The Last Poets – Chastisement (1973)

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The Last Poets – Chastisment
1972 Blue Thumb Records – BTS 39
This reissue, Celluloid Records, 1992

Tribute To Obabi (Ogun) 10:16
Jazzoetry 3:46
Black Soldier 5:56
E Pluribus Unum 4:38
Hands Off 4:05
The Lone Ranger 0:28
Before The White Man Came 3:43
Bird’s Word 6:10

   Artwork By – Jim Dyson
Bass – Jon Hart (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Congas – Obabi, Omiyinka (tracks: A1, A2, B5), Omonide (tracks: A1)
Cowbell – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A1)
Engineer – Tony Bongiovi
Other [Undefined] – Last Poets, The* (tracks: B3)
Photography – Edmund Watkins
Producer – Last Poets, The, Stefan Bright
Saxophone [Alto] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, B5)
Saxophone [Tenor] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Shaker – Bessermer Taylor (tracks: A1)
Vocals – Monjile (tracks: A1), Okantomi (tracks: A1), Olubiji (tracks: A1)
Voice [Poet] – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)
Written-By – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B1, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)

Produced by The Last Poets and Stefan Bright for True Sound Communications, Inc.
Recorded at Media Sound Studios, New York City
Manager for The Last Poets: Obawole Akinwole
All Selections: Spoet Publishing Corporation

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I had a request to repost this one, so here it is.  The early work of the Last Poets, like Leroi Jones/Amiri
Baraka, or Gil Scott-Heron, has to be contextualized in the Vietnam era
of post-MLK, post-Malcom X Afrocentricity, anger and indignation, or else any
interpretations you make are going to be as clueless as the kind of stuff they publish on, let’s say, the All Music Guide…  Anyway, the Poets records are ones I listen to
occasionally rather than frequently (in contrast,for example, to Gil’s work), not
so much because of its intensity but because they are more interesting
poetically than musically most of the time.  This record has a lot more
variety than their first two, however, although not as much as the next one, “At Last” which is probably the most compelling to my ears.  The jazz elements in the instrumentation that are only occasionally present here are given pride of place on “At Last” so that also probably explains my predilection for it.   (Unfortunately for “Chastisement” one of those tracks here is “Bird’s Word” which is a bit tediously didactic.)  The opening cut plays like a
long candomblé or santeria invocation, drawing down the blessing of the
Orixás on the rest of the music that follows.  It goes without saying that The Poets didn’t shy away from polemic.  The track Black Soldier questions the priorities of Black men going to fight in a foreign land in the name of a country that was also making war on their own people in the streets, “helping your oppressor oppress another man.”  Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin served as a paratrooper but was discharged for not saluting the flag; he’s sympathetic towards soldiers but thinks their skills could be put to better use at home.  The track is so tightly written, packed with excoriating critique, that it’s unjust to single out single lines.  But when they end the cut by warning that the violence in Newark and Detroit “wasn’t a riot, it was a dress rehearsal for things to come”, it’s chilling enough to make it clear why these guys were in the sights of COINTELPRO.     This album is also
impressive in that, given how much this music is tied in with a
particular place and time, it still sounds refreshingly relevant,
sometimes unnervingly and depressingly so:  listen to E Pluribis Unim
and you might think you’re hearing an anthem written for the Occupy
movement.  A classic, solid record all the way – I just wish they would get around to reissuing “At Last” already.





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Sam Rivers – Dimensions & Extensions (1967)

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SAM RIVERS
Dimension & Extensions

Recorded on March 17, 1967 at the Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
First issued in 1976 on Blue Note BNLA 453 as part of the double album “Involution” (the second half of which is an Andrew Hill session).
Issued as an individual album with the original cover for the first time in 1986 (BST 84261)
CD Reissue is 1998 Blue Note RVG Remaster

1 Precis 5:18
2 Paean 5:23
3 Effusive Melange 5:49
4 Involution 7:12
5 Afflatus 6:25
6 Helix 5:31

Alto Saxophone, Flute – James Spaulding
Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Steve Ellington
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sam Rivers
Trombone – Julian Priester
Trumpet – Donald Byrd

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Producer – Alfred Lion
Recorded By, Remastered By – Rudy Van Gelder
Reissue Producer – Michael Cuscuna

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The Earth lost another musical giant when Sam Rivers passed away this week (Dec 26) at the age of 88 years. The man had a long career in which he put out a ton of music of a very high caliber. I lament that I never saw him perform live, particularly as I had the chance once and somehow missed it — I can’t remember what my reason was, but it better have been a good one. Fortunately I’ve been a fan of his records for a long time, and he sure left us a lot of those.

The first music I heard from him were the albums he recorded for Impulse (in particular, ‘Hues’) which were done right at the time when he was a key figure in the loft music scene happening in New York. But he put out so much and on so many labels (Black Saint, ECM, Mosaic, and quite a few smaller labels) it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. He had the unlucky fortune of getting on the Blue Note roster right before the label was sold to Liberty, and as the release history listed above should make clear (and the liner notes from Robert Palmer and Bob Blumenthal make much clearer), this particular album had a very odd legacy indeed. It was recorded in 67, assigned a catalog number, and had classic Blue Note album cover artwork done for it — only to sit on the shelves for a decade before ever seeing the light of day. When it finally did, it was issued as part of a double album that also featured Rivers playing with Andrew Hill’s group. It was finally issued under the original title “Dimensiosn & Extensions” in the 1980s.

This is exhilarating stuff and it’s hard to see how it stayed under the radar for so long. Driving bass work from Cecil McBee (a frequent sideman for Rivers) under-girds what is at times a wall of brass and reeds (courtesy of Julian Priester, Donald Byrd, and James Spaulding). Rivers is unique for a lot of reasons, one of them being that for someone associated with ‘free jazz’ he probably owes as much or more to Charlie Parker than to Coltrane. There is both intimacy and a certain swing in most everything he touched, and one line Palmer wrote about this album pretty much nails it: “Never has atonality in jazz writing sounded this warm.” He was equally at ease in small trio settings as he was playing in or leading big ensembles. He recent four albums recorded as Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra are all excellent and leave it very clear that the man was still in full possession of his creative powers and abilities in writing, arranging and performing top-notch stuff well into his 80s.

Rest easy, Mr. Rivers. You will be missed.

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Baden Powell – Programa Ensaio (1990) (SESC)

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Baden Powell
Programa ENSAIO
Part of “A MÚSICA BRASILEIRA DESTE SÉCULO POR SEUS AUTORES E INTÉRPRETES”
Boxset #2

Originally recording from the Fundação Padre Ancheita for Programa Ensaio in 1991
Directed by Fernando Faro
Released in 2000 by SESC – SP (JCB-0709-021)

1 Voltei(Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)
2 Revendo o passado (Freire Jr.)
3 Naquele tempo(Benedito Lacerda, Pixinguinha)
4 Palhaço(Washington Fernandes, O. Martins, Nelson Cavaquinho)
5 Minha saudade (João Donato, João Gilberto)
6 Rapaz de bem (Johnny Alf)
7 Samba triste (Baden Powell, Billy Blanco)
8 Deixa (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
9 Tem dó (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
10 O astronauta (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
11 Samba em prelúdio (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
12 Formosa (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
13 Bocoché (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
14 Canto de Yemanjá (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
15 Tristeza e solidão (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
16 Canto de Ossanha (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
17 Canto de capoeira (Folclore)
18 Berimbau( Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
19 Lapinha (Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)
20 Falei e disse (Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)

Beginning sometime in the late 90s, the SESC – São Paulo branch began preparing a series of boxsets. SESC is an arts foundation that is mostly or perhaps entirely state-funded, and thus able to produce live concerts, CDs, books, and videos that are invaluable for the researcher or lover of Brazilian music. For this project, the objective was to collect the audio portion of the programs fillmed for the extinct TV Tupi which ran under the names of ‘Ensaio’ and ‘MPB Especial’ but were both essentially the same program conceived and produced by Fernando Faro, as far as I know. They are famous for the informal atmosphere in which the musicians, individually or with a small group for accompaniment, being interviewed about their lives and careers in between playing songs related to the conversation. Sort of like a musical biography. But the programs were also famous for the oddity that the questions are never heard in the final production — just the answers. Nobody I have talked to in Brazil seems to know why this is, and everyone finds it kind of strange and amusing. I plan to call the SESC office in São Paulo and get to the bottom of it one day.

These boxes were originally released with a fairly large book in each package. The book contained the complete transcripts of the interviews as well as essays about the artists by various authors like Tarik de Souza and Sérgio Cabral. Unfortunately, these books are no longer available, but I was surprised just to learn that the CDs still existed, since they had been described to me as ‘very rare’ when in fact they can still be found.

This is not my favorite disc in the SESC boxes( hell, I haven’t gotten through listening to 25% of the CDs yet, as each box contains on average 12 CDs each) but its very good. Obviously those who understand Portuguese will benefit more from the interview portions, which on this set includes an amusing story of Vinicius de Moraes accusing Baden of plagiarizing Chopin while they were working together, and insisting they wake up his sister in the middle of the night to confirm it. Other than the interviews, Baden’s playing is top-notch, and his singing voice is, well, basically the same as it ever was — at times ‘desafinado’ but somehow perfect for his music. All good stuff with the exception of his performance of ‘Lapinha’ which I find really abrasive and irritating for some reason

I was somewhat surprised to find an actual review of this disc, on the cool site and useful resource ‘Clique Music’:

O violão de Baden Powell influenciou uma geração inteira de instrumentistas, dos anos 60 pra cá. Na entrevista ao programa Ensaio feita em 1990 e reproduzida neste disco da coleção lançada pelo Sesc-SP, Baden traça sua vida e sua carreira em uma hora de música (só voz e violão) e conversa. Muito apropriadamente em se tratando de um músico profissional desde os 15 anos de idade, a memória de Baden se dá através das música. Da infância e adolescência, com influência do pai – o entusiasta de escotismo que tocava violino e lhe deu as primeiras noções de música –, Baden se lembra tocando a valsa Revendo o Passado (Freire Jr) e Naquele Tempo, de Benedito Lacerda e Pixinguinha, aqui numa versão com ecos do espanhol Agustín Barrios (1885-1944), compositor que pontuou os estudos clássicos de Baden. Pixinguinha, ele conheceu na casa do primeiro e grande professor de violão, o lendário Meira (“que me ensinou tudo de violão”) e na Rádio Nacional. Criado em São Cristóvão, Baden também freqüentava a Mangueira, e não esconde sua admiração por Nelson Cavaquinho. Pois aqui está a oportunidade de ouvir o violonista tocando Palhaço, grande sucesso de Nelson na voz de Dalva de Oliveira. Nos anos 50, as lembranças voam para as noitadas da boate Plaza, onde, aos 16 e 17 anos, tocava ao lado de Ed Lincoln, Luiz Eça, Johnny Alf, Tom Jobim (ainda estudante de arquitetura), João Donato, e às vezes esbarrava com um certo “Joãozinho”, que, depois que todos os clientes iam embora, sentava e tocava em seu violão “umas coisas assim, tipo ‘bim bom, bim, bom’”, que mais tarde viriam para revolucionar a música brasileira. “O Plaza foi o início de tudo”, lembra Baden, tocando Minha Saudade (João Donato/João Gilberto), Rapaz de Bem (Johnny Alf) e Samba Triste, seu primeiro sucesso, parceria com Billy Blanco, de uma época em que tocava com Dolores Duran. Um pouco mais tarde, no início dos anos 60, veio a parceria com Vinicius de Moraes. Dessa dupla as histórias são muitas e já conhecidas. Algumas são aqui confirmadas pelo compositor, como a de que, pouco depois de terem se conhecido, Baden foi para a casa de Vinicius fazer uma música e acabou morando lá por quatro meses, quando produziram um quantidade respeitável de obras-primas. Não por acaso, dez das vinte músicas do disco são assinadas pela dupla Baden Powell-Vinicius de Moraes. Há muitas outras boas histórias, como a de que Formosa foi feita com Vinicius em homenagem a uma passageira do trem São Paulo-Rio (que os dois pegaram porque morriam de medo de avião) ou a de que Paulo César Pinheiro, seu parceiro em Lapinha e outros tantos sucessos, morava na casa em São Cristóvão onde Baden havia sido criado.

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Bembeya Jazz National – The Syliphone Years (2004)

Sterns Music

Bembeya Jazz National
The Syliphone Years
Recordings from the 1960s and 1970s
2-CD Anthology released by Sterns Africa 2004
Liner notes in French and English by Graeme Counsel

DISC ONE

1. Republique Guinee
2. Sabor de guajira
3. Armee Guineenne
4. Dembaty Galant
5. Air Guinee
6. Guinee Hety Horemoun
7. Montuno De La Sierra
8. Waraba
9. Dagna
10. Doni Doni
11. Camara Mousso
12. Super Tentemba
13. Mami Wati
14. Alalake

DISC TWO

1. Beyla
2. Fatoumata
3. Moussogbe
4. Sou
5. N’Gamokoro
6. Ballake
7. Mussofing
8. Dya Dya
9. Sino Mousso
10. N’Temenna
11. Telephone
12. Petit Sekou

I don’t usually like to just cut and paste reviews from other places in lieu of my own thoughts and commentary. But not only am I running around trying to settle a nasty visa issue this week, but I have also been sitting for months on a stack of amazing compilations from the likes of Sterns and Analog Africa and it’s about time I shared one of them. Since this one has a nice, well-written review from BBC, why not let them do the talking while I sip my morning coffee? I will just add: this is great music.

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BBC Review
“‘..its hard to fault this superlative and long overdue re-issue,which commemorates a truly golden era in African music.”

Jon Lusk 2004-12-21

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The music made in Guinea during the first two decades after independence from France in 1958 represents some of the most sublime and influential that any West African nation has ever produced. Backed by Sékou Touré’s socialist government, groups from every region of the country were encouraged to modernise their ancient musical traditions and were given the financial assistance to do so. And of all the musical riches that this policy unearthed, those of Bembeya Jazz National were the finest.

If you weren’t quite convinced by the band’s 2002 comeback album Bembeya, and the recent Guitar Fö from their mighty guitarist Sékou Diabaté, this 2-CD compilation really shows what all the fuss was about. It’s a thorough selection of their best work for the national Syliphone label, which began releasing local music in the mid 1960s. For those already familiar with compilations like Mémoire de Aboubacar Demba Camara -at least half of which is reproduced here -the first disc, which includes many early singles previously unavailable on CD, will be a revelation.

Highlights? Pretty much the whole damn thing, though it depends on your mood, such is the variety of styles they experimented with. All the ingredients that made their music so wonderful are there on their first single “République Guinée”; the trademark off-key brass section, grooving percussion, Sékou Diabaté’s exquisite guitar and the distinctively savoury vocals of Demba Camara. Apart from updating the griot songs of their largely Maninka heritage, the band revelled in outside influences.

Titles like “Sabor de Guajira”, “Montuno de la Sierra” and the rumba-flavoured gem “Dagna” illustrate the passion for Cuban music which they shared with many West African musicians of their generation. Likewise, “Mami Wata” is an affectionate nod to Ghanaian highlife, and “Sou” takes a short trip to Cape Verde. The compilation brings us as far as 1976, three years after the death of Demba Camara, by which time their sound was beginning to take on a soukous flavour.

Those who are fussy about sound quality should perhaps be warned that some of the recordings are copied from vinyl rather than the original master tapes, but also that this music is about ambience, not accuracy. The only major omission is anything from the epic Regard sur le Passé, probably because as Graeme Counsel’s excellent sleevenotes explain it consists of a single song spread over two sides of vinyl, and is best heard in its entirety. Otherwise, its hard to fault this superlative and long overdue re-issue, which commemorates a truly golden era in African music. If the brooding, majestic grace of Ballake doesn’t give you goosebumps, you should probably see a doctor soon. – Jon Lusk, BBC

Sterns Music


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Burnier e Cartier – Fotos Pra Capa do LP (1976)

Burnier & Cartier
“Fotos para capa do LP”
Released 1976 on EMI/ODEON

1 Minha mãe não sabe de mim (Claudio Cartier, Octávio Burnier, Wrigg)
2 D. João (Octávio Burnier, Reinaldo Pimenta)
3 Recreio (Octávio Burnier, Wrigg)
4 Elogio da loucura (Octávio Burnier, Wrigg, Strunck)
5 À beira de nada (Octávio Burnier, Wrigg)
6 Catarina Canguru (Claudio Cartier, Paulo Azevedo)
7 Dia ferido (Claudio Cartier, Octávio Burnier)
8 Lenda das amazonas (Octávio Burnier, Wrigg)
9 Ecoline (Claudio Cartier)
10 Sítio azul (Claudio Cartier)
11 Pedra pintada (Octávio Burnier)

Here is a nice and warm record that I first heard about through the blogosphere, through our friend JThyme’s blog I do believe, who in turn got turned on to them via Loronix if I’m not mistaken. Burnier & Cartier were a duo from Rio de Janeiro who recorded three albums between 1974 and 1978 and then seem to have dropped out of music. Octávio Bonfá Burnier (son of Luiz Bonfá) and Claudio Cartier had actually been composing together since 1968, and their first album, for RCA-Victor in 1974, featured musicians like Novelli, Bebeto, Paulo Mouro, and Chico Batera. As far as I can tell, none of this people played on THIS album.

The duo were signed to Odeon records at the recommendation of Milton Nascimento, and thus we see a couple former collaborators of Milton on the album — drummer Paulinho Braga and Luiz Alves on bass, both of whom would record a whole bunch of people (many of them very famous) during the 1970s and beyond.

Before I even knew this, the album reminded me a bit of the Clube da Esquina collective, but still different enough to have its own identity. All the songs have two acoustic guitars as the base of their arrangement, and their sound blends jazz-rock, mellow psychedelia, classical music, folk-rock, and some artsy, progressive baroque string arrangements. Um, I guess this might make them “fusion”? I dunno. Don’t be frightened. But in fact the last ten minutes of the album (composed of three overlapping tracks) is entirely instrumental (which has a certain Egberto Gismonti quality to it, although probably less adventurous).

In spite of having a name like a French-Canadian fur-trapping company, and looking like a Brazilian version of Seals & Crofts, these guys made some incredibly intriguing music. Although completely accessible, there is something tenaciously un-commercial about their sound that perhaps explains why these albums are very hard to find. I am not certain if the first one is on CD (I found a copy a long time ago on a well-known blog). THIS title is one of the shoddier reissues on the 100 Anos de Odeon series, in terms of packaging — the good news is that the sound is actually very warm and nice. But not only is the album title not listed on the CD tray (leading it to be replicated in lots of published discographies as simply ‘Burnier & Cartier’ which is partly why I left it like this in the folder name), but the back tray card actually states that the album was released in 1968 (in the booklet, it is correctly stated to be from 1976). So much for giving such a beautiful album the care and attention it deserves when all a label like EMI cares about is its bottom-line. Good to know they were paying attention…

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Som 3 – Som/3 (1966)

SOM / 3
SOM 3
1966 Som Maior (SMLP – 1518)
Reissue 2005 as Som Livre 0238-2

1 Samblues (César Camargo Mariano)
2 Canto de Ossanha (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
3 Na baixa do sapateiro (Ary Barroso)
4 O bôlo (Walter Santos, Tereza Souza)
5 Um minuto (Sabá, Antoninho)
6 Cidade vazia (Luiz F. Freire, Baden Powell)
7 Deixa pra lá (Luiz F. Freire, Sérgio Augusto)
8 Tema 3 (César Camargo Mariano)
9 Cristina (César Camargo Mariano)
10 O morro não tem vez (Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
11 Margarida B (César Camargo Mariano)

Before pianist Cesár Camargo Mariano would go on to greater fame as the keyboardist, arranger, and husband of singer Elis Regina, he also worked with Lenny Dale and Claudette Soares, and was a founding member of bossa jazz trios Sambalança (with Airto Morreira)and Som 3. This is the first-rate debut bossa jazz album from the latter trio Som/3 (later spelled Som Três) which was comprised of Mariano (piano), Sabá (bass) and Toninho (drums). All the tunes are rather short but still manage to incorporate some gripping jazz riffing. In particular, Baden Powell’s “Canto de Osanna” is given a really lovely treatment here. The classic Ary Barroso samba “Na baixa do sapateiro” gets a gorgeously laid-back swinging groove. Tom Jobim’s and Vinicius’ “O Morro Não Tem Vez” gets funkified full of blue notes and somehow manages to sound like samba in the end anyway. The album kicks off with a an original from César, the amphetamine-jazz of “Samblues.” The original pieces on the album, of which there are plenty, are all pretty excellent, and include one written exclusively by the Sabá and Toninho (Um minuto) that makes me wonder why they didn’t contribute more compositions. Som Três continued to put out albums until the early 70s, some of which are now very rare, and developing a more commercial style that incorporated vocals along with jazz-bossa versions of popular tunes (in particular some groovy versions of Jorge Ben songs). But for jazz fans, this first album is the place to start.

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