Gary Bartz – The Shadow Do (1975)

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Gary Bartz
The Shadow Do
Original release Prestige P-10092
Japanese reissue


Winding Roads     3:18
Mother Nature     6:27
Love Tones     5:11
Gentle Smiles (Saxy)     4:21
Make Me Feel Better     4:41
Sea Gypsy     6:18
For My Baby     4:57
Incident     2:56

    Bass – Michael Henderson
    Congas, Percussion – Mtume

    Drums, Synthesizer – Howard King
    Guitar – Reggie Lucas
    Piano, Clavinet, Synthesizer – Hubert Eaves
    Alto and soprano saxophone, synthesizer, lead and backing vocals – Gary Bartz
    Synthesizer – Larry Mizell
    Producer, Backing Vocals – Larry And Fonce Mizell
    Engineer (Fantasy) – Eddie Bill Harris
    Engineer (Sound Factory) – Jim Nipar, Val Christian Garay

    Mastered By – Mike Reese, Ron Hitchcock
    Mixed By – Dave Hassinger
    Photography – Vicki Bartz

I had not really planned to post about this album, but since my planned posts are not yet ready, I figured I might as well build on the other Bartz/Mizzells contribution from two weeks ago.  My life coach tells me that it is important to keep my BRAND visible in the public eye at all times or else people will forget that I’m here.  It’s the same reason why I call the police to report imaginary criminals lurking around my house at least once a month.  It’s important to be remembered.

I was somewhat dismissive about this record in the last post, wondering if long-time Bartz fans  in the mid-70s thought he had made a mistake by throwing his lot in with the Mizells.  That may seem a bit harsh because this is in fact a pretty solid record.  But artistically it is less fully-realized than Music Is My Sanctuary.  I think my problem with The Shadow Do is that it is a better Mizell Brothers record than it is a Gary Bartz record, but I’m not sure I’m up to explaining what I mean by that so you will just have to trust me.

There are some really great tunes on this.  Bartz is not the greatest singer, but as far as singing instrumentalists in jazz you could do much worse.  His voice is plain and unadorned, and he doesn’t overextend himself.  The song Mother Nature is actually catchy enough to have kept me awake at night (I list “earworms” as one of my regular maladies when filling out paperwork at a new doctor’s office).

A nice surprise is a rhythm section that includes the presence of both Mtume on drums and Michael Henderson on bass.  Henderson is of course most famous for the record ‘Slingshot’, which took its title from the Speedos he wore on the front cover.

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 Gary sings a lot about playing his saxophone on this album.  In fact sometimes he sings about playing it more than he actually plays it.  It’s a little odd.

You have to admit that most of the vocal tunes here are really tuneful, even without the benefit of a stand-out vocalist.  “Gentle Smiles”, one of those tunes where Gary keeps reminding us what instrument he plays, is light and playful.  He also accomplishes something that even tops Roland Kirk – he manages to sing an entire verse while playing the melody line on his saxophone AT THE SAME TIME.  Well, I also heard that the Mizell Brothers were hip to a recording technique called “overdubbing”, so maybe we shouldn’t get too excited.  The sustain-less tic-tack bass from Henderson on this track is the glue that holds this together for me.  Or maybe the glue gun that applies the blue and silver sequins around the fringe.

“Make Me Feel Better” sounds like the Ohio Players on sedatives.

“Sea Gypsy” is an instrumental and maybe this best illustrates the Achilles Heel of the record.  Replace the lead instrument with another and this could be interchangeable with almost any other Mizell production:  give it a trumpet and you could be listening to Donald Byrd, flute and you could be listening to Bobbi Humphrey’s “Fancy Dancer.”  There’s very little space for Bartz’s own personality to come through here.  Even though he works out some great riffs, he sounds hemmed in by the tight arrangement.

Back on track, “For My Baby” is pretty damn soulful for an album that, once again – let’s say it together – doesn’t have a strong singer on it.  It’s sweet and makes you want to cuddle, and the arrangement manages to surprise us a little by going all modal in the coda.

The closer, “Incident”, shows that Gary passed the funkateer audition on ‘Make Me Feel Better’ with honors (it was only a clerical error that led to him having to audition again anyway, as he had obviously earned his funk stripes before this record).  It is also vaguely sociopolitical and possibly autobiographical, recounting some experiences in Baltimore, Mr. Bartz’s hometown.

So all in all, yes I suppose this qualifies as the proverbial “unfairly overlooked” long-player record.  Even without the added help of Syreeta on vocals or Enrico “Macaroni” Manchewitz Tagglione twiddling knobs, it’s a gratifying listen.  But “Music Is My Sanctuary” is still it’s rightful successor.

Some technical yammering:  I don’t typically share things on this blog when I can’t 100% vouch for their lineage in terms of  pressing, and this title was not my own rip nor any of my friends.  However I can say with certainty that it is a Japanese CD pressing, because it has not yet been issued anywhere else in that format.  I believe this to be the 2007 pressing (there have been three different reissues of this over there).  One thing that is certain is that I am going to voice one of those “positive stereotypes” about a whole nation of people, and reiterate how the Japanese really valorize audio quality – this thing sounds really nice indeed.

{edit} – A reader has pointed out the I egregiously failed to mention that Reggie Lucas plays on this record.  He’s right!  Hey everybody, Reggie Lucas plays on this record!  Lucas and Mtume (and Michael Henderson) had also played with Miles Davis, and Lucas/Mtume would produce a more straight-up soul record for Bartz in 1980.

Gary Bartz – Music Is My Sanctuary (1977)

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Gary Bartz
Music Is My Sanctuary
Original release 1977, Capitol (ST-11647)

 

01. Music Is My Sanctuary
02. Carnaval de l’esprit
03. Love Ballad
04. Swing Thing
05. Oo Baby Baby
06. Macaroni
 
Produced by Fonce Mizell & Larry Mizell 
Arranged By – Gary Bartz & Larry Mizell
 String Arrangements by Wade Marcus
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals – Gary Bartz
    Backing Vocals – Gary Bartz,Larry Mizell, Sigidi, Syreeta Wright
    Bass – Curtis Robertson, Jr., Welton Gite  
    Drums – Howard King, James Gadson, Nate Neblett  
    Guitar – David T. Walker, John Rowin, Juewett Bostick, Wa Wa Watson
     Keyboards – Larry Mizell
    Percussion – Bill Summers, Mtume   
    Piano – George Cables
    Trumpet – Eddie Henderson, Ray Brown
    Vocals – Syreeta Wright
 
 
Co-producers – Gary Bartz & James Carter
Engineer, Recorded By, Mixed By – Jim Nipar
Executive-Producer – Larkin Arnold
Illustration – Michael Bryan
Photography By – Vicki Seabrook-Bartz
Art Direction – Roy Kohara 
This pressing – 2003 Blue Note “Rare Groove Series” – mastered by Ron McMaster
(thanks to Sarge for the EAC rip)

Gary Bartz has been on the short list for “artists I should post more of” since pretty much the first week.  And yet I have done pitifully little about it.  Alas, the story of Flabbergasted Vibes is composed of an endless string of shattered dreams and broken promises.  The Bartz records that most obviously belong here are his NTU Troop efforts (one of which I posted, long ago).  But today I’m going to post something a bit lighter, because there is still a little bit of summer left in the northern hemisphere.

“Music Is My Sanctuary” was the second collaboration between Bartz and the production team of the Mizell Brothers, who were on a dual quest to make dance music more cerebral and cerebral music more danceable, which is my way of saying that they took some very serious jazz heavyweights and helped them put out some of the funkiest, most electric sets of their careers.  In some ways partnering with the Mizells was a natural outgrowth of the work of artists like Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Johnny Hammond and others which dabbled in  hybrid styles like soul jazz, or early-70s CTI jazz-funk.  But in working with these brothers – the Van Dyke Parks and George Martin of jazz-funk and disco-jazz – they were truly diving in deep into waters that had been off limits to “serious” jazz musicians: surrendering one’s sound and aesthetic direction to the sonic thumbprint of a pair of Producer / Arrangers who were the antithesis of transparent in their approach.  Many of the best jazz producers and engineers are known for the purity or elegance with which they let an already-distinctive artist speak through a recording.  The Mizells, on the other hand, were sought after precisely because of their stylizations and aesthetic shaping of the material.  Artists worked with them because they wanted a certain sound.  And Gary Bartz certainly received the full Mizell Treatment here.

“Music Is My Sanctuary” was the second collaboration between Gary Bartz and the Mizells.  The first one, The Shadow Do, is a perfectly okay album but somewhat underwhelming, almost enough to make one think that Bartz had taken a temporary wrong turn. But “Music Is My Sanctuary” is a fully-realized, exemplary work, so it is unsurprising that this is the one that jumps out at everyone and gets remembered.  It doesn’t hurt that the wonderful voice of Syreeta leads the album on the opening title track, where she also sings the word “hypnotical” which I always feel shouldn’t really be a word but the dictionary assures me that it is.  You couldn’t ask for a more upbeat affirmation of one’s chosen profession, and it starts the album off in the right mood.  Later in the record, the intro section of the rather predictably titled “Swing Thing” manage to presage both 90s acid-jazz and hip hop by putting several bars of a straight funk beat behind a walking bass line played on an upright.  The only marginally weak point on the whole record is the somewhat beguiling ‘Ooh Baby’ which is a mostly instrumental cover of the Miracles song.  Syreeta sings a little of the refrain near the beginning, and for a moment I want to hear her launch into the whole thing, but then ultimately I am glad that she doesn’t because I think it would turn pretty schlocky pretty quick.

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The second track (Carnaval de l’esprit ) is a natural centerpiece of the album for me, given its Caribbean slant and Brazilian cuica drum.  It’s ambitiously funky, but it also features one of the technological innovations that the Mizells helped introduce into the music world of the 1970s.  I refer to a certain guitar effect that appears on virtually all their productions (often more prominently than on this track, in fact).  The story goes back to Larry Mizell’s days as an electrical engineer and part of The Corporation production team and session band.  It was on a Motown promotional tour of Europe that Larry met the Jewish-Italian audio engineer (and soon-to-be aspiring Italo-disco producer) Enrico Manchewitz Tagglione.  Enrico had an idea for a guitar effect pedal that would combine a frequency sweep and envelope follower to sonically realize an audio-visual hallucination that had been coming to him with repeated intensity every time he worked on a recording session:  the image of a nude woman or man pouring a molten liquid of some kind – usually chocolate or honey – all over their bodies in slow motion.  He was convinced that he could express this vision musically through some clever circuit design.  After a particularly animated rap session with Mizell into the early morning hours during that tour of Europe, Larry convinced him to really go for it – and, perhaps most importantly, became his first investor on the new invention.  Without even a prototype to show for it yet, they christened it the Honey Licks 2000.

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Gary Bartz, Enrico Manchewitz “Macaroni” Tagglione, and LarryMizell in the studio

When Tagglione finally had a sample model to show Mizell, somewhat less than a year later, he flew to Los Angeles with the only one in existence.  It was a bit on the large side as far as foot pedals went, and he confessed to Mizell that he had considered starting over again with a rack unit sort of like a Roland Space Echo.  But he insisted the Honey Licks 2000 needed tactile, hands-free toe control.  And indeed, the prototype had four footswitch controls labeled Honey, Chocolate, Caramel, and Butter to control the coloration of tone (he would later attempt to add a switch for ‘Strawberry’, but for unexplained reasons it could only play Shuggie Otis songs), and a single “intensity” toggle switch that could be moved with either your foot or finger, and which could be set to low, medium, or “ultra-sweaty.”   The sonic landscape of jazz-funk and the nascent disco sound would never be the same, as dozens of records would come to feature the sparkling ascending-and-descending, slow-motion seduction of honeyed chocolate dripping on naked flesh.    Unfortunately, neither Tagglione or Mizell thought to patent the device, being more enamored with its hynoptical possibilites in the studio and singing its praises to any guitarist or producer who would listen.  The clock ran out on that business opportunity, as knock-off effects pedals began appearing, with names like Honey Dust and Electric Glide.  Sadly, Enrico’s ambitions to become a successful record producer and arranger in the growing Italo-disco scene never took off either, and he became better known as one of the main suppliers of quality cocaine to recording studios and touring musicians.  In fact, the final song on “Music Is My Sanctuary” is usually considered to be an homage to his work in that capacity, as the majority of American musicians working with the Mizells had trouble remembering his name, and had taken to referring to him by term of endearment “Macaroni.”

 

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Andy Bey – Experience and Judgment (1974)

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ANDY BEY
EXPERIENCE AND JUDGMENT
Released 1974 on Atlantic (LP 1654)
This pressing 1998 Koch Jazz (KOC CD-8520)
This pressing is HDCD encoded

1 Celestial Blues 3:24
2 Experience 2:57
3 Judgment 2:58
4 I Know This Love Can’t Be Wrong 4:22
5 Hibiscus 4:39
6 You Should’ve Seen The Way 2:31
7 Tune Up 4:11
8 Rosemary Blue 3:24
9 Being Uptight 3:05
10 A Place Where Love Is 4:38
11 Trust Us To Find The Way 2:39
12 The Power Of My Mind 2:55

Recorded at Regent Studios, NY

Andy Bey – Vocals, Acoustic Piano
Buddy Williams, Jimmy Young – drums
Wilbur Bascomb – Bass
William Fischer – Electric Piano, Organ, Harpsichord, Synthesizer, Percussion
Electric Bass – Wilbur Bascomb
George Davis – guitar (Track 2 only)
Richard Resnicoff – guitar
Engineer – Bob Liftin
Guitar – George Davis (2) , Richard Resnicoff (tracks: 2, 3, 8, 9)
Selwart Clarke – Violen, viola

Produced by by William Fischer

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Yes, this is one ugly album cover. But what’s inside is as beautiful a record as you’re likely to come across.

A long long time ago I promised a flood of music from Gary Bartz. I didn’t deliver on that promise. What can I say, my life is a morass of unfulfilled potential and broken promises. At least, that’s how it seems some of the time.

Until I put on this and then everything is suddenly fine. Andy Bey is easily one of the most underrated figures in music. His work with Horace Silver and Gary Bartz especially is phenomenal. And this album is, well, eternal. It’s largely a laid-back affair, brimming with the echoes of cosmic soul in ways that aren’t too different from a lot of other contemporary albums, but this one has a certain fire and heart that just isn’t very common. It begins with a slowed down take on his ‘Celestial Blues’ that he had already recorded with Bartz’ NTU Troop. First time I heard this version I didn’t know how to react. I felt like a fly suspended in sweet funky amber. Followed by ‘Experience’, the most frantic and uptempo tune on the record, full of lyrics that would be difficult for anybody but Andy to sing and make sound this cool in elongated melodic gospel shouts from the lotus seat. “Judgment”, the other side of the coin, is slowly and heavier on the funk with some wickedly-recorded wah-guitar sounding like the microphone was in the hallway during the session. Andy deserves more credit as a pianist than he usually gets but it must be said that keys man Bill Fischer steals the show here. Acting as producer and also composer on some of the tunes, he definitely has a ‘mark’ of production here – but with his exquisite taste in analog synth tones and the absolutely perfect mix, you won’t hear me complaining about his production. His synth work and electric piano weave in and out of the music faster than an arcade old-school centipede, there and gone halfway before your awareness has caught up. In trying to find some more info on this album on the All-Knowing Interwebs, I have seen this album compared to Gil Scott-Heron in a few places. Which really makes no sense in terms of Gil’s vision and gestalt.. Where there IS a similarity is between this album and Brian Jackson, Gil’s co-conspirator. Now, THAT makes sense to me.

Really really I mean it, not a bad song here. The scaled-down funk poetry of ‘Hibiscus’ hits all my buttons in the right place, perfect in every way of composition, lyric, execution, tonalities, textures, production. A heavily spiritual mind-expanding vibration just billows forth from your stereo speakers (or, um, iPod earbuds, I guess) to envelop you. “You Should’ve Have Seen The Way” is easily the funniest song about meditation I’ve ever come across. Granted, that makes it kind of a big fish in a small pool, but still… Story of guy taking a friend’s advice by trying to clear his mind and find his way through meditation, but he just can’t stop thinking about making love to a woman. Deep, metaphysical, sensual as hell. For all the buddhist vibe on this album it’s good to know Bey and company can keep it real. “Tune Up” is a more serious tune on a similar wavelength, one of my friend TY’s favorite tracks on this. More lyrics that would sound weird from anyone but Andy Bey, “like hypnotizing yourself up to a certain point,” it just kind of works on you and achieves in the listener an analog of what he’s singing about.

So far there is nothing remotely commercial about whats been presented here (jazz purists be damned, this stuff is too obscure and deep to be selling out to anyone). Then we should be all the more surprised by the next tune, a ballad lifted from Neil Sedaka. That’s right – Neil fucking Sedaka! And he just kills us with it. It becomes a love sonnet sung from across the veil of mortality, sung from a dead man to his widow. Granted all that was already in the lyrics but goddamn if Andy Bey doesn’t make it all come together and work on this album. By now we are 3/4 through the album and the remainder is pretty low-key and mellow. Nothing to grab you like what’s already come before but just enough going on to keep you engaged, going out on a wonderfully optimistic and sensual mindsex epic of “The Power of My Mind”.

It’s always weird to stop and think about how friends are brought together out of seemingly random occurrences, some drifting apart, some always there, some coming back like cycles of the moon. And when I ask myself why it took me so long to post this record, because it had been on my ‘short list’ for about a year now, I think it must have to do with that elusive ephemeral thing called friendship. I remembered it, suddenly, and sent it to someone who I think may have needed it right then. And a few days later we were having an intense conversation that ostensibly had nothing to do with this album but yet also had everything to do with this album. And that is one of the great qualities of “Experience and Judgment” – although you can call it ‘soul jazz’ or ‘spiritual jazz’, it is of an earthly sort of cosmic consciousness, one imbued with the substance of day to day living and struggle, that keeps its lyrics even at their most abstract from flying untethered into the blinding light of oneness, instead staying in the air for a while to light our way as we listen. I can’t recommend this album enough.

p.s. the HDCD mastering is a nice touch. Several digital players can recognize the coding and provide the up-sampling, leave a note if you want to know more.

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Miles Davis – What I Say? Vol.2 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett

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Songs 1-3 recorded in Vienna, 11/5/1971.
Songs 4-6 recorded at Fillmore West 11/17/1970

1. Yesternow part 3
2. Funky Tonk
3. The “Sanctuary” Theme
4. Directions
5. Honky Tonk
6. What I Say.

with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett, Mike Henderson (all cuts)
Leon Chancler (##1-3), Don Alias (##1-3), James Mtume Foreman (##1-3).
Jack DeJohnette (##4-6), Jim Riley “Jumma Santos” (##4-6), Airto Moreira (##4-6).

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The is the second part of the two-disc set on sketchy label Jazz Music Yesterday in Italy and contains the rest of the November 5, 1971, concert in Vienna followed by three tracks from the Fillmore West recorded in 1970 with a different lineup. There is no shortage of official live performances from this era of Miles Davis that were released on vinyl and CD — Live Evil, Black Beauty, and Live at the Fillmore East. The main advantage to hearing his band in an `unofficial` context is that this is the music before it underwent the heavy editing of producer Ted Maceo, whose was burdened with the task of making editorial sense of these freeform jams in order to present them in a viable manner for commercial release. Maceo’s production skills were actually a crucial part of the creative process with Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, but these unedited live recordings — as well as the boxsets of the complete sessions for those two seminal studio albums – are also extremely valuable for followers of Miles’ music. As I mentioned in the last post, the source tapes for this release are unspecified but are possibly made right off the `front of house` mixing console, although another possibility is that there were was a mobile recording unit at the location for the purposes using the material on an official release. Any Miles experts who want to sound off on this, please do. I read the man’s autiobiography when I was a teenager and remember next to nothing about it aside from his cantankerous demeanor…

Miles Davis – What I Say? Vol.2 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett in 320kbs em pee tree

Miles Davis – What I Say? Vol.2 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett in FLAC LOSSLESS

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Miles Davis – What I Say? Vol.1 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett

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Released on Jazz Music Yesterday (JMY-10152) Italy

1. Directions
2. Honky Tonk
3. What I Say
4. Sanctuary
5. It’s About That Time

Miles Davis: Trumpet
Gary Bartz: Alto sax, Soprano sax
Keith Jarret: Electric piano, organ
Mike Henderson: Electric bass
Leon Chancler: drums
Don Alias: Congas
James “Mtume” Foreman: Percussion

Recorded in Vienna, November 5, 1971 at the Wiener Konzerthaus

Ah the golden days of halcyon confusion when the Berne Convention still dominated European copyright laws… In the early 1990s, there were hundreds of CD’s released of semi-legitimate but largely-unauthorized material by labels taking strategic advantage of the vagaries of judicious globalization: for example in Italy, where live music of any kind was not subject to copyright but considered by its very nature to be “public domain”, thereby rendering any live music as fair game for release. This partially explains the proliferation of ‘bootlegs’ of Italian origin from that period that could manage to produce halfway-decent packaging and audio mastering.

This unofficial two-disc set, released in two installments on JMY Records, is one of those gray-area releases. It is a scintillating document of Miles’ “electric period” that expands on what was shown to us via the official live release “Live Evil.” The producers quite cleverly manage to say nothing at all about the source of the tapes or how they were made. A very clear stereo mix that starts out with some of the instruments driven too hard into the red of the VU meters, but settling down quite nicely. My guess is they came from a 1/2-inch reel made for reference for the band, or perhaps recorded for a radio broadcast, with stereo panning being very prominent at times. Whatever the case it is good that the tapes were rolling because this is some amazing music. The liner notes (by an Enrico Merlin) go to great lengths to explain their attempts to delineate the “compositions” of the loosely-structure freeform improvisations, explaining Miles system of “coded messages” by which he signaled changes to the band. It’s pretty fascinating reading if you are interested in this type of thing, but not exactly essential to the enjoyment of what you are hearing. Miles had a way of bringing out the best in the musicians who were blessed enough to find themselves part of his ensembles, and even though most of them had notable careers before meeting up with him, their subsequent trajectories would always be marked somehow by being an alumnus of The Miles Davis University. In the case of the present lecture’s round-table panelists, the work of Gary Bartz really stands out here. His own NTU Troop would release Harlem Bush Music this same year, and he was truly at the top of his thang playing with this ensemble. Percussionists Don Alias and Mtume manage to work their magic so that I don`t even miss Airto Moreira.

The end of this performance is on the second installment, which if you are nice, I just might share with you. For now, enjoy the sweetly exhilarating moodiness of Electric Miles

Miles Davis – What I Say, Vol.1 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett in 320kbs em pee tree

Miles Davis – What I Say, Vol.1 (1971) with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

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Gary Bartz NTU Troop's "Juju Street Songs" (1972) vinyl

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From Michael Jackson to Malcolm X: Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s “Juju Street Songs” (1972) vinyl

Gary Bartz at his best created music that heals the soul and lifts the spirit. This may sound trite to you. So be it. If language was sufficient to express what I hear in the best jazz musicians’ work, there wouldn’t have been any reason for them to compose and play it. The signifier and the signified. Beyond the reach of the word, this time, and found in the sustained note of a saxophone or the modal chord changes of an electric piano. The spirituality effervescing from this music is, perhaps, of a piece with the time it was created. A time when radical politics danced with eastern philosophy and African religious ideas, when Franz Fanon sat next to the Koran and the Sutras on the same bookshelf. I had an exchange, one of those conversations that is somewhere between a debate and an argument, about the idea of racial pride and specifically black pride. My interlocutor was stoically against the idea of any pride based around the concept of race. The argument was elaborated in a way that was similar to or identical to others I had heard before, on the streets of Chicago or in the halls of higher learning, or over drinks in the country that imported more slaves from Africa than anywhere else on the planet. On the level of abstractions, where most people contemplate such questions, the argument holds some water, but tends to leak like a British oil rig the minute flesh-and-blood people in actual historical contexts are factored in. It’s a reasonable enough argument usually found on the lips of white people, who invented the very idea of race as a means with which to categorize, catalog, and compare humanity along a sliding scale of value. And easy enough for whites to then discard the idea as of little analytical worth once it becomes inconveniently reclaimed and rearticulated by the racialized. White people can do this because of the common epistemology that they are colorless, some sort of neutral human template, rather than part of the dialogic process in which racial identities calcify. Do not think I’m skipping lightly over the heterogeneity that is glossed over by these terms — it is no more analytically rigorous or accurate to talk of “white people” than it is “black people,” merely chromatic poles in a spectrum, yet there are generalizations that can be made, MUST be made, as a starting point of any meaningful analysis. Dissimulation, the refusal to make assertions and critique, is a poor substitute for nuance. In a historical situation of dominance where deliberate concerted efforts were made to not only strip away a peoples’ cultural lifeways, but even their very ability to identify their own family – the forbidding of slaves to keep surnames, for example — we simply cannot look at “black pride” with the same optic we might use for “white pride.”

But in a way these thoughts were all beside the point. To throw a blanket statement over the fire of racial pride and (re)valorization, to call it essentially destructive and polarizing, is to utterly decontextualize the dynamic situations where such movements take place. And they are movements in every vibration of that term – collective, with a particular understanding of the past, and a particular vision for remaking the world. In the Afrocentric spiritual jazz of the 1960s and 70s you are dealing with musicians old enough to remember segregation, young enough to remember there was more to the civil rights struggle than just Dr. King, equally inspired by Charlie Parker and Motown, and emboldened by a solidarity, symbolic or otherwise, with the victims of dislocation, colonization, and imperialism around the globe. Musicians who were active when Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist enemy of the state, and who watched as a score of African nations struggled for and won their independence in the 50s and 60s. A time when any hopefulness gained from desegregation and decolonization was tempered by the violence in the streets, of black and brown-skinned people as canon fodder in Vietnam, of the scourge of heroin in the ghettos. Ghetto, a word that dates to the seventeenth century and was used throughout Europe since that time and well into the twentieth century to denote a Jewish neighborhood. From Webster, Etymology: Italian, from Venetian dial. ghèto island where Jews were forced to live, literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr to cast, from Latin jactare to throw. It also referenced the iron foundries and slag heaps of the Venetian island where the word came into usage. After the liberation of the concentration camps came the concentration of more and more brown and black skinned peoples into the marginalized landscapes of urban U.S. cities, populated by the human slag heaps of four hundred years of dehumanizing capitalist accumulation. The ghetto, a signifier so dire in its valence that even the most celebratory of Afrocentricities could not celebrate it. It is nearly always condemned as a particular circle of a Dantean hell; if spoken of with warmth or nostalgia it is accompanied by extreme qualifiers that leave no doubt as to its demoralizing enervation. This is different from the barrio of Puerto Ricans (many of them also black, but until right around this time more historically likely to distance themselves from the African-American as long as they bought into the white dream of upwardly mobile meritocracy). The barrio could represent resistance, preservation of cultural values across time and space and against odds for the Latino enclaves dislocated by transnational flows, or crossed by the border. The ghetto, on the other hand, was always only a few steps away from an ethnic cleansing by the dominant power. And in this case, that was white America. Not even Nina Simone, a luminous torch of the civil rights movement, could bring herself to thoroughly trust the white people around her in the music business. Smart woman, Nina.

So when Gary Bartz dedicated Harlem Bush Music to Malcolm X, we should really pay attention to that. It is not a footnote. It is an exclamation point and a wake-up call.

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What does all this have to with me, with my comfortable middle-class childhood and existence? What does all this have to do with my mixed-race home and its aspirations to the American Dream? What does any of this have to do with me – culturally white, politically red, spiritually yellow? Perhaps nothing at all.* Maybe nothing to do with me or perhaps it’s better for me to do nothing.

But everything to do with me when I pick up this album on a night when I don’t know if I’ll make it through to the next day, and find there a spirit to meet me half way and whisper, “Time is running out, time is running..” Music that makes me close my eyes and open my heart and find the stain of self-hatred so old it’s faded, like scar tissue from a clumsy surgeon. When I play this record I am filled with the compassionate joy that the buddhists talk about. There is a comfort, not a reassurance, but a comfort and camaraderie in having someone else show you, with their music, that everything is NOT alright, but that you will survive. Because you have so far. And because there are few other choices. I want to be where you are. The longing for oneness, peering into the gaping maw of transcendent consciousness, obliterating the individual, the longing for union with god, with a lover, with one’s true self. Know thyself, you dig? In the first two minutes of this track we are brought through all the changes of death, repose, and rebirth – of solemn reflection followed by exultation to be simply alive.

Can it be I stayed away too long?
Did I leave your mind when I was gone?
It’s not my thing trying to get back
But this time let me tell you where I’m at

This song is one of Michael’s huge early hit songs, released in 1972, written by Leon Ware and T-Bone Ross. I doubt they ever imagined it played this way when first putting it together.

I understand better now why bassist Stafford James plays his electric bass through some type of envelope follower or flange pedal. It makes his playing more elastic, the attack of the notes more susceptible to coaxing out the bottom end of rhythm, supporting but not overwhelming Howard King’s drums. Bartz blowing his sax like a mad dervish, sometimes modulating it with a wah-wah pedal in small, choice musical phrases. He runs this slice of Motown through a melodic meat grinder and gives us prime grade-a. Listen to Andy Bey`s chord inversions around the vocal melody while Bartz veers outward and beyond on modal flights of fancy. The last three or so minutes of this (cut from the version on the anthology posted at Flabbergasted Vibes previously) see the ensemble swinging the main refrain with heavy funk before is total deconstruction approaching the nine-minute mark, playing in free time and destroying the love-lorn pleas into a pastiche, threatening to put them all back together again for one final chorus, but instead leaving us hanging and still wanting to be where you are.

The next track is even more Motown. “Black Maybe,” a song written for Syreeta by her producer and one-time husband Stevie Wonder. Like “I Want To Be Where You Are,” this song also dropped in 1972. The sessions for this album were cut in October of that year, showing just how little time the NTU Troop wasted in restocking their ammunition. Slowing this song down to a slow burner with a blues feeling, you can still here Stevie’s hand in the melody. Andy Bey may not have the same vocal magic as either Stevie or Syreeta, but I love the guy’s voice and he was a perfect fit for Bartz’s musical vision. On this track you can also clearly hear the double-mic technique Bartz was using to get part of his sound. The microphone panned to the right channel is clean saxophone, probably with the mic placed above and slightly out in front; the left channel is the modulated signal run through a wah pedal, with microphone mostly likely stuck damn nearly right in the bell of the sax. The result is a sound that envelopes the listener in the aural equivalent of a vice grip, death via saxophone, but so sweetly a demise has rarely unfolded on this earth. Lyrically one of Stevie’s most intriguing, complex, and radical songs tackling racial and identity politics with an urgency to unsettle the mentality of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps-and-to-hell-with-your-brother that we can, once again, generalize as endemic to a white middle-class value system . If only people had listened more closely to the message of Stevie’s music more generally, MJ would never have bleached his skin and Will Smith would never have existed. Time is running out, time is running… out.

Bertha Baptist (b.1942, Atlanta, Georgia, d. 1980). Although having no familial relationship to Bertha Butt, the two were friends and frequently exchanged anecdotes and gossip at a Harlem hair salon. Due to her strict religious beliefs, Bertha Baptist was constantly turning down Bertha Butt’s invitations to go out for a night of dancing. Those places are for drunkards and hussies, she would say. However one day curiosity got the better of her and she accompanied Ms. Butt to a local jazz club (Miss Baptist kept calling it a “juke joint”), where as it happened the evening’s entertainment was Gary Bartz & NTU Troop. During one of Andy Bey’s funky electric piano solos, Bertha threw all modesty to the wind and astonished all onlookers as she performed dance moves she picked up working in a New Orleans brothel ten years earlier before she found The Lord her savior. It was the one and only time anyone in New York would ever see her dance. Bassist Stafford James wrote a song in her honor. He also looks curiously like Bertha’s only child, William, born about six months after this record was released.

Africans Unite. Feels like we´ve discussed this already. Pan-African transatlantic solidarity, percussion frenetic yet easy on the ears, a folk melody building to a chant of “Let’s do it now”. A Bartz original composition with fluid riffing over the stuttering rhythmic base. Teheran. Well it’s a few years too early to be about the Iranian Revolution. The song is as mysterious to me as it was probably intended to be, Bartz seducing us in serpentine Phrygian-mode rivulets of sound, a shimmering tapestry of gongs as a backdrop in the king’s palace, Howard King playing his toms and snare drums with mallets and laying down heavy on an open high-hat and cymbals. (Side note — this is the track that has the most ‘clicks and pops’ from the vinyl. The presence of so much sibilance from the cymbals and gongs and other percussion made it risky to try and remove these clicks and I opted to leave them in rather than potentially lose frequencies by trying to clean them up.)

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs
Prestige Records (P-10057) 1972

A1 I Wanna Be Where You Are 10:04
A2 Black Maybe 9:38
B1 Bertha Baptist 6:32
B2 Africans Unite 6:30
B3 Teheran 8:20

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, remaining clicks removed manually in Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced

Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Sopranino, Voice, Electric Piano, Percussion – Gary Bartz
Bass, Electric Bass, Voice, Percussion – Stafford James
Drums, Voice, Percussion – Howard King
Vocals, Electric Piano, Percussion – Andy Bey

Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California, October 1972.
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Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs (1972) in 320kbs em pee tree

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO (16-bit, 44.1 khz)

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs in 24-bit, 96khz FLAC

Note that the file sets will actually have 1973 as the year, which is erroneous. Please correct this mistake yourself if it matters to you.

*(Look around the internet for some ‘user reviews’ of some Gil Scott-Heron albums — you the site I mean — and you may find the ranting of one reactionary man who insists Gil’s music has absolutely nothing of value to offer to white Americans like himself. Don’t take my word for it, go and look.)

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