Gary Bartz – Anthology 1970-1977 (2004)

Gary Bartz
2004 Soul Brother Records (CD SBPJ 23)
Made in England
Recordings from 1971 – 1977

1 Celestial Blues 7:35
2 Uhuru Sasa 6:47
3 Drinking Song 5:16
4 Dr. Follow’s Dance 2:39
5 I’ve Known Rivers 8:34
6 I Wanna Be Where You Are 7:14
7 Ju Ju Man 9:11
8 Sea Gypsy l 6:19
9 Gentle Smiles s 4:22
10 Music Is My Sanctuary 6:21
11 Carnaval de l’Espirit 5:55
12 My Funny Valentine 7:11

Single-artist compilations are a difficult thing. It can be hard to represent an artist’s trajectory faithfully and still produce a coherently listenable document, let alone please everyone in the process, especially if the subject in question is a jazz artist. Soul Brother Records deserves massive props for pulling this off with this Gary Bartz anthology, which presents highlights from his most inspired post-bop output of the 1970s. My introduction to Bartz was, like many people, via his work with the Mizell Brothers, but there was so much, much more to the man’s legacy. Soul Brother makes the smart move of presenting this material in roughly chronological order beginning with selections from the incredible two volumes of “Harlem Bush Music.” Spiritual, socially-conscious, adventurous and above all soulful, this stuff soars and the vocals of Andy Bey qualify as one of the best-kept secrets of the universe.

Nobody seems to have passed through the ranks of Miles Davis’ various ensembles and come out unchanged but Bartz seemed to have been doing his own thing when Miles picked him up for a brief stint that yielded the semi-live album “Live Evil” (more complete material from those concerts appearing on 2005’s “Cellar Door” release). But performing with Davis’ post-Bitches Brew lineup (at the time including Airto on percussion, Keith Jarrett on electric piano, and McLaughlin still on guitar) may have inspired Bartz to stretch out even further in his work as a bandleader. But Bartz has plenty of other credits under his belt as a sideman, most prominently with McCoy Tyner but he’s also recorded with Woodie Shaw, Pharoah Sanders, and Charles Mingus.

The playing on the tune “Drinking Song”, the oldest piece on this collection, is simply fierce as the whole band raises your consciousness out of your bohemian apathy. Bartz pays homage to Langston Hughes with the track “I’ve Known Rivers” off the live record of the same name. Four entire tracks from the Mizell collaborations (the records “The Shadow Do” and “Music Is My Sanctuary”) may be a little disproportional considering that stuff already has wider exposure, but you won’t hear me complaining because it does indeed flow very nicely. Wrapping up the set with a sultry, melancholic reading of “My Funny Valentine” with vocalist Syreeta is a very nice finishing touch to this very satisfactory anthology. It’s also good to know that this disc apparently has Gary’s own approval as he wrote short note about the release and about music as a healing force to be included in the booklet.

I am so happy listening to this collection that I am planning on a mini-flood of Gary Bartz in the weeks to come, so prepare yourselves and meanwhile enjoy this teaser to whet your musical appetite.



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