Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Contact - 1971 - Hon kom över mon

Hon kom över mon

01. Grannlåten
02. Fisken
03. Nattens drottning
04. Ogräset sprider sig på vallarna
05. Smultes vals
06. Vägen gick vindlande grå
07. Minnen
08. Hon kom över mon
09. Vargarnas natt
10. Samma vindar, samma dofter
11. Jass
12. Jag är lite ledsen ikväl

Alto Saxophone, Accordion – Björn Holmsten
Drums, Backing Vocals – Leif Reinholds
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ted Steerling
Violin – Bosse Linné, Claes Palmquist
Vocals, Organ, Bass – Lorne DeWolfe
Vocals, Organ, Piano, Guitar – Ted Ström

Contact achieved surprisingly little recognition for their innovative albums. Their first and rarest album Nobody Wants To Be 16 (1970) was produced by Kim Fowley, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs. This was an unique, cool and relaxed mixture of Anglo-American hippie-rock and Nordic folklore with frequent use of congas, flute and acoustic/electric guitars. Try to imagine a mixture of The Beatles, Tim Buckley, Pearls Before Swine and Tyrannosaurus Rex and it sounded similar.

Hon Kom Över Mon (1971) marked a transition of style, introducing Swedish lyrics and the extensive use of fiddles.

Although Contact wrote their own songs, they also incorporated fragments of folk songs into their lyrics. Those who understand Swedish will find them highly entertaining (one track even has a reference to Frank Zappa). Their mood varied from sing-a-long jolliness t melancholic and sombre. This is a highly imaginative album and sometimes reminds me of another great Swedish group - Vildkaktus.

Contact - 1970 - Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen

1970 - 
Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen

01. What's That 3:33
02. Wounds 3:30
03. Visions of Apple 4:19
04. Sounds of the Wind 4:25
05. Velvet Blue Saloon 3:17
06. How Was Your Summer 1:49
07. One of Those 3:00
08. Conquest of a Red Rose 2:33
09. Nobody Wants to be Sixteen 1:19
10. Misjudgement 3:28
11. She Is Impossible To See 3:47

Alto Saxophone, Accordion – Björn Holmsten
Drums, Backing Vocals – Leif Reinholds
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ted Steerling
Violin – Bosse Linné, Claes Palmquist
Vocals, Organ, Bass – Lorne DeWolfe
Vocals, Organ, Piano, Guitar – Ted Ström

The group had existed under different names and settings in Stockholm since 1963. Later in the seventies they got a breakthrough in Scandinavia using a mix of left-wing prog and folk music, all sung in Swedish. This debute is surprisingly different - mild garage prog/psych with a cozy feeling and English vocals. I was amazed by the total lack of conformity with their later work till I saw who produced - Kim Fowley. Apparently the US producer spent time in Sweden and took part in a few early productions for the independent MNW label. In this case he engaged them into using English lyrics to enable an international carreer for the group. However after recording the big plans were dropped and the LP released in Sweden only - where it didn't sell at all. Apart from studio work Fowley contributed one track, co-wrote two and helped translating lyrics into English. So here's a bunch of Swedes making their first album in a primitive studio, led and handeled by one of the most eclectic US producers. A strange alloy and it doesn't sound like anything else. Maybe not all beauty, but attractive in its own way.

Black Nasty - 1973 - Talking To The People

Black Nasty
Talking To The People

01. Talking To The People   
02. I Must Be In Love   
03. Nasty Soul   
04. Getting Funky Round Here   
05. Black Nasty Boogie   
06. Where Doin' Our Thing   
07. I Have No Choice   
08. It's Not The World   
09. Rushin' Sea   
10. Booger The Hooker   

Johnnie Mae Matthews (vocals, producer)
Artwell Matthews (drums)
Audrey Matthews (vocals)
Mark Patterson (bass)
James Blood Ulmer (guitar)

While released on Stax Records, Black Nasty were Detroit all the way. Combining hard, unpolished funk with brutal guitar noise, the band obviously was deemed way too 'radical' for early '70s black radio standards. Their sole release, this gem right here, didn't create any waves at the time of its release. It's been treasured by Raw Funkers ever since its resurrection in the '90s, tho'.

"Talking to the People" encapsulates everything great about this band. Artwell Matthews' crashing, thundering drums and Mark Patterson's bass create a sizzling, loping, menacing funk groove for James 'Blood' Ulmer to blaze his electrified gee-tar madness over. A powerful message tune, riding it firmly on the one, it starts the whole band on vocals, giving it that multi-layered, tribal vibe.

That ballads weren't Black Nasty's strongpoint is soon made clear with "I Must Be In Love". There's still a mildly funky rhythm underneath it all, but the vocals are pretty sugary and the overall atmos is a bit too preconceived and stale for my taste.

Gettin' back to the real deal, Black Nasty then pumps out the monster jam "Nasty Soul". A ferocious Funkadelic-styled anthem, with that droning, heavy beat and Ulmer's spastic guitar noise on top of it. The self-explanatory "Getting Funky 'Round Here" is the undisputed party joint, drenched in a nasty clavinet-driven stew of rock solid all-out jammin'.

Up next is the group paying hommage to John Lee Hooker and their hometown... "Black Nasty Boogie" ain't lyin'. A filthy, irreverent, boisterous boogie romp that could give Canned Heat a run for its money. Preposterous...

Ulmer's chankin' guitar goodness sets the mood for the funkathon "We're Doing Our Thing", a lowdown piece of groove meat, awash with purring Hammonds and Patterson's walking basslines. Deep in the pocket, this instrumental also features a clever, counter-melodical snazzy bridge.  

"I Have No Choice" is the second mellow track here, but it's a good one, with lead singer Johnnie Mae Matthews wailing like a bona fide Southern Soul man. Sounds a bit like some of Bobby Womack's great early '70s mid-tempo ballads. The softest spot, however, is reserved for the breezy "Rushin' Sea". Nice ballad, but pales in comparison to the funk laid down here...

"It's Not the World" gets thangs back in the pocket; a loping message-driven jam with more of that typical LOUD guitar danglin' on in the back. Ulmer's solo here references to Chuck Berry.

Finally, "Booger the Hooker" is a well-chosen Last Stand of Stank: tongue-in-cheek lyrics deal with the clean boy gone wrong dope-wise and is another super hard slab of gritty funk rock.

James Blood Ulmer - 1983 - Odyssey

James Blood Ulmer  

01. Church 4:54
02. Little Red House 4:45
03. Love Dance 5:05
04. Are You Glad To Be In America? 3:40
05. Election 3:26
06. Odyssey 5:01
07. Please Tell Her 4:10
08. Swing & Things 4:32

Drums - Warren Benbow
Guitar, Vocals - James Blood Ulmer
Violin - Charles Burnham

This record moves towards and has all the best elements of Jazz that are so close to Prog, as to become invisible borders. For newcomers JBU sounds like JBU. No latin or world jazz fusions, closer to old traditional blues standards, his language in composition makes no compromises to this school not another.
His approach is completely free of cliches, in fact it is quiet wild, BUT, not funky at all. Intelligent songs performed tightlly by an interesting bass-less trio. Violin, drums and the virtuous JBU's electric guitars and mysticaly subversive vocals.

This effort is completely prog do not mistake its intentions. In fact, if the" Post/Jazz-Rock" tagging was available, ODYSSEY will fit in perfectly.

So as mentioned do not expect, Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, O. Coleman or even Miles kind of prog/jazz . Odyssey stands alone, closer if need to compare to, with Hendrix personal song writing, without the funk (and bass player), but with all the prog-fury and gentleness required. The comparisson comes in quiet handy considering JBU's guitar playing skills.

Highly recommendable for any prog audiophile, it trascends its own roots to become a any prog follower great aquisition.

James Blood Ulmer - 1982 - Black Rock

James Blood Ulmer  
Black Rock

01. Open House
02. Black Rock
03. Moon Beam
04. Family Affair
05. More Blood
06. Love Have Two Faces
07. Overnight
08. Fun House
09. We Bop

Bass - Amin Ali
Drums - Calvin Weston , Cornell Rochester
Guitar - Ronald Drayton
Vocals, Guitar, Producer - James Blood Ulmer
Saxophone - Sam Sanders (A3,B3)
Vocals - Irene Datcher (A4,B4)

Every now and then, Columbia decides to back an avant-garde musician of some note. Their association usually lasts two albums and then the label parts ways with the artist. It's happened with Ornette, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Henry Threadgill (later), and many others. This time around, Blood got the nod, and true to Columbia's form he got this album and Odyssey out before being unceremoniously dropped (I'm blanking on whether or not Free Lancing is also on Columbia, but it doesn't change my story significantly even if so). Luckily, Blood made the most of his short major label life, turning in what for me ranks as his finest avant-jazz/funk record (this one) and then what still holds for me as simply his best album (Odyssey). It feels like after refining the  jazz/funk for three records, he finally hit his stride, with what stands as the wildest and weirdest of the bunch, and what is no doubt aided immeasurably by the presence of a second guitar. Like most of his stuff, I like it when the band just goes for broke, but here even when he decides to step up to the mike it's as weird, wild and woolly as the music itself can get without vocals. I still think Odyssey is his finest hour, but this runs a close second, and when I want something a little edgier, this is what I go for.

James Blood Ulmer - 1981 - Free Lancing

James Blood Ulmer 
Free Lancing

01. Timeless   
02. Pleasure Control   
03. Night Lover   
04. Where Did All The Girls Come From?   
05. High Time   
06. Hijack   
07. Free Lancing   
08. Stand Up To Yourself   
09. Rush Hour   
10. Happy Time   

Backing Vocals - Diane Wilson (tracks: A2, A4, B3) , Irene Datcher (tracks: A2, A4, B3) , Zenobia Konkerite (tracks: A2, A4, B3)
Drums - G. Calvin Weston
Electric Bass - Amin Ali
Guitar - James Blood Ulmer , Ronnie Drayton (tracks: A2, A4, B3)
Saxophone [Alto] - Oliver Lake (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Saxophone [Tenor] - David Murray (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Trumpet - Olu Dara (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Vocals - James Blood Ulmer (tracks: A2, A4, B3)

It's inexplicable to me, not to mention utterly scandalous, that James Blood Ulmer's Columbia recordings are out of print. As far as I know, only Odyssey has ever had a CD release (and now that I look, I see that it's currently available to buy for download from the usual places), relegating this album and the equally good Black Rock to the obscurity of the cut-out bins.

In the late 70s and early 80s the jazz rock scene in New York City stood far apart from the rest of the states, and much of the rest of the world as well. While most of the big fusion stars of the mid-70s were content to let their music slide into the somewhat profitable but forever dull world of fuzak, the NYC scene took a totally different path; gritty, tough, noisy, streetwise music that was the opposite of sophisto-lite dinner jazz for the nuevo yuppie crowd. In the late 70s Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking avant funk band Prime Time paved the way, while countless post-punkers with jazz chops and avant-jazzers saw a chance to get their unique take on jazz rock off the street corner and up on a real stage or club. By 1981 James Blood Ulmer was practically a poster child for this new genre that the press often called punk-jazz or punk-funk, his raw mix of be-bop, funk, avant-rock and Ornette styled freedom was the perfect mix for the NYC pallet.
This album is a tour de force representative of the so called punk jazz sound of the early 80s. Ulmer's ensemble on here includes some of the finest jazz musicians of this style and era, and their playing is inspired and on fire. All is not just pure energy either, the fast unison lines from the horn players display a finely honed technique that hadn't been heard in jazz since the classic days of high speed be-bop. In between the intense jazz numbers we are treated to a couple very earthy funk numbers, backed by female vocalists, that were a harsh wake up call against the slick disco-funk of the early 80s. These 'punk-funk' numbers help break up the constant searing attack of the jazzier numbers.

A lot of the drum rhythms on here are bizarre and are the complete opposite of the sort of abstract intellectualized dinner-funk that was prevalent in the world of fusion at this time. Drummer Calvin Weston pulls a lot of influence from Ronald Shannon Jackson with his constant 'drum line' attack on the toms and the almost country-punk feel of the charging 4 on the floor hi-energy assault on the verge of chaos feel of many numbers.

This is a great album and these musicians are in top form as they play with a rare and classic virtuosity. Free Lancing is highly recommended for fans of avant-garde jazz as well as other punky jazz groups such as Prime Time, Vernon Reid or Material.

James Blood Ulmer - 1980 - Are You Glad To Be In America

James Blood Ulmer  
Are You Glad To Be In America

01. Layout   
02. Pressure   
03. Interview   
04. Jazz Is The Teacher (Funk Is The Preacher)   
05. See-Through   
06. Time Out   
07. T.V. Blues   
08. Light Eyed   
09. Revelation March   
10. Are You Glad To Be In America?

James Blood Ulmer: guitar, arranger, composer, producer
Olu Dara: trumpet
Oliver Lake: alto saxophone
David Murray: tenor saxophone
Amin Ali: electric bass
G. Calvin Weston: drums
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums
William Patterson: rhythm guitar

There seems to be a peak moment in most artists' recordings where it all comes together: where the artist still has yet to fall into a formula, where the power of youth meets maturity of expression, where the speakers ooze the excitement of original creation. The Stones' "Exile on Main Street", the Duke Ellington orchestra during the Blanton/Webster era, the Miles Davis & John Coltrane alliance come to mind.

This 1978 recording was made a couple of years after the classic "Tales of Captain Black" with Ornette Coleman. By '78, JBU had absorbed and applied the Harmolodic Principle laid down by his mentor, and was beginning to incorporate his roadhouse rock, church, and blues influences from his early career. All of these elements come together in a perfectly balanced and blended fashion. He would go on to emphasize each of these elements in his later projects, Third Rail for funk, Blues Experience for R&B, Music Revelation Ensemble for free jazz, and some strictly blues releases. For this amalgam, he gathered an awesome all-star cast, many of whom would work with his smaller ensembles, into his biggest band: Amin Ali on bass, Ronald Shannon Jackson & Grant Calvin Weston (either of whom can kick up a percussive storm by themselves) on drums, Olu Dara on cornet, Oliver Lake on alto, and David Murray on tenor. Wow!

Hard to describe this music to the uninitiated; its truly unique. If you have a few of Blood offerings already, your going to feel quite at home with the sound, and might be encouraged to seek some Blood of a different type from the category your familiar with.

James Blood Ulmer - 1978 - Tales Of Captain Black

James Blood Ulmer
Tales Of Captain Black

01. Theme From Captain Black   
02. Moons Shines   
03. Morning Bride   
04. Revelation March   
05. Woman Coming   
06. Nothing To Say   
07. Arena   
08. Revealing   

James Blood: electric guitar, mixing
Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, engineer, producer
Denardo Coleman: drums
Jamaaladeen Tacuma: electric bass

For whatever reason, Avant Jazz hasn’t produced a whole shitload of great guitarists (Sonny Sharrock, of course, picks up a lotta the slack). Sure, there’s plenty of wankers that do that beyond boring fretboard-tapping swill, or serve up some half-baked hyperspeed Wes Montgomery-isms, but there’s very little of it that sounds like more than ME-VERY-TECHNICALLY-PROFICIENT dexterity exercises. Yes, that’s very impressive that you can scratch yer asshole with yer pinky whilst tearing off sweep arpeggios, but… ya got any MUSIC? James Blood Ulmer does.

A native of St. Matthews, South Carolina, Ulmer began his journey in various funk bands before hooking up with Art Blakey for a brief stint in his Jazz Messengers. In 1973, he recorded an album with legendary Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali; shortly thereafter he would meet Ornette Coleman, adopting his new guru’s ambiguous harmolodic approach in the process. “Tales of Capt. Black” was his second release as band leader, recorded in 1978 with Ornette (who also serves as co-producer), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass) and Coleman’s son Denardo manning the drum stool.

Beginning with a funk riff reminiscent of “Voodoo Chile,” opening cut “Theme From Capt. Black” is a reminder of what could have been had more rock players been exposed to this subversive music– imagine the boundaries destroyed! Alas, most were far too content to wallow in that annoying set of triplets that take up the last 15 minutes of “Freebird.” Regardless, this album is fulla free playing at its zenith– “Woman Coming” in particular, is magnificent– with Blood and Ornette playing quixotic themes in unison before engaging in an embroiled instrumental “conversation” that, despite each player inhabiting a separate universe, overlaps brilliantly. “Revelation March” brings to mind Miles Davis’ much-denigrated (of course, everybody loves it now) early 70’s work in the sense that it features simple (but not simplistic) James Brown-derived funk vamping for Ulmer to shred over top of. His attack, at once shrieking and sighing, encapsulates a century of black music– as atavistic as it is futuristic, containing the plight of the early Delta Bluesman every bit as much as the revolutionary concepts of his mentor.

James Blood Ulmer - 1977 - Revealing

James Blood Ulmer 

01. Revealing    8:15
02. Raw Groove    8:49
03. Overtime    9:01
04. Love Nest    10:05

James Blood Ulmer: guitar
George Adams: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Cecil McBee: bass
Doug Hammond: drums

In 1949, at the age of seven, James Blood Ulmer was playing guitar for the Southern Sons, a gospel group which his father lead. By the 1960s he was performing around the country, working as a guitarist with bands such as The Del-Vikings and The Savoys as well as forming his own band Blood Brothers. In the early 1970s he settled in New York where he studied Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic music theory with whom he lived and played with for a few years. This incidentally had a huge influence on Blood's playing.

Ulmer began releasing albums under his own name in the late 70s, ranging from a free jazz style to a loosely funk-based style without ever settling into one particular defining approach. In the early 80s he founded Music Revelation Ensemble with David Murray and a revolving cast of supporters and in 1985 he formed Phalanx with George Adams, Sirone, and Rashied Ali. With those two groups giving him a steady outlet for his free jazz leanings, Ulmer began to explore the blues in earnest in his solo career. While dipping back occasionally into his bag of other styles, straighter blues marked by his unique guitar stylings and gravelly vocals has dominated his solo album output of the 90s and 2000s.

Recently Ulmer has been working with Vernon Reid of Living Colour fame, who has produced three of his albums. In April 2001, Reid convinced Ulmer to record at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. There they recorded the album Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, in just three days with Reid producing the album and playing on several tracks. It was Ulmer's first release featuring completely of non-original material which were covers of classic blues songs. In 2005 he released Birthrite, his most personal album to date, composed primarily of original material about his life and background.

After his time playing and touring with Ornette in the early 70's and before his 1979 U.S. debut which featured Ornette and his cronies, Blood snuck this German release out without Ornette involved in any way (except perhaps as a spirit guiding both Blood's playing and George Adams's crabbily detailed blowing). It's way less frantic than some of his later stuff though, even though straight jazz disciples will still get their hackles raised by the distortion, the density, the strange and relentless attacks (and not just from Blood). Ornette or no Ornette, Adams is a worthy partner and in some ways this is the prototype for Phalanx, which I enjoy mightily, even if this one feels a little more in touch with traditional guitar jazz albums than the harmolodic free-for-alls or amped up funk-fests that are more readily associated with Ulmer. First three tracks (I've only ever known this as a CD, never as LP) move at pretty similar tempos while the longest ("Love Nest") closes things out on a slower motion (I hesitate to call it a "groove") that's more contemplative, gives you some room to breathe, and at that is still jarring and jagged when it chooses to be. I like this one a lot, it's very listenable, but tunes don't stand out quite as readily as they do on the best Blood albums. On the other hand, I can play it in mixed company without feeling like my friends are only humoring me by listening politely. A good debut, but he gets better.

Mtume - 1977 - Rebirth Cycle

Rebirth Cycle

01. Sais (intro) - 02:22
02. Sais - 23:39
03. Yebo - 06:07
04. Cabral - 04:29
05. Body Sounds - 03:42
06. Umoja - 06:41

All songs written and arranged by Mtume, recorded at Minot Sound 1974.

Personnel: Sais, Cabral and Umoja
Vocals:- Tawatha, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carol Robinson, Shirley Jenkins, Onika, Jean Carn
Reeds: Jimmy Heath, Azar Lawrence, John Stubblefield
Piano: Stanley Cowell
Guitar: Reggie Lucas
Bass: Buster Williams, Cecil McBee
Violin: Leroy Jenkins
Cello: Diedre Johnson
Drums: Billy Hart, Andrei Strobert
Poet: Muktar Mustapha

Personnel: Yebo
Vocal: Tawatha
Piano (acoustic): Mtume
Piano (Electric): Bayete
Guitar: Pete Cosey
Bass: Michael Henderson
Drums: Al Foster

Most people will know Mtume as the high gloss soul man from the early '80s, responsible for the excellent Juicy Fruit album. Before this though he was a jazz session percussionist, and worked with artists such as Miles Davis, and featured on albums by Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Harry Whittaker and Freddie Hubbard. Before turning to his more noted soul style, Mtume wrote, or co wrote, three deep afro-centric jazz albums; one as a band leader of the Mtume Umoja Ensemble for the 1971 Strata East album Alkebu-Lan: Land of the Blacks - Live at the East, another was Kuumba-Toudie Heath’s 1969 Kawaida album, and the first one to be listed as a Mtume album was 1977’s Rebirth Cycle which was released on 3rd Street Records.

Rebirth Cycle, though released in 1977, was actually made in 1974, and the album’s personnel list reads like a veritable who’s-who of the musicians who where working in the more independent jazz scene of the early seventies.  Working on this album, you had Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Carne on vocals.  Strata East players like Cecil McBee and Buster Williams on bass, Stanley Cowell on piano and Jimmy Heath on reeds. This album is also the first introduction to the mighty voice of Tawatha Agee (Tawatha) who would remain the co vocalist with the Mtume band right through to the mid eighties.

Musically, Rebirth Cycle is a fusion of afro-centric deep jazz and psychedelic spacey funk.
The main piece on here, and the album’s high point, is the side long “Sais” (sigh-us). This 20 plus minute tune starts with the spoken introduction by Senegalese poet Mustapha, explaining the story of “Mystery System of Sais, the Egyptian school of higher learning from which Greek and Western philosophy was developed”. Once the introduction is over one of the most magical and hypnotic musical 20 minutes you could sit through begins.  From the slow and haunting bass clarinet solo through crashing waves of vocal chaos plus one almighty guitar solo by Reggie Lucas, all backed by a solid groove that is cut so deep it would be impossible to climb out of, even if you wanted to.  There are moments in this piece where the cacophony is such that it feels like you’re consumed in a hypnotic aural cloud, and you find yourself not wanting to come out of it, or at least for the tune not to come to an end. Then the chaos ebbs away, the bass clarinet solo slowly unearths itself from the onslaught of the other instruments and the poetry returns.  You then find yourself coming to from this 20 minute musical roller coaster ride, and you cannot help but feel total exhilaration. On Side two of this album the tracks are shorter in length and are much more afro-centric funk in style. The vocal work on this side of the album is truly sublime, whether it is “Yebo” the Oneness Of Juju style groover with magical vocals by Tawatha Agee, the haunting beauty of Jean Carn’s performance on Cabral, or the traditional African nasal style on the closing track “Umoja”. Rebirth Cycle does not contain a weak moment anywhere on the entire recording, and is really worth seeking out a copy. It's incredible to think that albums like this remain so impossibly lost for so long without being reissued, particularly in this current jazz revival climate. Criminal!!!

Mtume Umoja Ensemble - 1972 - Alkebu-Lan Land of the Blacks - Live at the East

Mtume Umoja Ensemble 
Alkebu-Lan Land of the Blacks - Live at the East

101. Invocation [by Mtume]
102. Baba Hengates
103. Utamu
104. Saud

201. Alkebu-Lan
202. No Words
203. Seperate Not Equal
204. Sifa (The Prayer)

James Mtume - Conga, Tonette Horn
Carlos Garnett - Tenor Sax, Flute
Leroy Jenkins - Violin
Ndugu - Drums
Gary Bartz - Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
Stanley Cowell - Piano
Buster Williams - Bass
Andy Bey - Vocals
Joe Lee Wilson - Vocals
Billy Hart - Drums
Eddie Micheaux - Vocals
Yusuf Iman & Weusi Kuumba - Poetry

There are altogether too few artists in jazz history that approach the spacefaring vastness of Sun Ra. Yes, the proprietors of this album wish us to know that it is not jazz 'or any other irrelevant term' but simply 'black music.' However, this is avant-garde jazz at its most free and unhinged. Within two minutes of the first proper song, we have the horns going off in two directions, the rhythm section fractured and cycling in no apparent pattern, the vocalists hollering on one side and the poets reciting on the other, feeling less like live interplay and more like radical sound collage. It brings to mind the revivalist church concept of 'make a joyful noise' being this wonderfully life-affirming and vivid cacophony. It is like a broken engine with all its parts spinning separately, waiting to be fused together into something new and wonderful. By about seven minutes, everything coalesces into that sky-reaching new form, although the album is never quite finished with noisy breakdowns and hectic changes. It is a fascinating political and musical artifact, and a truly joyous firestorm of noise.
Alkebu-Lan - Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East) was a live record released by Strata-East back in 1972 that featured a Mtume led ensemble featuring, at the time, some of jazz music's most forward thinking musicians including Gary Bartz, Stanley Cowell, Buster Williams, Leroy Jenkins, Carlos Garnett and many others. This album captures Mtume playing during his early recording career when he was known more for contributing as a percussionist on many spiritual jazz records rather than producing popular boogie hits, as he became later known more for during the eighties. Overall, Alkebu-Lan is a powerful, energetic, yet spiritual recording that features heavy rhythms, vocal chants and freeform solos. It definitely one of those records that makes more sense to listen to from start to finish rather than listening to random selected tracks. A powerful record that captures the essence of the type of groundbreaking records Strata-East was releasing during this time.

Albert Heath - 1973 - Kawaida

Albert Heath 

01. Baraka
02. Maulana
03. Kawaida
04. Dunia
05. Kamili

Don Cherry: Trumpet
Billy Bonner: Flute & Percussion (#Kawaida)
Jimmy Heath: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone
Herbie Hancock: Piano
Buster Williams: Bass
Albert "Tootie" Heath: Drums
Ed Blackwell: Bells & Percussion
Mtume: Congas

A landmark album in the in the history of post Civil Rights movement jazz. This album was the concept of James Mtume, in spreading the teachings of Maulana Karenga's Kawaida philosophy. Part of the US Organisation, James Mtume would hang out in Shelly Manne's venue, spreading the work of Kawaida to the musicians there. He eventually, as a total unknown, managed to convince Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry, Buster Willams, Ed Blackwell, his father Jimmy Heath and Uncle Albert Heath to make this album. Albert Heath acquired the recording contract, which is the only reason this majority penned Mtume album was not credited to himself. Mtume wanted the album to be modal jazz, and not bop or free, as he insisted that modal was the only truly Black jazz. Albert Heath later admitted that they didn't take Mtume's message too seriously, and he was the only member of the band who genuinely had converted to the Kawaida philosophy.  They did all allow him to give them non slave names, a practice of Kawaida, and Albert Heath and Herbie Hancock held on to theirs for other recordings they made.

Apart form the Albert Heath penned track "Dunia", this is a truly beautiful Afrocentric modal jazz album. I really can't recommend this album enough if you like a strong Black element to the jazz you listen to.

Azar Lawrence - 1976 - People Moving

Azar Lawrence 
People Moving

01. Theme for a New Day
02. The Awakening
03. Kickin' Back
04. People Moving
05. Can't Hide Love
06. Canticle for the Universe
07. Gratitude

Azar Lawrence: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone
John Rowin: guitar, programming
Paul Jackson: bass
Harvey Mason: drums
Patrice Rushen: piano, arranger, synthesizer, electric piano, vocals
Michael Stanton: piano, electric piano, synthesizer, Clavinet
Jerry Peters: piano, arranger, horn arrangements
Skip Scarborough: electric piano, synthesizer, arranger, vocal arrangements
Lee Ritenour: guitar
Mtume: percussion
Dick Ricardo: percussion
Oscar Brauscher: trumpet
Chuck Finley: trumpet
George Bohanon: trombone
Ernie Watts: alto saxophone
Buddy Collette: tenor saxophone
Cheryl Barnes: vocals
Josie James: vocals
Michael Wright: vocals

Stellar reed work from Azar Lawrence – a player who's best known for his acoustic revival in recent years, but who could play with some excellent electric backings during the 70s! The set's less an electric funk outing than it is a spiritual jazz set, with keyboards and guitar in the mix – beautifully put together by the young Skip Scarborough, with a feel that's very similar to Gary Bartz's work with Larry Mizell! Azar's reeds are wonderful – soaring, searching, in a style that's inspired by Coltrane, but with a more direct focus – again like Bartz, or maybe a bit like Hadley Caliman too – and the record features strong work from a lineup that includes Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Lee Ritenour on guitar, Paul Jackson on bass, and Harvey Mason on drums. The whole thing's got a great Fantasy Records funk groove – and includes many nice titles like "Theme For A New Day", "Kickin Back", "Canticle For The Universe", "Gratitude", and a great take on Scarborough's "Can't Hide Love".

Azar Lawrence - 1975 - Summer Solstice

Azar Lawrence 
Summer Solstice

01. From the Point of Love 7:58
02. Novo Ano 6:42
03. From the Point of Light 6:55
04. Summer Solstice 9:30
05. Highway 9:48

Azar Lawrence: saxophone
Raul de Souza: trombone
Albert Dailey: piano
Ron Carter: bass
Billy Hart: drums
Gerald Hayes: flute
Amaury Tristao acoustic guitar
Dom Salvador: piano
Guilherme Franco: drums, percussion

Another awesome album from this sax virtuoso. Not quite as spacy as "Bridge into the New Age" but adventurous nonetheless. This is more akin to the stuff he did with McCoy Tyner on "Atlantis" and some of the tracks on "Sama Layuca".  The drumming is spectacular and master Ron Carter tears it up on the bass. The trombone player is on fire as well.  Parts of this album have somewhat of a latin feel to them due to the inclusion of exotic percussion. Another shining example of spiritual free jazz.

Azar Lawrence - 1974 - Bridge Into The New Age

Azar Lawrence 
Bridge Into The New Age

01. Bridge Into the New Age 6:45
02. Fatisha 4:05
03. Warriors of Peace 7:59
04. Forces of Nature 8:41
05. The Beautiful and Omnipresent Love 10:07

Azar Lawrence: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, writer
Jean Carn: voice
Woody Shaw: trumpet
Ray Straughter: flute
Woody Murray: vibraphone
Clint Huston: bass
Billy Hart: drums
Guillerme Franco: percussion
Kenneth Nash: percussion
Julian Priester: trombone
Hadley Caliman: flute
Black Arthur: alto saxophone
Joe Bonner: piano
John Heard: bass
Ndugu: drums
Mtume: conga drums, percussion

Azar Lawrence (born November 3, 1952) is an American jazz saxophonist, known for his contributions as sideman to McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw. Lawrence was the tenor saxophonist Tyner used following John Coltrane's death.
This is a prime example of the spiritual/Afrocentric/space jazz-fusion that was so prevalent throughout the 1970s. "Bridge" is a very deep and powerful recording that is in the same vein as Mtume's "Rebirth Cycle" and "The Elements" from Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane. Azar is a master saxophonist who has is own uniquely ethereal style that floats and drifts. Trumpet man Woody Shaw and master percussionist Mtume are among the other players on this 1974 offering which is Azar's first as a leader. All the cuts are very spacy and even border on the psychedelic. The amazing album art matches the aforementioned description as well. This is a very rare and somewhat costly record that is ,nonetheless, well worth seeking out.
I confess, I've been holding out on you.  I've had this vinyl rip sitting on my computer hard drive for at least a year and a half.  There were some things about the transfer that bugged me a little and I wanted to start it all over, with some minor adjustments to the equipment, but alas I never got around to it.  Now I have a new cartridge and was thinking about re-doing it again and finally just realized this is getting way too obsessive-compulsive.  This is a great record, and having only been briefly available once in Japan on CD, not terribly easy to find in the digital realm.

 Now I love lots of Prestige stuff from the 70's, but this first record by Azar Lawrence, a sax player in the modal mold of Coltrane, could have sat comfortably side by side with anything being released by the Strata-East label, flush as it is with spiritual-jazz and Afrocentric accents.  The Black Jazz label comes to mind too, if only because it is book-ended with a pair of tracks featuring the not-yet-famous Jean Carn on vocals.  Presumably it Lawrence's affiliation with (ex-Coltrane quarter member) McCoy Tyner, in whose band he played for a while in the early 70s, that brought him to the attention of Orrin Keepnews and the Milestone/Prestige/Fantasy family.

There are a bunch of heavyweights from the outer limits on this album. Julian Priester and Arthur Blythe have credits on one track each, while Woody Shaw shines on two, as does the ubiquitous Billy Hart on drums.  The singularly named soul searcher Mtume runs the drum and percussion throne on other tracks.   There are also some arrangement credits given to Ernie Straughter, who went on to contribute to a ton of more mainstream but funky modern soul records in addition to a Bobbi Humphrey album.  In all it's an eclectic collection of a musicians for a very focused record.  Very upbeat and driven, even on the laid-back Fatisha. It occurred to me yesterday that the track "Warriors of Peace" would be perfect for an imaginary Blaxploitation film  It features a scene involving a few dozen Afro-hippies dressed in Egyptian headdresses, descending on the Pentagon, serving macrobiotic food to everyone, and handing out artisinal Shea butter to spread their message of universal harmony.  However, this could have been a side effect,  a combination of what sounds like a harmonic minor scale while walking around in the scorching heat where I am currently hiding out.  The heat will pass but this music shall remain.  Dig it.

As you can tell by the cover, this is not your typical coffee shop jazz record. Azar Lawrence is best known for his work with McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis, but his records as a leader were just as powerful and innovative. Bridge into the New Age is the first of three records the sax player recorded for Prestige and I feel it's his most dynamic and interesting to listen to as a whole. His other records get more recognition because of their inclination towards a jazz-dance feel, but this record shows a young player (he was 21 when this record was recorded) taking in the history of jazz and updating it into a time period focused on Afro-centrism, peace and love.

The first thing that I have to say about this record is that for the time period, it's astounding to hear this much experimentation and musical abstraction without the use of ANY electric instruments, it is a completely organic acoustic jazz experience. Not to say this is a free jazz record, because it definitely is not - it's a new-jazz record, a sound just as challenging and interesting at a time when people like Miles and Herbie began making jazz marketable by adding synthesizers and electric guitars. Instead of going electric, he looks towards his contemporaries Keith Jarrett (he was also in Miles' band) and Carlos Garnett to achieve a sound which was rich and experimental but still acoustic.

There are a lot of great players on this record, firstly the amazing Jean Carn who is known for her immense breadth of work including records with Earth, Wind and Fire, Doug Carn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Norman Connors as well as her solo work on Philly International and Motown. Other stand-out musicians include Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, Ndugu and the legendary Mtume. An interesting note here is that Eddie Harris engineered these recording sessions which is pretty wild.

The sound on here is "new jazz" but the use of multiple percussionists keep the music earthy, and Azar's solos are never too far-out, just wild enough to show you he's playing from his heart. "Bridge," "Warriors," and "Forces" are all faster numbers that truly take you into a new age of jazz, while "Fatisha" and "Beautiful" are more contemplative spiritual jazz tracks. Overall a fantastic listen. For those interested, Azar is still playing and in fact released a new record last week with the late Rashied Ali on drums. I haven't heard it yet, but  2009's Prayer For My Ancestors was great and I'm sure the latest one wont disappoint.

Enjoy the Beautiful Omnipresent Love!

Lenny White - 1978 - The Adventures of the Astral Pirates

Lenny White 
The Adventures of the Astral Pirates

01. Prelude: Theme For Astral Pirates
02. Pursuit
03. Mandarin Warlords
04. The Great Pyramid
05. Universal Love
06. Remenbering
07. Revelation
08. Stew, Cabbage And Galactic Beans
09. Heavy Metal Monster
10. Assault
11. Climax: Theme For Astral Pirates

Bass - Alex Blake
Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer - Lenny White
Guitar [Lead] - Nick Moroch
Guitar [Rhythm] - Jeff Sigman
Keyboards, Vocals - Don Blackman
Synthesizer [Programming] - Patrick Gleeson

The name Lenny White has been synonymous with the better end of the prog/fusion spectrum since Adam wore short socks to pre school but in so doing was normally better known for his cooperative efforts with bands like Return To Forever where he was able to amply demonstrate his dexterity on the skins. This release under his own moniker from 1977 which I chanced upon while doing my usual vinyl browsing many years ago was a total surprise for me as I was greeted with an amazingly clever concept style of album that had been meticulously put together with the help of an otherwise unknown keyboard player called Don Blackman, Alex Blake on bass and Jeff Sigman on guitars.

There is plenty of variety in style and structure with some stellar (no pun intended), playing from Don & Lenny in particular. Although the limelight is rightfully directed towards Lenny and his impeccable style of drumming, there are also a lot of wonderful keyboard fills and rhythms to enjoy from the other members of this ensemble. Being a concept album from 1977 was also a reasonably cool thing to do at the time although a few years down the track, this type of project would have only succeeded if the big guns were at the helm. Names such as Alan Parsons and Rick Wakeman would have had no trouble pulling a minor gem like this out of the bag on a regular basis but Lenny White being unknown to all except those lucky few who knew of his earlier work with RTF was not a name on everybody's lips. This album therefore could not have sold that many copies, certainly not here in Australia as in over 30 years of collecting, I have only seen the one and only copy which sits proudly amongst my collection of essential prog/fusion gems from the 70’s. I hope you managed to secure your copy as well as I don't believe this has been reissued on CD although it would certainly be an interesting title to resurrect.

Lenny White - 1978 - Streamline

Lenny White 

01. Struttin'
02. Lady Madonna
03. 12 Bars From Mars
04. Earthlings
05. Spazmo Strikes Again
06. Time
07. Pooh Bear
08. Lockie's Inspiration
09. I'll See You Soon
10. Night Games
11. Cosmic Indigo

Lenny White (Drums, Percussion)
Marcus Miller (Bass)
Don "Captain Keyboards" Blackman (Vocals, Keyboards)
Nick Moroch, Jamie Glazer (Guitar)
Denzil "Broadway" Miller (Keyboards)
Chaka Khan (Lead Vocals on "Lady Madonna")
Diane Reeves (Background Vocals)
Larry Dunn (Programming)

Band that belongs. Or, it works to participate in other musicians' works. The item of Jazz/Fusion that was the main current might have had all the researches and the discussions as people's opinions in the especially 70's. It is a well-known fact that musicians to whom "Bitches Brew" of Miles Davis announced for the fan of Jazz/Fusion in 1969 was actually active in the surrounding also had the influence.
Various elements are gradually absorbed and musicians begin to establish an original route to Jazz in the especially 70's. Of course, the establishment of own music character might been improved as one drum player who is related to the production of "Bitches Brew" also of Lenny White. In it, the result of pursuing the establishment of the directionality at which each musician should aim in the flow of Jazz/Fusion that derives gradually in the 70's and extends and the self concentrating and having been collected at the time of the 70's are also true. Musicians who surrounded the situation in addition to the part of the music character and the technology might have been indeed exactly inclining zeal to the creation and the exchange.

Lenny White appeared in New York on December 19, 1949. He had taken an active part working with Jackie McLean at the time of the latter half of the 60's. And, it participates in the recording of "Bitches Brew" that Miles Davis announced in 1969 of the above-mentioned. And, the participation of "Return To Forever" might have become establishment of one music character for Lenny White in the item of Jazz/Fusion that represented the 70 year.

Some bands and groups that exist for item of Jazz/Fusion. The action of the music that has been especially caused in the band and the group and the route and directionality besides the chemical reaction often appear to the Solo album of the musician who is related to the flow. Of course, the element was not to have limited it to Jazz/Fusion. However, the flow and the exchange that especially surrounded Jazz/Fusion might have been indeed active.

Lenny White announced the Solo album with the shape that ran side by side with the activity of Return To Forever. The music character to listen by "Presents The Adventures Of The Astral Pirates" that had been announced as a result in 1978 was a part where the idea and the technology that cultivated it on business of Return To Forever were followed. And, this album produced at the same time might be a work with which the area of width of the music of Lenny White, the age, and the expression method are exactly blocked.

The point that should make a special mention as an impression of this album might be a point to have appointed Larry Dunn to Producer. Larry Dunn is known well on business of EWF. Jamie Glazer that joins Jean-Luc Ponty after this album also contributes well for the tune. Or, it is a sense of existence of active Marcus Miller as the musician of belonging exclusively of GRP. Or, the point to have appointed Diane Reeves that was still unnamed at that time. As for these exchange and appointment, I can feel a good flow and the sensibility to make music an embodiment. Because Larry Dunn does the work of production, the part of a few POP and Funk might be being united as an overall impression by Jazz/Fusion. This album with the content to take the age there well has the original directionality that exactly mixed well while following the music character of Return To Forever the technology and the taste of Lenny White and was expressed.

"Struttin'" makes Groove that Bass, the guitar, and the rhythm are complete. The melody of the guitar has gone out ahead. The obbligati with the transparent feeling that the keyboard makes exactly catches the age. The flow of complete Groove might keep the atmosphere of good Fusion. The progress of Chord with the tension and making the sound have originality.

"Lady Madonna" takes strong Groove to original music and advances. The song of Chaka Khan produces good atmosphere and the technology having it. The arrangement also has boldly taken the atmosphere of Groove and Fusion.

"12 Bars From Mars" shifts from the part of the voice processed by the effect to the part of intense Jazz Rock. Ensemble by the musician might be splendid. The idea of a technical composition in respect might follow peel Return To Forever. Their originality ..extending Jazz Rock.. has finished in complex development however.

"Earthlings" is Jazz Rock/Fusion that produces a good, transparent feeling. The song and the chorus twine well for Groove and are expressed. The part of a few POP and Funk will twine because the color of Larry Dunn has gone out as a result, too. It is atmosphere to which EWF took Fusion further.

"Spazmo Strikes Again" might make the element that connects the album act on the part of easing. The tune that doesn't come up at one minute starts at once and leaves at once. It might be a part of complete Hard Rock.

The line of Bass is taken an active part to "Time". The obbligati and the melody of the keyboard in close relation to Groove contribute well. Part and chorus of song that adds transparent feeling to part of Funk. There might be an element of POP/Fusion. Part of EWF that joined it a little. The idea might be good.

As for "Pooh Bear", the sound of the keyboard runs about the space. The chorus in close relation to cutting of the guitar is reminiscent of EWF. Sound of keyboard with diversity. Part where sound of decoration twined. Development with tension and processing of sound of percussion instrument. Atmosphere continues. The flow is consistent though the tune takes a few changes.

"Lockie's Inspiration" might make the part of the connection of the album act. Coming in succession of the melody of the piano and the keyboard with a clear transparent feeling has good atmosphere.

"I'll See You Soon" starts by the Chord progress that complete Fusion is good. It shifts from the part of Solo of Bass to a transparent feeling of the keyboard and the part of the anacatesthesia. Good Fusion is produced and there might be a part where atmosphere of a few EWF and initial Chic are reminiscent, too. The part where the guitar twines constructs the flow of good Fusion. The repeated theme produces the transparent feeling that you may continue.

As for "Night Games", the feature Chord and the dash feeling of complete Fusion. Melody with unison of Bass and guitar and tensions progressed one after another. Space that keyboard produces. The dash feeling continues. The tune shifts from Solo of the keyboard to the part of the guitar. The speed that each musician makes in union completely receives the top. The tune shifts to the rhythm of the shuffle in the last part.

"Cosmic Indigo" means the end of the album and the part of the connection. Standard Jazz that maintains a complete speed is developed.

The idea of various music is exactly blocked in this album with the part of the song. The content of the Solo album that had been announced for Lenny White in the 70's had the power to go from Return To Forever to "29" of own band.

Lenny White - 1977 - Big City

Lenny White 
Big City

01. Big City
02. Sweet Dreamer
03. Egypt
04. Nocturne
05. Rapid Transit
06. Ritmo Loco
07. Dreams Come And Go Away
08. Enchanted Pool Suite 
09. And We Meet Again

Greg Adams: Trumpet
Lamar Alsop: Violin, Viola
Brian Auger: Organ, Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric)
Raymond Beckenstein: Flute
Alex Blake: Bass
Al Brown: Viola
Emilio Castillo: Sax (Tenor)
Clive Chaman: Bass
Louis Colin: Harp
Michael Comins: Violin
Harry Cykman: Violin
Harvey Estrin: Flute
Barry Finclair: Violin
Paul Gershman: Violin
Mike Gibbs: Piano, Orchestration
Mic Gillette: Trombone, Trumpet
Patrick Gleeson: Synthesizer, Keyboards, Producer, Brass, Brass Arrangement, Arp Strings
Ray Gomez: Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Arranger, Guitar (Electric), Performer, Soloist
Jerry Goodman: Violin
Onaje Allan Gumbs: Piano, Keyboards
Jan Hammer: Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Mini Moog
Herbie Hancock: Keyboards, Piano (Electric)
Paul Jackson, Jr.: Bass
Paul Jackson: Bass
David Earle Johnson: Conga
Gary King: Bass, Drums
Harold Kohon: Violin
Stephen "Doc" Kupka: Sax (Baritone)
Lennox Laington: Conga
Walter Levinsky: Flute
Jesse Levy: Cello
Alex Ligertwood: Guitar
Guy Lumia: Violin
Bennie Maupin: Saxophone, Sax (Soprano)
Charles McCracken: Cello
Homer Mensch: Double Bass
Marcus Miller: Bass
Jack Mills: Guitar, Soloist
Marin Morganstern: Violin
Marvin Morgenstern: Violin
David Nadien: Violin
Lenny Pickett: Sax (Tenor), Lyricon, Soloist
John Pintavalle: Violin
Max Pollikoff: Violin
Neal Schon: Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Soloist
Alan Shulman: Cello
Linda Tillery: Vocals
Tower of Power: Horn
Miroslav Vitous :Bass, Bass (Acoustic)
Lenny White: Synthesizer, Bass, Piano, Arranger, Conga, Drums, Keyboards, Timbales, Moog Synthesizer, Producer, Oberheim, Horn Arrangements, Roto Toms, Announcer, Mini Moog, Arp Strings, Moog Drum, Verdine White Bass

...And yet another overlooked jazz-fusion classic from drum master Lenny White. Quite a few fusion heavyweights joined Lenny for this outing including Herbie Hancock, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman and guitar prodigy Neal Schon. Bordering on prog rock, "Big City" should be part of every prog/fusion fans' collection but unfortunately it is no longer issued. I was lucky enough to find a used copy on Amazon for 20 bucks. It's now going for 150 dollars and up. I'm sure this is subject to change.

Lenny White - 1975 - Venusian Summer

Lenny White 
Venusian Summer

01. Chicken-Fried Steak 4:33
02. Away Go Troubles Down the Drain 3:31
03. The Venusian Summer Suite:
  a. Part 1. Sirènes 4:28
  b. Part 2. Venusian Summer 6:38
04. Prelude to Rainbow Delta 1:10
05. Mating Drive 7:40
06. Prince of the Sea 11:37

Lenny White: Drums, Clavinet, Minimoog, Synthesizer, Piano, Bass, Timpani, Snare Drum, Roto-Toms, Wood Block, Marimba, Cymbal, Gong
Dennis Mackay: Gong
Doug Rauch: Bass
Doug Rodrigues: Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Voice
Raymond Gomez: Rhythm & Lead guitar
Jimmy Smith: Organ
David Sancious: Minimoog, Organ
Weldon Irvine: Organ
Onaje Allan Gumbs: Electric Piano, Clavinet, Piano, Mellotron, Organ
Tom Harrell: Orchestration, Minimoog, Flugelhorn
Patrick Gleeson: Synthesizer, Minimoog, Sequencer
Peter Robinson: Synthesizer, Clavinet, Minimoog
Hubert Laws: Flute
Larry Young (Khalid Yasin): Organ
Larry Coryell: Electric Guitar
Al DiMeola: Electric Guitar

Legendary US drummer Lenny White was born in New York in 1949. After some years of musicianship in local bands, he participated in his first great job - recording of Bitches Brew with Miles Davis in 1969. In 1972 White joined the short-lived Azteca. It was after that band?s quick dissolve a year later that he joined Return To Forever, recorded 4 albums with them and got the reputation of respectable jazz-fusion drummer. Before RTF split up in 1977, White had made his debut as a bandleader two years earlier with the release of Venusian Summer.

Starting with a number of solo Fusion albums, Lenny moved into the 1980s, succeeding in genres ranging from Straight-Ahead Jazz ("Echoes of an Era" with Chaka Khan and "The Griffith Park Collection") to the Progressive Pop of his band Twennynine, Bass/Drum Funk with bassist Marcus Miller and the Jamaica Boys, and soundtracks for Spike Lee ("School Daze") and the Hudlin Brothers ("House Party").

Lenny then formed PRESENT TENSE with a mind that his musical exploration was still in its infancy. The first self-titled record included elements pulled from Lenny's entire career, but moved forward into Hard Rock, Modern Hip-Hop, and even what could be described as Heavy Metal. Today, the exploration continues with Lenny's new PRESENT TENSE, another band of younger, well-educated players who understand the complexities of Jazz, but who still have the open-minded abandon to follow Lenny's quick-to-change-direction musical lead.If you like the fusion bands Return to forever and Brand X, then you should like this very underrated instrumental record. Lenny White was the drummer of the legendary fusion band Return to forever. Known as a great drummer in the music history, he really maintains his reputation here. One must say that he is very well assisted by talented musicians: on electric guitars, Al DiMeola contributes to sometimes get the music closer to the Return to forever's style; on the other hand, there are other guitarists who clearly will remind you Jimi Hendrix himself. There are some really obscure and mysterious keyboards arrangements, like on the "Venusian summer", "Prelude to a rainbow delta" and "Prince of the sea" tracks, which contrast with the lively, funny, rhythmic & funky character of the short tracks like "Chicken-fried cola" and "Away Go Troubles Down the Drain". The restless "Mating drive" is just awesome with its impossible "fast as lightning" bass and its visceral electric guitar & organ solos: White's short & disciplined drum solo at the end is outstanding! All the instruments on the excellent jazz-rock "Prince of the sea" track contribute to form a VERY dense and loaded piece of music, in the style of Return to forever.