Calvin Keys – Shawn-neeq (1971)

bj5_0001

Calvin Keys
Shawn-Neeq
1971 Black Jazz BJ/8

2005 Reissue

B. E.     7:25
Criss Cross     5:50
Shawn-Neeq     5:55
Gee-Gee     7:57
B. K.     9:21

Bass – Lawrence Evans
Drums – Bob Braye
Electric Piano – Larry Nash
Flute – Owen Marshall
Guitar – Calvin Keys

Producer – Gene Russell    Arranged By – Calvin Keys Continue reading

Charlie Mariano – Mirror (1972)

Charlie Mariano
Mirror
Release 1972 – Atlantic SD 1608
A1     Himalaya     5:56
A2     Shout     2:23
A3     F Minor Happy     5:13
A4     Theme From Summer Of ’42    5:04
B1     Mirror     8:36
B2     Vasi Bindu (Raindrops)     5:36
B3     Madras    3:07
    Acoustic bass – George Mraz
    Drums – Ray Lucas
    Electric Bass – Tony Levin
    Electric Piano, Organ – Pat Rebillot
    Guitar – David Spinozza
    Percussion – Airto Moreira, Ralph McDonald
    Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Nagasuram, Flute – Charlie Mariano
    Vocals (on “Mirror” only) – Asha Puthli
    Written-By – Charlie Mariano (except A4)
Produced and mixed by Arif Mardin
Recording engineer – Gene Paul

Although his name appears on classic records by Mingus, Chico Hamilton, Shelley Manne, Elvin Jones (hey, lots of drummers seem to like him), I think I first started really paying attention to Charlie Mariano through his work with the wonderful Toshiko Akiyoshi, to whom he was married for a few years in the 60s.  Incidentally this is also how I discovered Lew Tabackin, who became Toshiko’s second husband and formed a much longer musical partnership.  Along with Phil Woods, these artists constitute a group of highly prolific jazz cats about whom I’d love to spread some enthusiasm. Might as well start here, even if this is an atypical example.

I had no idea Mariano had made any records this heady until I stumbled on it.  The garish cover art, with a creepy eyeball thing glaring out at you, acts like a sort of magnet.  It either attracts or repels you away, depending on your musical polarity.  I’m not sure the album art does the music justice, and in fact I would nominate it for my art gallery of Garish and Gaudy 1970s Jazz-Funk Album Covers, a project I am initiating right now (other inductees include a Blue Mitchell record I picked up recently, and this amazingly fugly George Duke/Billy Cobham thing).

Musicians of Mariano’s caliber can pretty much do whatever they want and pull it off.  I don’t know what kind of soundscape he had in mind when he went into the studio to make this album, but with the help of some very competent friends, he created a canvas on which he could moan, wail, and shriek (pleasingly) on soprano and alto sax in ways I did not expect.  The band he put together to create this moody, genre-blurring music with vaguely spiritual inclinations is more than up to the task.  One pleasant surprise is the presence of a young Tony Levin on bass, years before he would start progging it up with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson.  Levin was not a complete stranger to soul jazz/funk sessions in the early 70s – other records I have with him from this period include Jack McDuff and Deodato – but this is probably the first time that he really stood out for me in this capacity.  This may partly be due to the fact that he is featured right alongside upright bassist George Mraz.  Levin lays down the lower register funk, freeing up Mraz to do more textured and melodic things in the upper register.

Airto is somewhat underutilized on this record.  He doesn’t seem fully present or into it all the time, sometimes more like a percussionist “playing in the style of Airto” rather than the man himself.  Perhaps Mariano kept his eccentricities on a short leash, or maybe this was just session #374 for Airto in 1972 and goddamnit what do you want from the guy, does he have to be on fire all the time or what? Keysman Pat Rebillot satisfies the urge to hear some Fender Rhodes and also favors us with some acid-drenched, reverby organ on the opening cut, but his solos don’t really push the music anywhere adventurous.  Session vet David Spinozza gets in some nice solos on the guitar, in particular on the title track.  Drummer Ray Lucas is one of those guys who probably never got his due recognition.  His credits include King Curtis, Roberta Flack, Eugene McDonald, Shirley Scott, Donny Hathaway and a ton of other people: he was even briefly a bandmate of Hendrix, as part of Curtis Knight and The Squires.  There is nothing flashy about his playing, it doesn’t call attention to itself, but it casts a solid foundation to build around, and provides agile fills and texture when needed.  Never underestimate the importance of simply playing time.  Indian singer Asha Puthli contributes vocals to the album’s titular track (she also appeared on Ornette Coleman’s “Science Fiction” sessions from the same year).  At first I thought this was wordless vocalizing before I checked the back of the LP cover and saw that she was singing the free verse poem there.  I’ll have to assume her voice is deliberately submerged in the mix, perhaps to trigger subliminal spiritual contemplation.

Deliberate, because producer Arif Mardin was no amateur.  That guy knew how to mix.  And this record sounds great.  In fact, in spite of the fact that I started with a not-quite-perfect copy (although in better shape than the cover would indicate), the sound is pretty solid.  This is not only the mixing but also the famous Monach Pressing Plant who should get a shout-out.  Quality control!

All of the compositions are by Mariano except for Michel Legrand’s famous “Summer of ’42” theme, which is here given a languid deconstruction where Charlie plays the flute.  Slow funk grooves are blended with modal and outside riffing.  The second track, “Shout,” is like the opening of a baptist tent revival meeting, with Charlie coaxing harmonics from his sax by overblowing furiously.  F-Minor Happy is very Deodato-esque (Deodatismo?), a more rough-hewn and stoney take on CTI-style jazz funk.  “Vasi Bindu (Raindrops)” is a free and open piece coming halfway through the second album side, as if to help us come down from the plateaus of the massive title track.  The album closes with the short “Madras,” which features Charlie on the nagasuram for the first time on this album.  This South Indian instrument ends the record on a truly ceremonial note, sounding a bit like Mariano may have been trying to beat Don Cherry to doing the soundtrack for The Holy Mountain.  It makes you sit up and pay attention.

This record goes pretty deep, but is also just a damn pleasurable listen that you can enjoy while going about your day.  I feel the need to point that out because a lot of the adjectives used in this post (heady, spiritual, free, modal) would tend to indicate a record that might get in the way of activities like reading a novel, making love, writing a novel, or tidying up the house (unless you are the type of person who likes to fold laundry and clean bathrooms while listening to Anthony Braxton or AEoC in which case this warning doesn’t apply to you).  I hereby declare this record completely safe for “taking care of business.”  It might uplift you and inspire you to seek enlightenment, but it won’t automatically induce a trance state, epileptic fit, or other central nervous system anomaly.

mp3 iconflac button  24bit

 

 

Azar Lawrence – Bridge Into The New Age (1974)

 photo R-1239842-1203011877_zps7056ae40.jpeg
 photo R-1239842-1203011896_zps019f6eef.jpeg

Azar Lawrence
Bridge Into The New Age
Prestige P-10086 1974
 
 
Bridge Into The New Age     6:45
Fatisha     4:05
Warriors Of Peace     7:59
Forces Of Nature     8:41
The Beautiful And Omnipresent Love     10:07

01 – Bridge Into The New Age  6:45

    Arranged By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – Clint Houston
Drums – Billy Hart
Lyrics By – Ray Straughter
Percussion – Guillerme Franco
Trumpet – Woody Shaw
Vibraphone – Woody Murray
Voice – Jean Carn
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

    02 – Fatisha     4:05

   Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Piano – Joe Bonner
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

03 – Warriors Of Peace  7:59

 Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur
Bass – John Heard
Congas, Percussion – Mtume
Drums – Ndugu
Piano – Joe Bonner
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

04     Forces Of Nature     8:41

    Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur
Arranged By, Written-By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – John Heard
Congas, Percussion – Mtume
Drums – Ndugu
Flute – Hadley Caliman
Piano – Joe Bonner
Trombone – Julian Priester

05 – The Beautiful And Omnipresent Love   10:07

    Arranged By – Ernie Straughter
Bass – Clint Houston
Drums – Billy Hart
Flute [Wood Flute], Lyrics By – Ray Straughter
Percussion – Guillerme Franco
Percussion [Intro Only] – Kenneth Nash
Trumpet – Woody Shaw
Vibraphone – Woody Murray
Voice – Jean Carn
Written-By – Azar Lawrence

Credits

Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Azar Lawrence
Art Direction – Phil Carroll
Engineer – Eddie Harris
Illustration  – Vincent Hollier

    Producer – Jim Stern, Orrin Keepnews

Notes
Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca.
Tracks 1 and 5 recorded September 1974
Tracks 2-4 recorded May 1974

Oh crap, it’s almost Carnival!  But I don’t have a Carnival blog post for you this year.  In fact I doing away with all topical posts – seasonal, obituary, holiday or otherwise.  I have decided to live in the Eternal Now from here on out, with my bongos and soul patch.  I did however consider posting this album at the beginning of the year when the daily news was just a shitstorm of horrors and negativity.  But the moment got away from me.

I confess, I’ve been holding out on you.  I’ve had this vinyl rip sitting on my computer hard drive for at least a year and a half.  There were some things about the transfer that bugged me a little and I
wanted to start it all over, with some minor adjustments to the equipment, but alas I never got around to it.  Now I have a new cartridge and was thinking about re-doing it again and finally just
realized this is getting way too obsessive-compulsive.  This is a great record, and having only been briefly available once in Japan on CD, not terribly easy to find in the digital realm.

 Now I love lots of Prestige stuff from the 70’s, but this first record by Azar Lawrence, a sax player in the modal mold of Coltrane, could have sat comfortably side by side with anything being released by the Strata-East
label, flush as it is with spiritual-jazz and Afrocentric accents.  The Black Jazz label comes to mind too, if only because it is book-ended with a pair of tracks featuring the not-yet-famous Jean Carn on vocals.  Presumably it Lawrence’s affiliation with (ex-Coltrane quarter member) McCoy Tyner, in whose band he played for a while in the early 70s, that brought him to the attention of Orrin Keepnews and the Milestone/Prestige/Fantasy family.

There are a bunch of heavyweights from the outer limits on this album. Julian Priester and Arthur Blythe have credits on one track each, while Woody Shaw shines on two, as does the ubiquitous Billy Hart on drums.  The singularly named soul searcher Mtume runs the drum and percussion throne on other tracks.   There are also some arrangement credits given to Ernie Straughter, who went on to contribute to a ton of more mainstream but funky modern soul records in addition to a Bobbi Humphrey album.  In all it’s an eclectic collection of a musicians for a very focused record.  Very upbeat and driven, even on the laid-back Fatisha. It occurred to me yesterday that the track “Warriors of Peace” would be perfect for an imaginary Blaxploitation film  It features a scene involving a few dozen Afro-hippies dressed in Egyptian headdresses, descending on the Pentagon, serving macrobiotic food to everyone, and handing out artisinal Shea butter to spread their message of universal harmony.  However, this could have been a side effect,  a combination of what sounds like a harmonic minor scale while walking around in the scorching heat where I am currently hiding out.  The heat will pass but this music shall remain.  Dig it.

Enjoy the Beautiful Omnipresent Love!

mp3 icon flac button24bit

The Awakening – Hear, Sense, and Feel (1972) [Black Jazz BJ9]

 photo BJ9_0001_zps4ac1aa92.png

The Awakening
Hear, Sense and Feel
1972 Black Jazz Records BJ9

1     Awakening – Prologue / Spring Thing     9:36
2     When Will It Ever End    7:16
3     Convulsions     6:37
4     Kera’s Dance     10:05
5    Jupiter     7:33
6     Brand New Feeling    5:50
7    Awakening – Epilogue     1:08


Bass – Reggie Willis
Drums – Arlington Davis, Jr.
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Frank Gordon
Piano, Electric Piano – Ken Chaney
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Ari Brown
Trombone – Steve Galloway
Electric bass on “Brand New Feeling” – Richard Evans

Produced by – Gene Russell
Recorded at Streeterville Studio, Chicago

———————————–

A lovely, dare I say a gorgeous record from jazz ensemble The Awakening, all of whose members seemed to have connections of the AACM collective founded by Muhal Richard Abrams in Chicago.   While Frank Gordon and Ken Chaney were co-credited as bandleaders, the record has the kind of musical egalitarianism you might expect.  Recording for the short-lived Black Jazz label, they were only around for about four years and put out two excellent albums of mostly mellow, modal, moody jazz in the more soulful corner of the Afrocentric “spiritual” jazz idiom.  In spite of having a track titled “Convulsions”, everything on the record is melodic, with the occasional free riffing or over-blowing coasting on top of solid grooves.  The record opens up with a invocation-type poem that leads into “Spring Thing,” which eases us into the album.  If I have any criticism of the record it might be that, while this first track features obligatory solos from everyone as a way of introducing their voices, it somehow ends up not particularly representing the musical identity of the group.  But that is okay, because 1972 was a time when people seemed to have more time to sit and listen to music and didn’t have to be `hooked` in the first few minutes to stay interested. Patience, my friend.  “When Will It End” has a circular-time thing going apropos of the title, with the bass playing a five-note ascending riff that barely changes over the course of seven minutes.  Chaney switches to electric piano for this one with delicious results.  Speaking of piano, for whatever reason, random association or coincidence, the two compositions by (trumpeter) Frank Gordon remind me a lot of McCoy Tyner

With the exception of special guest Richard Evans, who plays the only electric bass on the record on the funky closer “Brand New Feeling,”  the two members with the broadest pedigree outside the AACM seem to be Steve Galloway and Ken Chaney.  Galloway played with Count Basie in addition to credits on the cult-classic “Funky Skull” album by Melvin Jackson and a respectable number of soul sessions (Jerry Butler, The Dells, The Staples), and Ken Chaney, who among his other accomplishments played on the massive hit “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited.

“Hear, Sense, and Feel” is an immediately accessible, uplifting jazz record.  Their next album, “Mirage,” was a bit funkier and a little bit more “out” as well.

A long time ago I promised to share a whole bunch of stuff from the Black Jazz discography.  Well as the saying goes, promises were meant to be broken.  Anyway this should help ease the pain until I dip back into their catalog again here.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Egypt 80 – Army Arrangement (1985)

Photobucket
Photobucket

Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Egypt 80
“Army Arrangment”
Released 1985 on Celluloid (CELL 6109)
Reissued 2001 on MCA (314 549 381-2)

I am too upset and angry to write a commentary for this album. I stayed awake all night watching online live coverage of the situation in Egypt, then woke up and watched their Vice President talk absolute garbage, telling bald-faced lies, blaming the unrest on `outside agendas`, and basically threatening the protesters should they continue. This is coming after a night of attacks on peaceful demonstrators by agents provocateurs, plainclothes police officers, and paid thugs attempting to delegitimize the continued presence of popular manifestations. I think it is safe to say that in the eyes of most of the world, they have failed – the protests are legitimate, and this dictatorship has to come down, NOW. Journalists are now being rounded up and detained. The situation is, as the cliché goes, will probably get worse before it gets any better.

I spent a little while looking through my record collection in my stainless-steel bunker for any angry music from Egypt, wishing I had access to my secret vault in the Kayman Islands that holds the rest of my collection, and then looking through computer hard drives. I came up with this album. Unless you have been living under a rock or in a steel bunker for the last half century, you know that Fela Kuti was Nigerian, and not Egyptian. But he named his second band Egypt 80 for symbolic reasons, and this oft-overlooked album seems to fit my mood at least. Considerably less of a hard-edged sound than his earlier material (can we blame producer Bill Laswell? please say yes…) Anyway. Check it out.

I am sending out VIBES to the people of Egypt and especially those in Tahrir Square: DO NOT GO HOME. Do not give up. Do not believe anything your government says or any conciliatory advice from their “sympathizers” (apologists). Mubarak has had 30 years to prove himself amenable to the demands and criticisms of his own people. He has not. Time to go home, Mubarak. THERE SHALL BE NO COMPROMISE.

Outside influences? Really? Let me say something about outside influences. Egypt is the second largest recipient of United States military aid in the world. I am a citizen of the United States. I certainly never voted for this aid nor gave my support for it. The canisters of tear gas being volleyed at the protesters since the beginning had “Made in the U.S.A.” stamped on them. This makes me nauseous and ashamed.

It is a pathetic hypocrisy to DEPEND on “outside influences”, such as powerful allies like the Policeman-To-The-World that the US has been for a half century, and then claim that “outside influences” must be purged and foreign powers need to stop meddling in your affairs.

As Liston Lonnie Smith said — “CITIZENS OF THE WORLD! It’s time for WORLD PEACE.”

Get this motherfucker out of office.

————————

Artwork By [Concept] – Patrick Di Meglio
Artwork By [Picture] – Gilles Chagny
Bass Guitar – Herman Menimade Addo
Congas – Ola Ijagun
Drums – Francis Foster
Drums [Simmons] – Sly Dunbar (tracks: A)
Flugelhorn – Oye Shobowale
Guitar [Rhythm] – Chukwudi Aroga , Keji Ifarunmi
Guitar [Tenor] – Okalue Ojeah
Keyboards [Yamaha Rx 11], Talking Drum [Chatan], Cowbell – Aiyb Dieng (tracks: B1, B2)
Leader, Saxophone [Baritone] – Lekan Animashaum
Maracas – Fosibor Okafor*
Mastered By – Howie Weinberg
Organ [Hammond B3] – Bernie Worrell (tracks: A, B1)
Percussion [Sticks] – Lamptey Addo
Piano [Rhythm] – Dele Shosimi
Producer – Bill Laswell , Fela
Recorded By, Mixed By – Robert Musso
Saxophone [Alto] – Nana-Femi-Anikulapo Kuti
Saxophone [Baritone, 2nd] – Acheampong (Kolaoni)
Saxophone [Soprano] – Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Saxophone [Tenor] – Oyinade Adeniran
Talking Drum – Aiyb Dieng (tracks: A)
Trumpet [2nd] – Akomeah Dodo

** This is not my rip and I owe thanks to the SUN KING for it. I hope he doesn’t mind the reappropriation and resignification.

Photobucket

in 320 em pé tré

in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

secret codes to the insurgent uprising are in the commentaries

Photobucket
(alternate album cover)