Happy B-Day Parabens / Hank Mobley – A Caddy for Daddy (1966)

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Today, July 7, Flabbergasted Vibes is officially two years old! I write “officially” because it was actually migrated from a blog I had started on MySpace (who reads blogs on MySpace anyway?), and also I did not really put much thought into the posts for the first few months. It was just a way to share some enthusiasm about music for some of my friends who I often don’t get to see, which in a more broad sense it still is. So, a toast to one more year of sonic explorations and fickle musings at Flabbergasted Vibes!! Also, the age is associated with the English phrase of “the Terrible Twos”, a reference to the time when toddlers start to throw fits and scream a lot. So, when I consulted both the I-Ching and one of my Tarot decks about this, I received the divination that I will either be posting more cranky commentary, or crankier music, this year. Be forewarned.
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Normally a birthday would entail a day off for me, at least metaphorically in the sense of not working too much and-or slacking off more than usual. But since today is also Hank Mobley’s birthday, I decided to actually do a post anyway. (It is also Joe Zawinul´s birthday – two Miles Davis sidemen born on July 7! – but I happen to have this Mobley record sitting on the hard drive at the convenient moment). So why not give yourself a Cadillac on Flabbergasted Vibes’ birthday with this vintage Blue Note album featuring a ridiculous by wonderful album cover and silly title!

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Hank Mobley
A Caddy for Daddy
Released 1966 on Blue Note (BT-ST84230)
[Mono version released in 1965..]
This reissue – 2009 Analog Productions, SACD format

1 A Caddy For Daddy 9:15

2 The Morning After 9:35

3 Venus Di Mildew 7:05

4 Ace Deuce Trey 7:10

5 3rd Time Around 6:10

All compositions by Hank Mobley except Track 3 by Wayne Shorter.

Bass – Bob Cranshaw
Drums – Billy Higgins
Piano – McCoy Tyner
Saxophone [Tenor] – Hank Mobley
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Lee Morgan

Hank Mobley, like a lot of Blue Note`s roster, was cranking out albums at an incredible pace in the mid-60s. This is not actually one of my favorites — I don´t think it is anywhere near as good as “The Turnaround” also from 1965.

The first track, A Caddy for Daddy, is a half-hearted attempt at soul jazz which leaves me cold. The band sounds tired and so do the arrangements. I am no jazz scholar, but I would not be surprised if this cut was an attempt to recreat Lee Morgan’s success with The Sidewinder, one of the early soul-jazz “hits”. As you can see above, Morgan is on this session as are Higgins and Cranshaw who also played on that classic tune. The album improves quickly with “The Morning After” (what is it with the oddball titles on this disc?) which is easily my favorite piece of music here. A nice surprise on this session is the expansion of Mobley’s band to a sextet, featuring the incomparable Curtis Fuller on the trombone, always a good thing. McCoy Tyner does not get a chance to shine on record the way I would have liked.

Sorry for not writing more but it should really be the blog’s day off anyway, so this is all you get from me today. Oh, and this Analog Productions reissue sounds way better than any of the RVG remasters of Mobley’s stuff, although it does use the stereo master tapes rather than the mono.

Hank Mobley – A Caddy for Daddy (1966) in 320kbs em pee tree

Hank Mobley – A Caddy for Daddy (1966) in FLAC LOSSLESS format

Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa (1971) (with The Crusaders)

Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa
Originally released on CHISA records (Chisa 808)
This reissued, Motown / MoJazz (31453-0329-2) from 1994

01 – Goin’ Back to New Orleans (5:07) (Hugh Masekela)
02 – Ade (3:47) (Caiphus Semenya)
03 – To Get Ourselves Together (2:52) (Hugh Masekela)
04 – Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (3:57) (Eric Songxaka-Jonas Gwangwa)
05 – Mamani (5:23) (Caiphus Semenya)
06 – Shebeen (4:02) (Jonas Gwangwa)
07 – Dyambo (3:49) (Caiphus Semenya)
08 – Caution! (5:41) (Caiphus Semenya)
09 – Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (3:34) (Joe W. May)

In my morning ritual of working on this blog over some coffee, I decided that the way I was going to show my support for Brazil in today’s World Cup match would be by posting this album of anti-Dutch liberation music from Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa. It’s a great record and should make for a cathartic listening experience no matter how things turn out today.

It was hard to decide what songs to include on this little sample below, since they really are all excellent. I decided on one vocal number and one instrumental, because in a way the album almost sounds like it can’t decide which way to go in that respect. The instrumental numbers sound a whole hell of a lot like the early Crusaders material (unsurprisingly.. see below), while the vocal numbers are something else. Although described by some as an “Afro-rock” album, these tracks have more in common with the pop sensibilities that made Masekela an international superstar with the song “Grazin’ in the Grass.” Tightly arranged harmonies that draw as much or more from United States gospel, soul, and blues musics than from ‘traditional’ vocal styles of the Motherland. And there is absolutely no problem with that – the result is a beautiful album. Except for the tunes “Ade”, with its boogie funk and fuzzy guitar, and “Dyambo” (another funky number… can anyone out there tell me if the lyrics to this are in Swazi or Zulu, or any of the other ELEVEN “official languages” of South Africa???), there is little to be called “rock” here, unless its to be understood in the sense that The Crusaders are sometimes called “jazz rock”.

So, as I was saying… Two songs here to give you a taste – the vocal number “To Get Ourselves Together,” souljazz with a slow-funk backbeat (hmm, well the ‘turnaround’ between verses here is kind of rock-like in a delicious way); followed by “Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive” which is kind of a High Life song as played by The Crusaders. If this doesn’t whet your appetite for more, then I simply don’t know what to say and you probably close this page on your browser and go back to listening to whatever floats your musical boat.

Although not credited anywhere on this Chisa / Motown reissue, this record (recorded entirely in Hollywood, California) relies heavily on members of the mighty CRUSADERS as the backing band, with the album jacket listing only the horn players Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa (trombone) and Caiphus Semenya (alto sax) as comprising “The Union.” I am not sure if The Crusaders members on these sessions (Joe Sample, Wayne Henderson, Wilton Fedder, Stix Hooper) were listed on the original Chisa vinyl, but if not I am sure there must have been good reasons – they were willing collaborators and had recorded for the label (even changing their name at Masekela’s suggestion).

Recording in a cluster of sessions spanning April 5 – 9, 1971, exactly who played on what is rather confusing. Thanks to Doug Payne’s excellent website, we know the following details (note that a bunch of these tracks did not appear on the original album presented here):

HUGH MASEKELA & THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA
Hugh Masekela
Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).
overdubbed in Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela; King Errison (perc).

a. Ade (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:47
b. Dyambo (Weary Day Is Over) (Caiphus Semenya) – 3:49

Hollywood, California: April 5, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

c. Ku Ku Di

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

d. Mabasa
e. This Stuff Is Killing Me
f. To Get Ourselves Together (Hugh Masekela) – 2:52

Hollywood, California: April 9, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl); King Errison (perc).

g. Mamani (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:23

Hollywood, California: April 7, 1971
Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl); Jonas (Mosa) Gwangwa (tb, vcl); Wayne Henderson (tb); Wilton Felder (ts); Joe Sample (key); Arthur Adams, Wayne West (g); prob. Stix Hooper (d); Caiphus (Caution) Semenya? (vcl).

h. Goin Back To New Orleans (Hugh Masekela) – 5:07
i. Railroad
j. Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive (Eric Songxaka/Jonas Gwangwa) – 2:52
k. Caution! (Caiphus Semenya) – 5:41
l. Shebeen (Jonas Gwangwa) – 4:02

same or similar.

m. Hush (Somebody’s Calling My Name) (Joe W. May) – 3:34

Note: Dudu Pukwana, a member of Masekela’s Union Of South Africa around this time, later authored and performed a song titled “Baloyi” on his 1973 recording IN THE TOWNSHIPS (Caroline 1504, Earthworks 90884-2 [CD]) that bears notable similarities to “Shebeen” above.

Issues: a, b, f, g, h, j, k, l & m on Chisa CS 808 (issued May 1971), Rare Earth (E) SRE-3002, MoJazz 31453-0330-2 [CD] (issued August 1994).
Singles: b (2:35 edit) & l (4:00 edit) also on Chisa C 8014F [45]. l also on Tamla Motown (SA) TMS 373 [45].
Samplers: a also on Hip-O B0007383-02 [CD] titled THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – 20th CENTURY MASTERS – THE MILLENNIUM COLLECTION. a, f, g, h, j & m also on Spectrum (E) 9810227 [CD] titled THE COLLECTION. b also on Tapecar (Br) LPS X0-4 titled SOM ECODINAMIC PART TWO, Motor (Ger) 525 444-1, Motor (Ger) 525 444-2 [CD] titled MOJO CLUB PRESENTS DANCELOOR JAZZ VOLUME 4: LIGHT MY FIRE and Strut (E) STRUTLP007, Strut (E) STRUTCD007 [CD] titled CLUB AFRICA 2. b, g & j also on Verve (Ger) 06007 5328250 [CD] titled HUGH! THE BEST OF HUGH MASEKELA – PRESENTED BY TILL BRÖNNER. b, b (stereo promo version) & l also on Hip-o Select B001157902 [CD] titled THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES VOLUME 11A: 1971. l also on ? (SA) ? [CD] titled MESH MAPETLA PRESENTS JAZZ IN SOUTH AFRICA VOLUME 1.
Producer: Stewart Levine
Engineer: Lewis Peters

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – 1980 (1980)

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Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson “1980”
Released on Arista Records (AL 9514) in, um, 1980
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Shut ‘Um Down 5:28
Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams) 4:09
Willing 4:16 Corners 4:47 1980 6:20 Push Comes To Shove 3:37 Shah Mot (The Shah Is Dead / Checkmate) 4:04 Late Last Night 4:25
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This last collaboration between Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson is an excellent, underrated album that continues in the same downbeat soulful mode as “Bridges” and “Secrets” and is as equally good as those two. In fact this is might be a better, more consistent album than both of those. For some strange reason, I did not take to this record right away. I am not sure why it took longer for me to assimilate. Perhaps I could attribute it to the production — althought it is mixed extremely well, I feel like my head is stuffed with cotton or I just took a lot of cold medicine when I listen to it. But actually this is a characteristic of “Secrets” as well — it seems like all the higher frequencies were rollled off during the mastering process. But once my ears adjust (and/or I took a little EQ tweak on my system), all is golden

There are absolutely no bad songs here, although the song “Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams)” has always striken me as a little corny and trite. Although the issues of immigration, labor, and “illegality” it addresses have always been salient in Amerikkka, it is with an ironic twist that as the discourse on immigration issues has actually *worsened* rather than improved over the last several years, this song actually strikes me as LESS corny than it formerly had. Still, though, I don’t feel that it’s one of Gil’s better examples of sociomusical engagement. After that slight bump in the road, however, the album comes on strong and just keeps coming. Every track is a delight, musicially and lyrically. I do miss Brian Jackson’s electric piano work on these later albums, as he shifted to playing synths almost exclusively at this point aside from some acoustic piano work. Gil’s verse on this album walks the line of acidic social critique and compassionate hopefulness like only he can, from the reflective self-assesments of Willing (NOT the Little Feat song, by the way) or When Push Comes to Shove, to the chilling intonations of 1980 and Shah Mot. In many ways this is a record of an artist growing older in all the positive senses of the word. I hesitate to use the word “maturing” because of its loaded connotations, not least of which is the insinuation that his earlier work was someone naive, which is most definitely was not. It is not as if the revolutionary fire of Gil’s powerful mind is in retreat here, but he has more moments of repose, and spins more narratives of a more personal and intimate nature – a stylist change that had begun with 1977’s Bridges, at least in my ears. Gil leaves us with a light-hearted tune about the trials of getting your inspiration down on paper before it leaves you, a nice way to close the album on the upbeat.

Of course, the resident expert and guru of Gil Scott-Heron in the “blogosphere” has to be Simon at Never Enough Rhodes, who has more amazing material than you can shake a stick at. His write-ups have always been an inspiration for me to try harder, incidentally, as it is blogs like his that set the standard for the possibilities of the format. It appears there has been some trouble with the links of some of the rarities he has over there, but I highly encourage people to check them out regardless of this as his work is a labor of love.

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – 1980 in 320 kbs em pee tree

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – 1980 in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO format

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Ghana Soundz – Afro-Beat, Funk And Fusion In 70's Ghana (2002)

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Various Artists – Ghana Soundz:
Afro-Beat, Funk And Fusion In 70’s Ghana (2002)
Soundway Records (SNDWY 001)

I have been sitting on sharing this one for a long time, waiting and putting it off until I had the inspiration to write something sufficiently flabbergasted about it. But now that I just heard, due to my sleeplessness leading me to an online newspaper, that Ghana had a victorious World Cup game today (Saturday), I feel I can`t hold back any more. No pithy remarks or deconstruction of the music this time. I don’t even really care about the World’s Cup – it’s just not in my blood, I guess you could say. But I am really happy to hear about Ghana’s win.

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This disc was the first of many wonderful compilations from Englands’s Soundway Records. While in terms of packaging and notes, Soundway would only continue to get better and better over these last years, the music pretty much sets the template of what we can expect from any of their releases – rare grooves, truly creative arrangements and instrumentation, and for the most part excellent sound quality. Some of my personal favorites here are the tracks from Ebo Taylor, Oscar Sulley and the Uhuru Jazz Band, the Honny and the Bees Band, and especially K.Frimpong and his Cubano Fiestas who kick out a smoldering deep groove and then four minutes in blow my mind with a beautifully melodic versus replete with harmonies that crescendo into .. .more smoldering grooving. Just when I think they can’t do anything else to surprise me, they end the song with a bloody Moog solo, and then my head explodes in time with my shuffling feet. I can’t swear on it, since it is three in the morning and I would be sleeping if I could, but this might be my favorite cut of them all. Though the Apagya Show Band that follows them with more scintillating scorch marks on my eardrums follows pretty closely. Actually there is quite a bit more analog-synthesizer freakness on this collection which tickles me tenderly in the places that matter, more than I am used to hearing on this type of material.

At this point in my time on earth, what I once thought to be impossible has begun to occur – I am beginning to tire of James Brown known-offs, particularly because there seems to be no particular bottom to that barrel that is still being scraped and most probably always will be. There, I said it. I won’t name names but there are one or two tunes on this that I can just as easily pass over, even though they are still pretty good.

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Ghana Sounds – Ghana Soundz – Afro-Beat, Funk And Fusion In 70’s Ghana (2002) in 320 kbs em pee tree (PLEASE STAND BY… I seem to have lost this link from months and months ago..)

Ghana Soundz – Afro-Beat, Funk And Fusion In 70’s Ghana (2002) in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

password – senha in comments if needed

Gato Barbieri – Bolivia (1973) with Lonnie Liston Smith

gato

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

Merceditas
Eclypse / Michellina
Bolivia
Niños
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.

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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.”

gato


in 320 kbs

in FLAC

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Gary Bartz NTU Troop's "Juju Street Songs" (1972) vinyl

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From Michael Jackson to Malcolm X: Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s “Juju Street Songs” (1972) vinyl

Gary Bartz at his best created music that heals the soul and lifts the spirit. This may sound trite to you. So be it. If language was sufficient to express what I hear in the best jazz musicians’ work, there wouldn’t have been any reason for them to compose and play it. The signifier and the signified. Beyond the reach of the word, this time, and found in the sustained note of a saxophone or the modal chord changes of an electric piano. The spirituality effervescing from this music is, perhaps, of a piece with the time it was created. A time when radical politics danced with eastern philosophy and African religious ideas, when Franz Fanon sat next to the Koran and the Sutras on the same bookshelf. I had an exchange, one of those conversations that is somewhere between a debate and an argument, about the idea of racial pride and specifically black pride. My interlocutor was stoically against the idea of any pride based around the concept of race. The argument was elaborated in a way that was similar to or identical to others I had heard before, on the streets of Chicago or in the halls of higher learning, or over drinks in the country that imported more slaves from Africa than anywhere else on the planet. On the level of abstractions, where most people contemplate such questions, the argument holds some water, but tends to leak like a British oil rig the minute flesh-and-blood people in actual historical contexts are factored in. It’s a reasonable enough argument usually found on the lips of white people, who invented the very idea of race as a means with which to categorize, catalog, and compare humanity along a sliding scale of value. And easy enough for whites to then discard the idea as of little analytical worth once it becomes inconveniently reclaimed and rearticulated by the racialized. White people can do this because of the common epistemology that they are colorless, some sort of neutral human template, rather than part of the dialogic process in which racial identities calcify. Do not think I’m skipping lightly over the heterogeneity that is glossed over by these terms — it is no more analytically rigorous or accurate to talk of “white people” than it is “black people,” merely chromatic poles in a spectrum, yet there are generalizations that can be made, MUST be made, as a starting point of any meaningful analysis. Dissimulation, the refusal to make assertions and critique, is a poor substitute for nuance. In a historical situation of dominance where deliberate concerted efforts were made to not only strip away a peoples’ cultural lifeways, but even their very ability to identify their own family – the forbidding of slaves to keep surnames, for example — we simply cannot look at “black pride” with the same optic we might use for “white pride.”

But in a way these thoughts were all beside the point. To throw a blanket statement over the fire of racial pride and (re)valorization, to call it essentially destructive and polarizing, is to utterly decontextualize the dynamic situations where such movements take place. And they are movements in every vibration of that term – collective, with a particular understanding of the past, and a particular vision for remaking the world. In the Afrocentric spiritual jazz of the 1960s and 70s you are dealing with musicians old enough to remember segregation, young enough to remember there was more to the civil rights struggle than just Dr. King, equally inspired by Charlie Parker and Motown, and emboldened by a solidarity, symbolic or otherwise, with the victims of dislocation, colonization, and imperialism around the globe. Musicians who were active when Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist enemy of the state, and who watched as a score of African nations struggled for and won their independence in the 50s and 60s. A time when any hopefulness gained from desegregation and decolonization was tempered by the violence in the streets, of black and brown-skinned people as canon fodder in Vietnam, of the scourge of heroin in the ghettos. Ghetto, a word that dates to the seventeenth century and was used throughout Europe since that time and well into the twentieth century to denote a Jewish neighborhood. From Webster, Etymology: Italian, from Venetian dial. ghèto island where Jews were forced to live, literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr to cast, from Latin jactare to throw. It also referenced the iron foundries and slag heaps of the Venetian island where the word came into usage. After the liberation of the concentration camps came the concentration of more and more brown and black skinned peoples into the marginalized landscapes of urban U.S. cities, populated by the human slag heaps of four hundred years of dehumanizing capitalist accumulation. The ghetto, a signifier so dire in its valence that even the most celebratory of Afrocentricities could not celebrate it. It is nearly always condemned as a particular circle of a Dantean hell; if spoken of with warmth or nostalgia it is accompanied by extreme qualifiers that leave no doubt as to its demoralizing enervation. This is different from the barrio of Puerto Ricans (many of them also black, but until right around this time more historically likely to distance themselves from the African-American as long as they bought into the white dream of upwardly mobile meritocracy). The barrio could represent resistance, preservation of cultural values across time and space and against odds for the Latino enclaves dislocated by transnational flows, or crossed by the border. The ghetto, on the other hand, was always only a few steps away from an ethnic cleansing by the dominant power. And in this case, that was white America. Not even Nina Simone, a luminous torch of the civil rights movement, could bring herself to thoroughly trust the white people around her in the music business. Smart woman, Nina.

So when Gary Bartz dedicated Harlem Bush Music to Malcolm X, we should really pay attention to that. It is not a footnote. It is an exclamation point and a wake-up call.

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What does all this have to with me, with my comfortable middle-class childhood and existence? What does all this have to do with my mixed-race home and its aspirations to the American Dream? What does any of this have to do with me – culturally white, politically red, spiritually yellow? Perhaps nothing at all.* Maybe nothing to do with me or perhaps it’s better for me to do nothing.

But everything to do with me when I pick up this album on a night when I don’t know if I’ll make it through to the next day, and find there a spirit to meet me half way and whisper, “Time is running out, time is running..” Music that makes me close my eyes and open my heart and find the stain of self-hatred so old it’s faded, like scar tissue from a clumsy surgeon. When I play this record I am filled with the compassionate joy that the buddhists talk about. There is a comfort, not a reassurance, but a comfort and camaraderie in having someone else show you, with their music, that everything is NOT alright, but that you will survive. Because you have so far. And because there are few other choices. I want to be where you are. The longing for oneness, peering into the gaping maw of transcendent consciousness, obliterating the individual, the longing for union with god, with a lover, with one’s true self. Know thyself, you dig? In the first two minutes of this track we are brought through all the changes of death, repose, and rebirth – of solemn reflection followed by exultation to be simply alive.

Can it be I stayed away too long?
Did I leave your mind when I was gone?
It’s not my thing trying to get back
But this time let me tell you where I’m at

This song is one of Michael’s huge early hit songs, released in 1972, written by Leon Ware and T-Bone Ross. I doubt they ever imagined it played this way when first putting it together.

I understand better now why bassist Stafford James plays his electric bass through some type of envelope follower or flange pedal. It makes his playing more elastic, the attack of the notes more susceptible to coaxing out the bottom end of rhythm, supporting but not overwhelming Howard King’s drums. Bartz blowing his sax like a mad dervish, sometimes modulating it with a wah-wah pedal in small, choice musical phrases. He runs this slice of Motown through a melodic meat grinder and gives us prime grade-a. Listen to Andy Bey`s chord inversions around the vocal melody while Bartz veers outward and beyond on modal flights of fancy. The last three or so minutes of this (cut from the version on the anthology posted at Flabbergasted Vibes previously) see the ensemble swinging the main refrain with heavy funk before is total deconstruction approaching the nine-minute mark, playing in free time and destroying the love-lorn pleas into a pastiche, threatening to put them all back together again for one final chorus, but instead leaving us hanging and still wanting to be where you are.

The next track is even more Motown. “Black Maybe,” a song written for Syreeta by her producer and one-time husband Stevie Wonder. Like “I Want To Be Where You Are,” this song also dropped in 1972. The sessions for this album were cut in October of that year, showing just how little time the NTU Troop wasted in restocking their ammunition. Slowing this song down to a slow burner with a blues feeling, you can still here Stevie’s hand in the melody. Andy Bey may not have the same vocal magic as either Stevie or Syreeta, but I love the guy’s voice and he was a perfect fit for Bartz’s musical vision. On this track you can also clearly hear the double-mic technique Bartz was using to get part of his sound. The microphone panned to the right channel is clean saxophone, probably with the mic placed above and slightly out in front; the left channel is the modulated signal run through a wah pedal, with microphone mostly likely stuck damn nearly right in the bell of the sax. The result is a sound that envelopes the listener in the aural equivalent of a vice grip, death via saxophone, but so sweetly a demise has rarely unfolded on this earth. Lyrically one of Stevie’s most intriguing, complex, and radical songs tackling racial and identity politics with an urgency to unsettle the mentality of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps-and-to-hell-with-your-brother that we can, once again, generalize as endemic to a white middle-class value system . If only people had listened more closely to the message of Stevie’s music more generally, MJ would never have bleached his skin and Will Smith would never have existed. Time is running out, time is running… out.

Bertha Baptist (b.1942, Atlanta, Georgia, d. 1980). Although having no familial relationship to Bertha Butt, the two were friends and frequently exchanged anecdotes and gossip at a Harlem hair salon. Due to her strict religious beliefs, Bertha Baptist was constantly turning down Bertha Butt’s invitations to go out for a night of dancing. Those places are for drunkards and hussies, she would say. However one day curiosity got the better of her and she accompanied Ms. Butt to a local jazz club (Miss Baptist kept calling it a “juke joint”), where as it happened the evening’s entertainment was Gary Bartz & NTU Troop. During one of Andy Bey’s funky electric piano solos, Bertha threw all modesty to the wind and astonished all onlookers as she performed dance moves she picked up working in a New Orleans brothel ten years earlier before she found The Lord her savior. It was the one and only time anyone in New York would ever see her dance. Bassist Stafford James wrote a song in her honor. He also looks curiously like Bertha’s only child, William, born about six months after this record was released.

Africans Unite. Feels like we´ve discussed this already. Pan-African transatlantic solidarity, percussion frenetic yet easy on the ears, a folk melody building to a chant of “Let’s do it now”. A Bartz original composition with fluid riffing over the stuttering rhythmic base. Teheran. Well it’s a few years too early to be about the Iranian Revolution. The song is as mysterious to me as it was probably intended to be, Bartz seducing us in serpentine Phrygian-mode rivulets of sound, a shimmering tapestry of gongs as a backdrop in the king’s palace, Howard King playing his toms and snare drums with mallets and laying down heavy on an open high-hat and cymbals. (Side note — this is the track that has the most ‘clicks and pops’ from the vinyl. The presence of so much sibilance from the cymbals and gongs and other percussion made it risky to try and remove these clicks and I opted to leave them in rather than potentially lose frequencies by trying to clean them up.)

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs
Prestige Records (P-10057) 1972

A1 I Wanna Be Where You Are 10:04
A2 Black Maybe 9:38
B1 Bertha Baptist 6:32
B2 Africans Unite 6:30
B3 Teheran 8:20

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, remaining clicks removed manually in Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced

Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Sopranino, Voice, Electric Piano, Percussion – Gary Bartz
Bass, Electric Bass, Voice, Percussion – Stafford James
Drums, Voice, Percussion – Howard King
Vocals, Electric Piano, Percussion – Andy Bey

Recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California, October 1972.
Photobucket

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs (1972) in 320kbs em pee tree

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO (16-bit, 44.1 khz)

Gary Bartz NTU Troop – Juju Street Songs in 24-bit, 96khz FLAC

Note that the file sets will actually have 1973 as the year, which is erroneous. Please correct this mistake yourself if it matters to you.

*(Look around the internet for some ‘user reviews’ of some Gil Scott-Heron albums — you the site I mean — and you may find the ranting of one reactionary man who insists Gil’s music has absolutely nothing of value to offer to white Americans like himself. Don’t take my word for it, go and look.)

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