VA – Spiritual Jazz: Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz from the Underground 1968-1977 (2009)


Various – Spiritual Jazz: Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz from the Underground 1968-1977
Jazzman/Now-Again (NA5042)

01. James Tatum / Introduction 4:32
02. Lloyd Miller / Gol-E Gandom 4:09
03. Morris Wilson-Beau Bailey Quintet / Paul’s Ark 3:18
04. P.E. Hewitt / Bada Que Bash 4:09
05. Mor Thiam / Ayo Ayo Nene 5:44
06. The Lightmen Plus One / All Priases To Allah (Parts 1-2) 4:28
07. Ndikho Xaba / Nomusa 8:46
08. Salah Ragab / Neveen 7:51
09. Positive Force / The Afrikan In Winter 4:15
10. Frank Derrick Total Experience / No Jive 5:09
11. Hastings Street Jazz Experience / Ja Mil 3:33.14
12. Ronnie Boykins / The Will Come, Is Now 12:29
13. Leon Gardner / Be There 3:30
14. Ohio Penitentiary 511 Jazz Ensemble / Psych City 3:03


This post is for Sir Chadwick the Golden, who mentioned it about nine months ago. Like always, Flabbergast is as timely as an unwanted pregnancy and so this post has taken about nine months or so to finally arrive. At this point he has probably gone out and found himself a copy, but if not then I hope he enjoys this quality rip of a top-notch collection from Jazzman Records, a label that has yet to disappoint me with any of their releases. Chadwick had mentioned that the album was curiously, and pleasantly (for his ears) free of spiritual-jazz yodeling. Indeed, there is no Leon Thomas anywhere on this album, and aside from some appearances from Lester Bowie and an entry from Salah Ragab, the majority of the artists on this album will likely be unfamiliar to all but the most astute and studious of rare groove stalwarts. And that is no big surprise: the bulk of the material here is culled from rare 45’s and LP’s pressed privately and-or in very small quantities. I’ve felt my own consciousness expanded by this compilation and have definitely been turned on to a bunch of wonderful artists through its existence. The whole album is so consistently good that I have to fall back on one of my own clichés and say that it’s too hard to pick out highlights. But if you put a bop-gun to my head and made me start talking, I’d say the album really begins to make a believer out of me by the time it takes flight with B.D. Hewitt’s Jazz Ensemble and their track “Bada Que Bash” with scatlike vocalizations that remind me of the best of Andrew Hill or Donald Byrd’s work in that vein. The following track is the bona-fide monster of the collection – “Ayo Ayo Nene” by Senegalese percussionist Mor Theme and featuring a pre-Art Ensemble appearance by Lester Bowie, it’s a funky as hell global trot of transnational infusions and Afrocentric celebration from his album “Drums of Fire.” Ndikho Xaba and The Natives deliver some post-Coltrane-via-South-Africa modality with a heavy soul arrangement. Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band blow our minds with a piece of Latin-soul-jazz-Arabian-funk from the impossibly rare 1972 album “Prism Music Unit.” Ragab’s band is better known via an association with Sun Ra’s Arkestra that would come a decade later, and unfortunately he recorded very little of his own, all of it precious. The wonderful liner notes fill in the story of the Cairo Jazz Band’s creation.

Another incomparable treasure on this album is from the Detroit collective The Positive Force featuring Ade Olutunji, led by Kamall Kenyatta. The impetus for the group ame largely through Ade’s participation in the 1977 FESTAC festival in Lagos (the same event, incidentally, which brough Gilberto Gil more directly in touch with Mother Africa and Caetano Veloso more in touch with his own narcissism but which would yield his last decent album he ever made, Bicho). As the aforementioned lovely booklet with this CD mentions, The Positive Force was conceived more as a collaborative art project combining music and poetry, and the sole album they recorded (in Highland Park, Michigan!) was only sold at their performances. Even more highlights from Detroit’s oft-overlooked and under-celebrated jazz scene during the 1970s is the cut here by the Hastings Street Jazz Experience with a tune called “Ja Mil”. The band is simply too huge to list all the musicians in this post but features vocals by Kim Weston (on loan from Motown and an old high school friend of bandleader Ed Nelson), as well as Phil Ranelin on trombone (Tribe Records) and Walter Strickland (Sun Ra’s Arkestra) on sax. More Sun Ra connections arrive via bassist Ronald Boykins, whose one and only LP as a bandleader (for the ESP label) gets represented here with the brooding “The Will Come, Is Now”. The next track, Leon Gardner’s “Be There”, is a head trip of the first order. Undoubtedly the weirdest thing on here, it features and uncredited band with undeniable jazz chops led and arranged by Horace Tapscott, and virtuoso verbosity via Mr. Gardner who seems to be cautioning us to watch out and make sure that we be there. The album closes with the Ohio Penitentiary 511 Ensemble, which while having what is easily one of the most interesting background stories, offers up one of the least interesting musical pieces, “Psych City.” But it’s a good and laid back two-chord vamp to jam out the tail end of the record, with the additional fun of a farfisa piping away quietly in the right channel.

Given the rarity and scarcity of this precious source material, sound quality is not particularly stunning on some of this collection. This is not actually a *complaint* from me this time – and not just an observation, I mention it because I have a suggestion: this album deserves a listen with a good pair of headphones. For those of us with sound systems that cost less than a new automobile, a good pair of headphones can help bring out some of the details that get lost in the harmonic distortions of a lot of speaker systems. Of course I could just be saying that because I am listening on a comfortable pair of Senheisser’s as I write this, and previously I had only cranked up this record on the stereo at home. I feel like I missed a lot of the music that way, so if you dig this album give some `phones a try.

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Masahiko Satoh & Soundbreakers – Amalgamation (1971)


Masahiko Satoh & Soundbreakers – Amalgamation
Label: Phoenix Records (ASH3040CD)
Originally released 1971 on Liberty (LTP-9018)
Reissued 6 Dec 2010
1 Side One1 15:50
2 Side Two 21:18

Composed By, Conductor, Arranged By – Masahiko Satoh
Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder
Produced by Creed Taylor

Part 1 recorded August 17, 13:00~19:00 at Toshiba Records 1st studio.
Edited September 18, 13:00~20:00 at Toshiba Records room A

Part 2 recorded August 22, 13:00~19:00 at Toshiba Records 1st studio.
Edited August 30, 10:00~20:00 at Toshiba Records 2nd studio & October 24, 10:00~18:00 at Toshiba Records 2nd studio.

It has almost begun to feel like a tradition that whenever something horrible happens in the world, I have to dedicate a post to the atrocity, tragedy, and heroism of the moment. Over the last week as I’ve followed the BBC World Service and listened to the death toll in Japan rise every day with estimates that the count won’t be over until it reaches the 10,000 mark or higher, I have felt myself grow mute, reverent, and cautious. Cautious not to add my voice to the clamor of pundits; reverent of the magnitude of entire cities lost, generations of families shattered, of spectral genetic memories of nuclear disaster and potential holocaust; mute in the face of the inability of the thousands upon thousands of humanitarian aid workers to do any more than they are doing. Unlike Haiti, this is unfolding in one of the most developed countries in the world, one that has been utterly prepared for such a disaster for decades and whose government, by most accounts, has done a pretty commendable job of dealing rapidly with the disaster. Mute in the face of such enormous human suffering that almost dictates that anything I might say will seem trite. I have no sophisticated, penetrating analysis or discourse to offer.


So why not leave it to music, once again, to say what I cannot. This album of experimental jazz and psychedelia was completely unknown to me until fairly recently and seems to resonate somehow with all of this. Recorded in Japan in the early seventies by none other than Rudy Van Gelder and Creed Taylor (who seem to have left it off their resumé or simply disowned it), with Detroit drummer Louis Hayes, the record is equal parts terror and beauty, violence and respite. Swells of organ that remind me vaguely of Larry Young engulf noisy blasts of percussion and saxophone and tape loops of what sound like either military exercises of street protests. More stunning still is the realization that this ‘free’ music is fairly tightly composed as well. At times the whole things sounds like it could fit comfortably in a Krautrock discography as well. I’ll include here a review from Julian Cope, because I like his writing more than the usual music-journalist dry filler.

Big thanks to my friend Cheshire for turning me on to this and passing it along.

This preposterous piece of psychedelic avant-jazz sounds like the work of aliens, each with only one foot in our universe. Propelled by cacophonous brassy blasts, volleys of machine-gunning, ecstatically ‘Light Fantastic’ rhythms and moments of Teo Macero-style ‘Mixing Concrète’ (during which the whole track becomes consumed by waves of new sound); the result is the most singular mash-up of inappropriate sounds any listener is ever likely to hear. Over two side-long tracks, shamen Masahiko Satoh sends us through a sonic mind-field, baffling our senses and our sense of gravity. Located at the centre of AMALGAMATION’s giddy sessions was the frantic Detroit drumming of hard-bop legend Louis Hayes, whose role it was to play the bubbling ever unfolding fundament on which Masahiko Satoh’s whole trip proceeded, as though the rhythm section were a magic carpet constantly being pulled out from under the feet of the other performers. Over this rhythmic shaking, Satoh scattered Hammond organ around and ring-modulated* his Fender Rhodes piano solos (*Roland built three especially for the record), added lead guitar from ‘super session’ legend Kimio Mizutani, trumpets and sax from Mototeru Takagi, scat singing from Kayoko Itoh, and strings from the Wehnne Strings Consort. As if to further disorientate us, the composer divided the single fifteen-minute track of side one into ten absurd titles (eg ‘The Atomic Bomb Was Not Follen’ [sic]), and the single twenty-one minutes of side two similarly (‘Here Me Talking to Ya’, ‘Ancient Tales of Days to Come’), though both tracks are intended as single pieces, being encoded thus on CD re-issues. Essential stuff. [Julian Cope]

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


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).


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…

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


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

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Charles Mingus – Mingus at the Bohemia (1955)


Charles Mingus – Mingus at the Bohemia
Recorded December 23, 1955, at Cafe Bohemia, NYC
Released originally on Debut Records*
(*Listed usually as a 1955 release, I don`t see how this is possible given the recording date…)I am a bit humbled and dumbstruck when it comes to the prospect of writing anything about Charles Mingus. To tell you what a genius the man was at this point would be like telling you the world is round. More learned men than I have stoked the fires of musical curiosity by hurling superlatives on this jazz giant. So I will leave you, for once, with just the music. This record is a precious live document of Mingus’s Jazz Composer’s Workshop. The liner notes from pianist and workshop member Mal Waldron give a fairly detailed synopsis of what is going on in terms of composition and improvisation that — should your ears fail you in this respect – give you a better idea of just how progressive this `progressive jazz` ensemble really was in 1955. Bebop, big band, avant garde, tuneful, dissonant, weaving simultaneous melodies, committing acts of creative plagiarism. In listing the lineup below the tracklist, I have noted some of the musician’s other credits outside the Workshop in order to further illustrate the vast scope of this project. The work of Mingus truly bridged entire universes of sound.
Jump Monk
Serenade In Blue
Percussion Discussion
Work Song
All The Things You C-Sharp
bonus cuts:
alternate takes of “Jump Monk” and “All The Things You C-Sharp”
Trombone – Eddie Bert (Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz)
Tenor Sax – George Barrow (Oliver Nelson)
Piano – Mal Waldron (Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Steve Lacey, Abbey Lincoln)
Drums – Willie Jones, Jr. (Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Sun Ra)

Special guest Max Roach (everyone) on “Percussion Discussion”


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Gato Barbieri – Bolivia (1973) with Lonnie Liston Smith


Gato Barbieri
1973 on Flying Dutchman Records (FD-10158)
This pressing 2001, BMG France

Eclypse / Michellina
Vidala Triste

Produced by Bob Thiele

Bass – J.-F. Jenny-Clark , Stanley Clarke
Drums – Airto Moreira, Pretty Purdie (Merceditas only)
Guitar – John Abercrombie
Percussion – Airto Moreira , Gene Golden , James M’tume* , Moulay “Ali” Hafid
Piano, Electric Piano – Lonnie Liston Smith
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Vocals – Gato Barbieri

The corporeal memory of pleasures briefly known and longing barely quenched. Her skin still ageless, her scent rich in my lungs, we drifted off together in exhaustion. She left me there sleeping, a note on the kitchen table. She left me there dreaming the Bolivarian dream of an America united across the hemispheres. She left me a folheto she bought from a street hawker who recited it for us from beginning to end and offered to continue with more. She may have bought it just to silence him and send him on his way, a bribe to leave us to our own private somnambulist poetry. A crowded street in the old city, as he walked away from us I barely noticed that all sound faded into a steady hum of a single note in the dark regions of my awareness, hearing only her voice; of all color fading into a uniform grey, seeing only her pale skin in the half-light. All senses withdrawn into one still point of awareness. She left me lost in the Bolivarian dream as she went back to the arms of the beast that bore me, the colossus of the north yawning and stretching its million arms to every corner of this dying earth. Our homes were exchanged in a backroom trade between our saints arm-wrestling the invisible hand that feeds us. They lost. The body memory of longing never quenched and peace in the future conjunctive. Even the strongest of unions could barely hold out against the fading of that dream.


This is another beautiful record from Gato Barbieri, making music quite unlike anything else going on at the time and with an ensemble that’s hard to beat. Lonnie Liston Smith receives co-billing on the front cover, and its no coincidence as his Cosmic Echoes band was putting out their first album on Flying Dutchman the same year. The opening track “Merceditas”, having no less than Pretty Purdy, Airto, and M’tume playing together, would seem to be a climax before foreplay, and in any other hands that might be the case. Barbieri pulls this off, though, as the strength of the rest of material is more than enough to carry the album. The title track is particularly rich, beautiful and terrifying. It is difficult for me to write about this record because the liner notes from Nat Hentoff, a much better writer than I’ll ever be, humble the movement of my pen. I will, however, freely quote from him:

“The life-affirming, surging spirit of these performances – with their supple range of colors, rhythms, soaring melodies – is the essence of that basic, visceral beauty that gives hope to lovers and revolutionaries and to all those who believe in real life before death. His music is an embodiment of perennial possibility that is made of blood and flesh rather than vaporous dreams. Gato, in sum, is among the the least abstract of musicians because he is so explosively, specifically alive.”


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