urgent vibraphone riff as a base, the angular melody of Val and Chico blending voice and saxophone, cascades of piano from Kenny Barron, and the whole structure subjected to a controlled demolition in several places of free-jazz skronk. Although I don’t hear any musical nods to the rich South African jazz scene, I’m not actually trained in this stuff so maybe someone else can illuminate me if I missed it. I assume the subject matter is more concerned with the abomination of apartheid.
To the best of my knowledge, this album has never been released on CD or on a digital streaming platform. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
A1 – The Search (10:50)
A2 – Illas (11:40)
B1 – Close To You Alone (07:25)
B2 – Soweto Suite (12:15)
Total length: 42:10
More information: https://www.discogs.com/release/1134622-Chico-Freeman-The-Search
Published By – Nisha-Ayl Publishing Company
Published By – LeMac Music
Mastered At – Europadisk
Bass – Cecil McBee
Berimbau, Percussion – Nana Vasconcelos
Drums – Billy Hart
Piano – Kenny Barron
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Chico Freeman
Vibraphone, Marimba – Jay Hoggard
Vocals – Val Eley
Design – Tan Ohe
Photography By – Beth Cummins
Producer – Bob Cummins
LINEAGE: 1983 India Navigation IN 1059 pressing; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica Signet TK7E cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 preamp; Audioquest Black Mamba and Pangea Premier interconnect cables; RME Babyface Pro interface ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair with output monitored manually; further clicks and pops removed manually with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
p/w = vibes