01. M'Jumbe 15:57
02. The Last Prophet 8:03
03. The Smart Set 5:47
04. Eboness 5:30
05. Eboness (Kwanza) 12:53
Alto Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Hamiet Bluiett
Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums, Percussion – Roy Brooks
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Hilton Ruiz
Percussion [African] – Lawrence Williams, Richard Landrum
Piano [Acoustic] – Joseph Bonner
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet – John Stubblefield
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Cecil Bridgewater
Trumpet, Horn [E Flat] – Olu Dara
Vocals – Eddie Jefferson
Recorded at: Small's Paradise, Harlem, N.Y.C. Nov. 22, 1973.
Ethnic Expressions by Roy Brooks & the Artistic Truth is one of two recordings drum master Roy Brooks cut for the tiny Afrocentric New York imprint Im-Hotep. Released in 1973, it has been one of the most sought-after "Holy Grail" recordings on the collector's market, with copies selling at auction for over $1,200. The reason is not merely its rarity, but the stellar quality of its music and the focus of its vision reinventing the unity of African-American self-determination through music. Recording at Small's Paradise in Harlem on the tenth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, this large collective of musicians created a positive, musically sophisticated, emotionally powerful performance that epitomized 1970s jazz as it incorporated the free, progressive, and spiritual jazz elements of the 1960s in a setting that also included soul and blues expression. The personnel includes Brooks on drums and percussion; Olu Dara and Cecil Bridgewater on trumpets and flügelhorn; Hamiet Bluiett, Sonny Fortune, and John Stubblefield on saxophones, flute, and bass clarinets; pianists Joe Bonner (acoustic) and Hilton Ruiz (Rhodes); bassist Reggie Workman; and Richard Landrum and Lawrence Williams on African percussion. Vocalist Eddie Jefferson also appears on the "The Smart Set" and "Eboness," at his most expressive and soulful. The album's five tracks include two longer pieces in "M'Jumbe" (whose arrangement reflects the time Brooks spent with Charles Mingus a year earlier) and the closing "Eboness (Kwanza)," as well as three middle-length pieces
The 16-minute "M'Jumbe" begins in a free call and response between trumpet, percussion, and bowed bass, gradually adding more instruments until its groove emerges at two minutes and its melody unfolds near the three-minute mark. Even as the horn sections quote the theme, improvisation moves in and out, funky themes are introduced with another melodic statement, and brief moments of free playing slip through before formal solos are taken. The tune is always circular due to its impeccably preeminent rhythmic elements. "The Last Prophet" showcases the band's groove side with stellar piano work from Bonner and a horn section in full swagger. The interplay between Workman and Brooks is magical. Jefferson's hip R&B roots are brought into play on the finger-popping "The Smart Set" and his blues authority on "Eboness," with some deep soul work from Workman and Ruiz as well as a fine flute solo from Fortune. On "Eboness (Kwanza)," the vocalist referred to as "Black Rose" is Dee Dee Bridgewater. This is a bona fide jazz classic; its importance as an example of the best that jazz had to offer in the 1970s cannot be overstated. [Ethnic Expressions slipped out of print in 1975, and remained out of print until Japan's P-Vine made it available for a limited time on CD in 2009. In 2010, however, Great Britain's Jazzman was able to license and reissue it on both CD and LP, making it widely available and affordable worldwide.]
Easily one of the most coveted and sought-after of all jazz LPs is the elusive Holy Grail that is Roy Brooks’ Ethnic Expressions. It’s not just rarity that makes a record of this nature so desirable, nor is it the compelling music within… sometimes, like a Van Gogh or a Picasso, it’s the personality of the artist himself that’s inexorably entwined with the record itself that lends a fascinating, mesmeric and mythical quality that simply can’t be contrived.
Ethnic Expressions was recorded live in NYC in 1973, and exhibits a powerful message of black consciousness and spiritual freedom. This is post-Coltrane progressive jazz of the highest order! With a cry to his African roots, Brooks’ music combines modal, rhythmic and Afro-centric jazz with politics, spirituality and a positive vibes. The result is deep, esoteric spiritual jazz that any fan into real deal vibrant jazz will require as essential listening.