Willie Colón & Rubén Blades – Siembra
1978 Fania Records (original)
2021 Craft Recordings / Concord (reissue)
If you are only going to have one salsa album in your collection, you could do much worse than a copy of Siembra. For fans of the music, I’ve heard many stories about the opening track, Plástico, that are typically along the lines of “I remember when I first heard that song and it blew my mind. Singer and lyricist Rubén Blades had only broken out of working in Fania’s mail room a few years prior — his first recording, if I’m not mistaken, was on Ray Barretto’s 1975 album, Barretto. And he seemed determined to do what activist Felipe Luciano, then of the Young Lords,was entreating young salsa musicians to do in this cool documentary of the period: create music that moved away from commercialism (and by the late 70’s Fania had perfect a “formula” for hit records, and was sticking to it…) and instead spoke to the lived experience of the struggling communities who embraced the music, both in New York and throughout Latin America.
So don’t be taken aback by the opening bars of disco that great your ears in the opening bars of Plástico: it’s not an experiment in musical hyrbids (which, if you frequent this blog, you know I’ll defend ’till the end of time), since it doesn’t recur anywhere else throughout the albums 43 minutes. Instead it is a musical meta-commentary on the lyrics about materialism and conformity, lyrics which conclude with a hopeful and exultant call to resist the crushing sameness. And the best news is:the rest of the album is equally good as this opening cut.
On this last day of this 12 Days of Christmas series, I’m trying to do my small part to take back January 6 for what it has traditionally been throughout Latin America (and not just the Spanish-speaking parts of it) — Three Kings’ Day – instead of the shitshow that date currently symbolizes in the U.S.
Barbara & Ernie – Prelude To…
Original release 1971 Atlantic
Reissue, 2013 Real Gone Music
I almost headed off to bed without posting Day 11 of this 12 Days of Xmas thing. It’s only the fifth day of the year and I’m already exhausted with stress. Too tired and strapped for time to give this album a proper tip of the hat. This record pushes all my buttons in all the right places. It’s a shame that Barbara Massey was relegated to background vocals for most of her career. Ernie Calabria had done lots of session work with the likes of Harry Belafonte and others. With Deodato doing the arranging, this is a treasure of soulful-psychedelic-folk-rock. #autoharp Continue reading
Grant Green – Alive!
2019 Blue Note 80 Series BST-84360 – Original Release 1970
Absolute barn-stormer of classic soul-jazz funk with a lineup that can’t be beat. Idris Muhammad is at his funkiest, but the other show-stealer is Ronnie Foster on the organ. Lean and mean stuff, if you dig this then you need to hear the Live at Club Mozambique from this same era, but which wasn’t issued until the 00’s. I=
Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim)
Mannenberg ~ ‘Is Where It’s Happening’
EMI – CDSRK(WL) 786134, The Sun – CDSRK(WL) 786134
Format:CD, Album, Reissue
Genre:Jazz, Style:Cape Jazz
I wasn’t planning on posting this record for the 12 Days of Christmas, insofar as there was ever a plan, which there wasn’t, but then who knew we would lose “The Arch”, Desmond Tutu (followed by an unnerving fire that destroyed the South African Parliament… the good news is they apparently saved the library). But the township of Manenberg – as well as this song named after it here, and the exiled South African artist formerly known as Dollar Brand – were all important to the story of resistance to the Apartheid government. The song even has quite an extensive Wikipedia entry. Today we would refer to the original release as an “EP”, featuring only two songs that clock in at under 27 minutes. One thing that has always struck me about South African / Cape Jazz is just how uplifting it sounds, and this track embodies that pretty well. One note about the artist’s name: Brand had converted to Islam in the late 60’s but continued to use his former stage name on recordings for quite a few years.
1. Mannenberg 13:36
2. The Pilgrim 13:00
Published By – As-Shams Music
Marketed By – As-Shams Music
Distributed By – EMI Music
Alto Saxophone – Morris Goldberg
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Robbie Jansen
Bass – Paul Michaels
Composed By, Arranged By, Photography By – Dollar Brand
Drums – Monty Weber
Piano – Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Basil Coetzee
Mirror 1 || Mirror 2
Mirror 1 || Mirror 2
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Witch Doctor
2021 Blue Note Tone Poet | Original release 1967
This is a fantastic 1961 session (not issued until ’67) with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Timmons, but man the drum solos are recorded horribly. Seems really odd, seeing as it was the drummer’s group… Nice Tone Poet pressing though, in general. One of my pandemic pleasures has been buying up lots of these Blue Note reissues of titles that have generally been beyond my reach; under Don Was’s stewardship of the catalog, they have been doing a first-rate job at making them available to people who are not willing or able to pay the ‘trophy hunter’ prices of the collectors market. There are occasional blips and hiccups in quality control — I returned a Paul Chambers release last summer which had very noticeable distortion which, according to a little research, seemed to afflict a whole bunch of copies in that pressing run. But by and large I have no complaints. Or at least few.
To me, Ronnie Lane was the heart & soul of the Small Faces & Faces. And if you ever found yourself drawn to the evocative, pastoral-esque ballads on the Faces records, then you owe it to yourself to give this debut from Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance a listen. The other day, after watching a film, I left Netflix on autoplay and it picked an awful-looking romantic comedy staring Jimmy O. Yang which I proceeded to tune out while washing dishes or something, until I heard a song off this album. I think it was a cover version and not actually Ronnie Lane. I could find by skipping to the credits but life is short, you know. Continue reading