Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Stanley Cowell - 1975 - Regeneration

Stanley Cowell 

01. Trying To Find A Way 3:49
02. The Gembhre 4:30
03. Shimmy Shewobble 4:00
04. Parlour Blues 5:00
05. Thank You My People 8:30
06. Travelin' Man 4:00
07. Lullabye 5:45

Acoustic Guitar - Jerry Venable (tracks: 1)
Bass - Bill Lee (2) (tracks: 2, 5, 6, 7)
Bass Drum & Ibo Chanting - Aleke Kanonu (tracks: 1, 3, 5)
Guitar - Glenda Barnes (tracks: 1)
Harmonica & Flute - Psyche Wanzandae (tracks: 4, 5)
Mama-lekimbe, Percussion & Madagascan Harp - Nadi Quamar (tracks: 2, 6, 7)
Snare Drum, Ride Cymbal, Gembhre & Percussion - Billy Higgins (tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Soprano Saxophone & Flute - Jimmy Heath (tracks: 5, 6, 7)
Synthesizer, Piano, Kora & Mibra - Stanley Cowell (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Vocals - Kareema (2) (tracks: 5, 6, 7)
Vocals & Electric Bass - Charles Fowlkes (tracks: 1, 5, 6, 7)
Waterdrum, Parade Drum & Percussion - Ed Blackwell (tracks: 1, 3, 5)
Wooden Fife & Wooden Flute - Marion Brown (tracks: 3, 6)
Zuna - John Stubblefield (tracks: 5)

Around the time of this recording, Stanley Cowell had achieved a degree of prominence as the pianist for the advanced bop quartet Music Inc., which he co-led with trumpeter Charles Tolliver, as well as for unusual projects like his Piano Choir. With Regeneration he chose another path, essentially trying to produced a jazz-infused pop album with strong African roots, perhaps owing a little bit to Stevie Wonder. He assembled an extremely strong cast of musicians for the venture, including Marion Brown, Billy Higgins, and Ed Blackwell, as well as several African string and percussion masters and, by and large, succeeded conceptually if not commercially. A few songs use vocals in a fairly standard pop framework, and, while they are performed capably enough, the lyrical content leaves something to be desired in typical mid-'70s fashion. But much of the rest of the music makes up for this with, among other things, a delightful fife and drum piece by Brown and strong bass work by Bill Lee (Spike's dad). Regeneration is an interesting, often enjoyable album which, aside from its own small pleasures, provides a snapshot of some of the cross-fertilization in genres occurring at the time.

Stanley Cowell - 1969 - Blues For The Viet Cong

Stanley Cowell 
Blues For The Viet Cong

01. Departure 7:08
02. Sweet Song 3:02
03. The Shuttle 8:07
04. You Took Advantage Of Me 4:47
05. Blues For The Viet Cong 4:18
06. Wedding March 2:49
07. Photon In A Paper World 9:03
08. Travellin' Man 3:34

Bass – Steve Novosel
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Piano – Stanley Cowell

Stanley Cowell can best be described as an intellectual pianist. From his early classical roots to collaborations with premier jazz artists to his creative solo career, Cowell’s music has been defined by integrity and taste. With an agile left hand and a relentlessly imaginative approach to standards and his own compositions, his solo concerts are events to be savored.

Stanley Cowell, was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1941. He studied piano there with Mary Belle Shealy and Elmer Gertz, and pipe organ with J. Harold Harder. By the age of fifteen, he was a featured soloist with the Toledo Youth Orchestra in Kabelevsky's Piano Concerto No. 3, a church organist/choir director, and a budding jazz pianist.

Cowell's formal training in music has been quite extensive: a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan. He also has additional undergraduate study at the Mozarteum Akademie, Salzburg, Austria, and graduate study at Wichita State University and the University of Southern California. While at U.S.C., 1963-64, he performed Gershwin's Concerto in F with the Burbank Symphony Orchestra, and played jazz in the Los Angeles area with Curtis Amy's and Ray Crawford's bands.

After completing his Masters at Michigan in 1966, Cowell headed for New York City where he worked for such musical artists as Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Mann, Miles Davis, Stan Getz and the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land groups. For several years he was part of Charles Tolliver's Music Inc., with whom he formed the innovative musician-owned record company, Strata-East, in 1971.

Cowell organized the Piano Choir in 1972, a group of seven esteemed New York-based keyboardists, and he became a founding member of the Collective Black Artists, Inc., a non-profit company devoted to bringing African-American music and musicians to the public. He served as conductor of the CBA Ensemble, 1973-1974.

In 1974, he served as a musical director of George Wein's New York Jazz Repertory Company at Carnegie Hall, along with Gil Evans, Dr. Billy Taylor and Sy Oliver. During the Seventies, Cowell established his reputation as a versatile and sensitive pianist/composer, performing and recording with Sonny Rollins, Clifford Jordan, Oliver Nelson, Donald Byrd, Roy Haynes, Richard Davis, Art Pepper, Jimmy Heath and many more great musical artists. From the period 1974-1984 he toured, recorded and conducted workshops throughout the Americas, Europe and Japan as the featured pianist with the Heath Brothers (Percy, Jimmy and Albert). He was a recipient of a Meet The Composer/Rockefeller Foundation/AT&T Jazz Program grant for 1990-1991, for the creation of “Piano Concerto No. 1” (in honor of Art Tatum), which was premiered by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, January 17, 18, 1992.

Cowell served on the board of the Charlin Jazz Society, producer of jazz concerts in Washington, D.C., 1990-1996. He and his wife Sylvia currently produce concerts in Prince George's County, Maryland, under The Piano Choir, Inc., a non-profit music and educational entity.

In July, 1992, he was the featured piano soloist with the Colorado Festival Orchestra in Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, and many other “third stream” works, conducted by Gunther Schuller and Larry Newland. Stanley Cowell is currently a tenured professor at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Department of Music, New Brunswick, New Jersey. From 1981-1999, he was a professor at Herbert Lehman College, C.U.N.Y., Bronx, New York, teaching music history, jazz history, piano, improvisation, electronic/computer music, arranging, and jazz band. From 1988-1989, he concurrently taught jazz piano at New England Conservatory, Boston.

Stanley Cowell, the pianist and composer, performs and lectures professionally as a solo pianist, and in ensemble formations from duo to orchestra. He performs in a variety of venues, from jazz club to concert hall, often utilizing electronic sounds and African finger piano.

Incredible work from the young Stanley Cowell – one of his first albums ever, but already a step ahead of most of his contemporaries! The set's a trio date, unlike some of Cowell's later albums for Strata East – and it's got a wonderful blend of soaring piano lines and more complicated rhythms – already showing some of the spiritual elements that Cowell would later craft into longer lines with Charles Tolliver – but possibly even more striking here in the looser space of a trio! Rhythms are sometimes quite fluid and free – almost in the vein of some of Steve Kuhn's most inventive late 60s work – but sometimes things echo previous generations as well, almost with a Jaki Byard vibe. In addition to Cowell's great work on acoustic and electric piano, the trio features wonderful drums from Jimmy Hopps and bass from Steve Novosel – both players who are at the top of their game here, and really help set fire to Cowell's music. 

Sonny Fortune - 1979 - With Sound Reason

Sonny Fortune 
With Sound Reason

01. Igbob's Shuffle 4:55
02. Boy From Witbank 5:07
03. Francisco 3:13
04. Come In Out Of The Rain 5:28
05. Georgiana 8:12
06. Loneliness Returns 5:50
07. Afortunado 4:45

Bass – Mark Egan (tracks: A4, B1), Willie Weeks (tracks: A1 to A3, B2, B3)
Congas, Percussion – Sammy Figueroa (tracks: A3, B2)
Drums – Steve Jordan
Keyboards – Larry Willis
Percussion – Manolo Bachena (tracks: A2), Raphael Cruz
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar – Ray Gomez
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Producer – Sonny Fortune

Recorded and mastered at Atlantic Studios, New York, NY

I have waited a lifetime for this album to be put on CD and I have finally gotten my wish. With Sound Reason is a funky masterpiece of a CD. This CD has really great stand out cuts on it. Georgiana is a great slow to mid-tempo groove that really takes this CD to the stratosphere. Other funky grooves are Come in out of the Rain, Igbob Shuffle, and Boy from Witbank, one of my personal favorites. The other three songs are really nice slower romantic and latin influenced pieces. Sonny Fortune does a great job on this album. Get it if like swinging late 70's jazz. A classic gem of a CD.

Sonny Fortune - 1978 - Infinity Is

Sonny Fortune 
Infinity Is

01   Turning It Over 7:07
02 A Ballad For The Times 7:04
03 This Side Of Infinity 6:11
04 Perihelion 6:04
05 The Blues Are Green 5:38
06 Samba Touch 5:54
07 Make Up 5:10

Bass – Anthony Jackson
Congas – Sammy Figueroa
Drums – Steve Jordan
Organ, Synthesizer – Allan Zavod
Percussion – Rafael Cruz*
Piano [Acoustic], Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Larry Willis
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar – Ray Gomez
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Trumpet – Tom Browne

In the early 70's Jazz went through a period of transition when many artists followed Miles Davis' lead into the realm of what became known as Jazz Fusion. Out of that period came the adventurous sounds of groups like Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Headhunters. The mid 70's jelled around a more radio-friendly group of artists like Grover Washington Jr., Donald Byrd, Lonnie Liston Smith and Jeff Lorber. By the time the late 70's arrived, many Jazz artist were looking to take full advantage of this new paradigm. Sonny Fortune dipped into this pool by releasing two recordings - "Infinity Is" (1978) and "With Sound Reason" (1979). "Infinity Is" has some fine moments but is a clear departure from Sonny's previous excellent recordings that included the masterpiece " Awakening", the innovative "Waves of Dreams", and the festive "Serengeti Minstrel".

This recording kicks off in high gear with "Turning It Over". This percussion driven high-energy effort gets your head bobbing early as Sonny dives and swirls with accuracy and precision as he hits stratospheric levels of joyful expression. A great Santana-vibed solo from guitarist Ray Gomez keeps the track in orbit until Sonny returns for a second round of Soprano bliss. You can get a speeding ticket listening to this track while driving. "Ballad of the Times" slows things down with a gorgeous melody surrounded by a beautiful sadness that makes you want to lean back and close your eyes to fully absorb the moment. Bassist Mark Egan steals the show with a brilliant bass solo that would make Jaco Pastorious proud. These first two tracks are my favorite. The remaining material is good ear candy with subtle sound references to Grover Washington, Jr. on the title track. Lonnie Liston Smith's vibe comes to mind on the laid back "Perihelion", with Sonny playing some colorful Flute. "The Blues Are Green" feels like a true reference back to Sonny's earlier "Waves of Dreams" sound. Vamps from Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" popped into my head when I first heard the funky "Make Up". A lot of the compositions on this disc were penned by Larry Willis and that might explain the simplicity and subtle references to that late 70's vibe. No disrespect towards Willis is intended here, but I had grown used to stronger material from Fortune's three previous recordings. There is enough joyous music here to make this disc a good addition to a diverse music collection.

So enjoy this trip back to the 70's and simpler times. Sonny was and still is an excellent artist with a wide range of musical offerings. I want to personally thank Wounded Bird Records for bringing this music into 2010. Four Stars for the journey back in time. Peace!!

Sonny Fortune - 1977 - Serengeti Minstrel

Sonny Fortune 
Serengeti Minstrel

01. Bacchanal 5:42
02. The Afro-Americans 7:26
03. There´s Nothing Smart About Being Stupid 6:47
04. Not All Dreams Are Real 5:53
05. Never Again Is Such A Long Time 4:45
06. Serengeti Minstrel 10:53

Sonny Fortune: flute, alto flute, alto saxophone, handclaps, soprano saxophone, piccolo, composer
Woody Shaw: cornet, trumpet
Kenny Barron: fender rhodes, composer
Jack Wilkins: guitar
Gary King: electric bass
Sammy Figueroa: bongos, congas, whistle
Jack DeJohnette: drums, handclaps
Rafael Cruz: cuica, percussion
Horacee Arnold: drums, celeste, bass marimba, gong, handclaps, composer

Recorded April 6, 1977 (1, 4, 6), April 7, 1977 (2, 3, 6), April 8, 1977 (5) at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.

After moving to New York City in 1967 Fortune recorded and appeared live with drummer Elvin Jones's group. In 1968 he was a member of Mongo Santamaría's band. He subsequently performed with singer Leon Thomas, and with pianist McCoy Tyner (1971–73).[1]

In 1974 Fortune replaced Dave Liebman in Miles Davis's ensemble, remaining until spring 1975, when he was succeeded by Sam Morrison. Fortune can be heard on the albums Big Fun, Get Up With It, Agharta and Pangaea, the last two recorded live in Japan.[1]

Fortune joined Nat Adderley after his brief tenure with Davis, and then went on to form his own group in June 1975, recording two albums for the Horizon (A&M) label. During the 1990s, he recorded several acclaimed albums for the Blue Note label. He has also performed with Roy Brooks, Buddy Rich, George Benson, Rabih Abou Khalil, Roy Ayers, Oliver Nelson, Gary Bartz, Rashied Ali and Pharoah Sanders, as well as appearing on the live album The Atlantic Family Live at Montreux (1977)

This is one of my favorite Sonny Fortune recordings. A multi-talented artist with a distinctive sound on both Alto and Soprano Saxophones while adding vibrant colorations on Flute, Sonny Fortune has been overlooked for much too long. Surrounding himself with excellent musicians that include Jack DeJohnette (Drums), Woody Shaw (Cornet & Fluglehorn) and Kenny Barron (Fender Rhodes), this 1977 recording cooks from beginning to end. If you like music played with passion and finesse, you need to add "Serengeti Minstrel" to your collection.

The disc starts out with the festive "Bacchanal". The rhythm section is superb as Sonny's flute floats and darts like a Brazilian dancer at carnival. "The Afro-Americans" is a percussion driven groove with off-beat handclaps to lay a solid foundation for some colorful solo work from Fortune and Shaw. Sonny switches to Soprano on the Latin-vibed "There's Nothing Smart About Being Stupid". At the start, Woody and Sonny play in unison before splitting off to show their respective chops as great soloist. In between, Barron and DeJohnette are exceptional. The title track is ten minutes of pure musical entertainment. The music starts out kind of mysterious and subdued with Gary King showing off his chops with some great bass harmonics. The track then shifts to a very funky groove coupled with several time-shifts to tease your ears before moving into a very passionate dance between the percussion, handclaps and saxophone. On this track, Fortune reminds me of John Coltrane when he continuously reinterprets his soprano statements several times before exploding into a torrential swirl of cascading energy. The musicians displayed excellent chemistry throughout with percussionists Sammy Figueroa and Rafael Cruz laying down some mean rhythms to spice up the sound. Guitarist, Jack Wilkins duets with Fortune's Flute on the lovely "Never Again Is Such A Long Time". This beautiful composition adds a nice touch of softness to an otherwise smoldering disc.

From my perspective, the real magic happens on this recording because Sonny Fortune and Jack Dejohnette are locked in as they push and challenge each other so brilliantly. Having played the vinyl LP until it finally gave up the ghost years ago, it is great to add this CD to my Jazz collection. After being out of circulation for over 30+ years, I salute Wounded Bird for bringing forth another musical treasure to help me complete my "Gotta-Have-It" list. I would like to strongly encourage them to locate and release two other Sonny Fortune jewels from the 70's. "Awakening" (1975) and "Waves Of Dreams" (1976) both are excellent recordings and feature the brilliant trumpet of Charles Sullivan . In the meantime, keep up the good work. "Serengeti Minstrel" will keep me smiling for a long time. Peace!!

Sonny Fortune - 1976 - Waves of Dreams

Sonny Fortune 
Waves of Dreams

01. Seeing Beyond The Obvious 6:16
02. A Space In Time 7:16
03. In Waves Of Dreams 6:47
04. Revelation 9:39
05. Thoughts 10:19

Recorded March 22-23, 1976 at Generation Sound Studios, New York City
Mixed at Westlake Audio, Los Angeles

Bass – Buster Williams
Drums – Chip Lyle
Piano – Michael Cochrane
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan
Sax - Sonny Fortune

Considering his talent, this was a rather weak and overly commercial effort by the great altoist Sonny Fortune. On several of the numbers, Fortune is joined by some dated electronics; his playing on flute and soprano (during two of the five songs) is not on the same level as his alto, and the songs (four of which are his originals) are forgettable. The tricky time signatures and some of the solos are worthwhile (in the supporting cast are trumpeter Charles Sullivan and keyboardist Michael Cochrane), but the set overall is not the least bit memorable. Sonny Fortune eventually showed that he was capable of much better.

A really wonderful album by Sonny Fortune – recorded for a major label, sure, but with the soulful depth of some of his earlier work for the indies! Sonny's on alto, flute, and soprano sax – and also plays a bit of percussion and some slight mini moog – not too much, as the session only has slight electric touches, but mixed with additional Fender Rhodes from Michael Cochrane, which gives the record a shimmering finish that helps take Fortune's reed solos up to the heavens!

Sonny Fortune - 1975 - Awakening

Sonny Fortune 

01. Triple Threat 10:25
02. Nommo 9:38
03. Sunshower 5:14
04. For Duke And Cannon 2:58
05. Awakening 12:17

A1, A2, B3: Recorded September 8, 1975 at Sound Ideas, New York City.
B1: Recorded September 9, 1975 at Sound Ideas, New York City.
B2: Recorded August 28, 1975 at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City.

"Clifford Adams, trombone and Leonard Gibbs, percussion, played on several selections which, regretfully, are not included on this album"

Wayne Dockery: Bass
Sonny Fortune: Chimes, Claves, Cowbell, Flute, Percussion, Sax, Shaker
Billy Hart: Drums
John Hicks: Piano
Chip Lyle:Drums
Chipper Lyles: Drums
Charles Sullivan: Flugelhorn, Trumpet
Reggie Workman: Bass

Sonny Fortune's second LP as a leader is an adequate set of mostly straight-ahead jazz, which sets it apart from many of his fusion-venturing peers of the '70s. With a slate of expert, professional sidemen (Billy Hart, John Hicks, Reggie Workman, Charles Sullivan, etc), Awakening never amazes, but it also never disappoints. Fortune, as usual, offers several spirited solos, while his cohorts incessantly swing. Straight-ahead jazz fans will appreciate this yeoman set.

It was a time of commercial oriented excesses under the cape of Fusion but Fortune who’d recently started recording as a leader wasn’t buying it, and keeps an unaffected and uncompromising posture in an album of straight ahead Jazz which nevertheless ventures into diversified fields that mirror the sax player’s broad horizons earned while working with masters as different as Mongo Santamaria, McCoy Tyner or Miles Davis. 

“Triple Threat” opens up with a threatening appeal and a bouncy pulsation driven by Wayne Dockery relentless walking bass and Billy Hart’s energizing in front of the beat time keeping unexpected fills and punchy snare accents; after Fortune’s torrid solo Charles Sullivan initially seems hesitant until his trebly trumpet injects a both cooling and reinvigorating breeze, whereas Reggie Workman – who replaces Dockery just for the occasion –opens “Nommo” up with a both creepy and humor filled mixture of bowed and pizzicato bass intro, before the band joins in and wallows in a breakneck speed, Afro-Latin infected groove (its vigor boosted by Angel Allende’s congas and Fortune’s hectic  doubling on cowbell) , masterfully lead by Kenny Barron’s stimulating piano and perfectly suited for exultant and vibrant alto acrobatics. 

Side 2 embraces a more soothing philosophy, kicking off with Barron’s contemplative and glittering “Sunshower” with Fortune doubling on sax and flute and the latter’s fluttering flurries illustrating the tune’s title, appeasing with Fortune’s  gorgeous “For Duke and Cannon” a slick ballad and an heartfelt tribute to Duke’s compositional accomplishments and Cannonball’s satiny tone and talented solo constructions, the result of a previously held recording session and the only occasion when the piano and drums slots were occupied by John Hicks and Chip Lyles respectively. 

With the wah-wah treated flute like flocks of birds chirping all around,  bass glissandos and assorted percussions contributing to the atmospheric painting of a dawn at the forest, Fortune honors once more the solid Latin roots developed in his past career on the 12 minutes plus title track and his only other original composition ; Sullivan shifts to flugelhorn whose velvety tone better integrates the flowing and warm vibe of the piece as does Barron’s Fender Rhodes with its Hancock-esque Funky approach while the leader proves he’s a mind-blowing flutist too. 

Devoid of groundbreaking excursions but including not a single disappointing moment this is a very worthy listen; however it’s an album which apparently sunk into oblivion; had it been released by any of the big-three Jazz labels and I’m sure it would have already been reissued in CD; Horizon being a subsidiary of the mainstream Pop and Rock currents representative A & M it is collecting dust on the label archives; with a title like “Awakening” what else can one do to amplify this wake-up call?

Sonny Fortune - 1974 - Long Before Our Mothers Cried

Sonny Fortune
Long Before Our Mothers Cried

01. Long Before Our Mothers Cried 14:52
02. A Tribute To A Holiday (Billie) 6:01
03. Sound Of Silents 8:58
04. Five For Trane 6:28
05. Wayneish 6:45

Flute, Producer, Saxophone [Alto, Soprano] – Sonny Fortune
Bass – Wayne Dockery
Congas, Triangle, Tambourine – Angel Allende
Cowbell, Shaker – Richie Pablo Landrum
Drums – Chip Lyle
Drums [Bass], Timbales – Mario Muñoz
Electric Piano, Piano – Stanley Cowell
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan

Saxophonist, flutist, and multi-reed player Sonny Fortune is a progressive musician with a harmonically aggressive style who came to prominence as a member of trumpeter Miles Davis' fusion groups of the '70s. Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Fortune attended the Wurlitzer and Granoff music schools and performed with local R&B bands in his teens. Influenced early on by such players as Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, Fortune was 18 before he decided to pursue a career in music exclusively. In 1967 he moved to New York City and quickly found work with several name artists, including drummer Elvin Jones and percussionist Mongo Santamaria, with whom he would play for two years. Around 1970 Fortune was asked join McCoy Tyner's group and ended up performing with the legendary pianist from 1971 to 1973. During this time, Fortune also recorded with drummer Buddy Rich and even turned down an invitation to join Miles Davis' fusion ensemble, choosing to stick with Tyner. However, in 1974 Fortune finally accepted and replaced saxophonist David Liebman in Davis' group. Although he was only with Davis for a year, it was a fruitful time and Fortune appeared on several albums including Big Fun, Get Up with It, Agharta, and Pangaea.

In 1975 Fortune formed his own group, and during the remainder of the decade released several albums including 1975's Awakening, 1977's Serengeti Minstrel with trumpeter Woody Shaw, and 1977's Waves of Dreams. Also during the '70s, he worked with cornetist Nat Adderley as well as the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. Although his own discography is sparse throughout the '80s, Fortune continued to perform, joining the Coltrane Legacy Band in 1987 along with Tyner, Jones, and bassist Reggie Workman. In the '90s Fortune's solo work kicked into high gear and he released several acclaimed records for Blue Note, including 1994's Four in One, 1995's A Better Understanding, and 1996's From Now On. Since 2000 Fortune has continued to perform around the world and has released a steady stream of albums, including his 2000 tribute album In the Spirit of John Coltrane, 2003's Continuum, 2007's standards album You and the Night and the Music, and 2009's live album Last Night at Sweet Rhythm.

A real early moment of genius from reedman Sonny Fortune – a classic set cut for the Strata East label, and one that's got a lot more depth and edge than some of Fortune's later records! Don't get us wrong, we always love Sonny to death – but there's really something special going on here – a quality that has Fortune breaking from some of the straighter scenes he was working in a few years before, and going for a righteous style he'd never create this well again – a rich approach to the music that's very much at home on Strata East! Tracks are long, and graced not only with wonderfully searching solos from Sonny on alto, soprano sax, and flute – but also features trumpet from Charles Sullivan, Fender Rhodes and piano from Stanley Cowell, bass from Wayne Dockery, drums from Chip Lyle, and percussion from the heady trio of Richard Landrum, Mario Munoz, and Angel Allende. The percussion is quite heavy at times, and gives the record a really rootsy feel at some of the best moments 

SJOB Movement – 1977 - Friendship Train

SJOB Movement 
Friendship Train 

01. Friendship Train 6:06
02. Love Affair 6:50
03. What Could It Be? 3:33
04. Odiaria 5:50
05. Let's Do It 4:51
06. Halleluyah! 5:03
07. Love Affair (Sol Power All-Stars Rework) 6:50

Backing Vocals – Akin Nathan, Roy Spiff
Bass [Fender], Percussion – Ottay Hima Blackie
Congas – Friday Pozo
Gong – Moscow Egbe
Guitar, Vocals – Samuel Abiloye (Spark)
Keyboards, Vocals – Jonnie Woode Olima
Lead Vocals, Talking Drum, Percussion – Bolla Prince Agba
Trombone – Fred Fisher
Trumpet – Ignace De Souza, Sharp Mike
Written-By, Composed By, Backing Vocals – SJOB Movement

SJOB Movement’s Friendship Train was the second LP by the group and one which saw the group rise to new heights. It’s a masterpiece of African music with it’s fluid afro beat grooves and spaced out Moog synthesizer sounds.
Here is an excerpt from the liner notes written and researched by Uchenna Ikonne: “Prince Bola Agbana might hardly be the most immediately recognizable name in the constellation of Nigerian music stars, but for a significant portion of the last half-century he labored in the shadows, dutifully serving as one of the key movers in its development: An in-demand session musician. An early and respected exponent of funk. A catalyst in the retrofit of juju into a modern pop genre. Most of all, though, he is recognized as the founder, leader, drummer…
and principal vocalist of the SJOB Movement.
SJOB: Sam, Johnnie, Ottah, Bola. For a moment in the mid-1970s, they were le dernier cri in modern Nigerian music, representing the next step in the evolution of afro rhythms, and a new paradigm for the band economy. Their first album, 1976’s A Move in the Right Direction, was a minor sensation and was swiftly followed by Friendship Train in 1977. Then it appeared that the movement stopped moving, and SJOB disappeared from the scene.”

SJOB Movement - 1974 - A Move In The Right Direction

SJOB Movement 
A Move In The Right Direction

01 Country Love
02 No One Cares
03 You Only Live Once
04 Omo Oloro (To Nje Eyin Awo)
05 Stone Funk

Bass, Agogô, Percussion [Sekere] – Ottay Hima Blackie (Ehima Ottah)
Chorus – Roy Spiff, SJOB Movement
Guitar [Lead & Rhythm], Congas – Samuel Abiloye Esse
Lead Vocals, Drums, Bongos – Bolla Prince
Organ, Piano, Synthesizer [Moog] – Jonnie Woode Olimmah

Deep and spacey afro-funk rhythms from four heavy weight Nigerian musicians

Extreme Afro-Funk-Rock rarity. Aside from a few scattered blog entries, we’ve never seen this one given the attention it deserves. One track from their second LP was included on Soundway’sNigeria Disco Funk Special compilation from last year. Some deep and spacey afro-funk rhythms from four heavy weight Nigerian musicians, and the first ever reissue of their 1974 classic album! ....

The album liner notes has an interesting introduction to the album and group setting telling how musicians were often extremely exploited and never credited (Fela kuta and James Brown were mentioned, with Fela living a slavery-owner like leadership, with one exception of a recording as a first compromise to the poor boys). It says Nigeria was one of the worst countries for band members making a strong distinction between lead singers and “band boys”. One initiative of some talented backing musicians, being tired of all the exploitations (for them at that time as the Ozziddi boys backing band for singer Okosuns), resulted into the formation of the SJOB Movement band. In this case they promoted a “band” feeling with no egalitarian structure. The good thing about it is that each member had all the freedom to develop psychedelic instrumentations, with the possibilities of solos which were adapted into a group sound. Mixed with a funky groove and Afro-rhythmic variations this surely worked successfully. Included is not only an organ, but also a Moog synthesizer with strange psychedelic effects and additional keyboard variations, some fuzz guitar and the African percussion. The album is very much a studio album under best conditions, showing a steady concept with a success mixture of groove, song and musical expressiveness, the psych factor. The song foundation remains, as well as the funky edge, enough time is given to instrumental parts too, showing the best of each element, tightly packaged into the strong group sound.

After this album, again according to the liner notes, the band began to embrace several different music genres. Some differences in tastes by the members were finally breaking the entity apart, only to be regrouped again in 1981, resulting in some after stories further explained further in the same liner notes.

Heavy heady funk from the 70s Nigerian scene – a wicked little record that's unlike anything else we've heard before! SJOB is a combo made from ex-members of the group of Sonny Okosuns – all top-shelf players who've clearly got their chops down in the groove department, but are also really willing to experiment with their sound as well! There's some hip spacey elements to the music – cool keyboards that weave in and out of the guitar and tighter rhythms – creating a sense of darkness that's totally great, even when things are still pretty funky. The structure of the tunes is far from familiar Afro Funk too – pretty offbeat and jagged – familiar rhythms one minute, then fresh ones the next! Titles include "Countrylove", "No One Cares", "Stone Funk", "Omo Oloro", and "You Only Live Once". (Great reissue – on heavy vinyl, with a bonus insert too!)

SJOB Movement's "A Move in the Right Direction" from 1974 is a wonderfully offbeat record, sure there are funky Afrobeat grooves for miles on here, but what makes this album really special is its off-kilter qualities. There's a heavy, introspective vibe at times, enhanced by swirling synth and keyboard sounds fairly unique in the region and era; it sounds far deeper and spacier than anything we've heard coming out of 1970s Nigeria.

Shirley Scott - 1974 - One For Me

Shirley Scott 
One For Me

01. What Makes Harold Sing? 8:53
02. Keep On Movin' On 9:52
03. Do You Know A Good Thing When You See One? 8:51
04. Big George 5:22
05. Don't Look Back 8:56

Harold Vick (as,ts)
George Davis (fl)
Kiane Zawadi (Euphonium)  
Jimmy Hopps (per,cwbl)
Joe Bonner (b,tuba)
Billy Higgins (tp,ds)
Sam Jones (b)
Shirley Scott (org)

An admirer of the seminal Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott has been one of the organ's most appealing representatives since the late '50s. Scott, a very melodic and accessible player, started out on piano and played trumpet in high school before taking up the Hammond B-3 and enjoying national recognition in the late '50s with her superb Prestige dates with tenor sax great Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Especially popular was their 1958 hit "In the Kitchen." Her reputation was cemented during the '60s on several superb, soulful organ/soul-jazz dates where she demonstrated an aggressive, highly rhythmic attack blending intricate bebop harmonies with bluesy melodies and a gospel influence, punctuating everything with great use of the bass pedals. Scott married soul-jazz tenor man Stanley Turrentine, with whom she often recorded in the '60s. The Scott/Turrentine union lasted until the early '70s, and their musical collaborations in the '60s were among the finest in the field. Scott wasn't as visible the following decade, when the popularity of organ combos decreased and labels were more interested in fusion and pop-jazz (though she did record some albums for Chess/Cadet and Strata East). But organists regained their popularity in the late '80s, which found her recording for Muse. Though known primarily for her organ playing, Scott is also a superb pianist -- in the 1990s, she played piano exclusively on some trio recordings for Candid, and embraced the instrument consistently in Philly jazz venues in the early part of the decade. At the end of the '90s, Scott's heart was damaged by the diet drug combination, fen-phen, leading to her declining health. In 2000 she was awarded $8 million in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the drug. On March 10, 2002 she died of heart failure at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia.

The late shirley scott was one of the great soul-jazz organists, and as near as i can tell, the only woman among the bunch. She recorded her own stack of albums for blue note, impulse!, cadet and other labels, and mostly didn't get quite the recognition all the other organ burners did in that classic period before the electric piano and synthesizers took over the work of keyboard funk in jazz. She was married to the great stanley turrentine, and i have to say that some of the equally under recognized harold vick's work here sounds a bit turrentine-ish--but better! Anyway, this is her contribution to the always-amazing strata-east label.

Shamek Farrah & Folks - 1978 - La Dee La La

Shamek Farrah & Folks 
La Dee La La

01. La Dee La La Song 9:16
02. Waiting For Marvin 7:34
03. The White Lady 10:07
04. And Along Came Ron Rahsaan 9:44

Acoustic Bass – Kiyoto Fujiwara (tracks: B1)
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Vocals – Shamek Farrah (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2)
Bongos, Percussion, Vocals – Lenny King (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Congas – Roger Howell (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Drums – Ayon Falu (tracks: B1)
Drums, Vocals – Ron Rahsaan (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Electric Bass – Hasan Jenkins (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Guitar – Harry Jenson* (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Piano – Saeed Amik (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Piano, Vocals – Sonelius Smith (tracks: A1, B1)
Tenor Saxophone – Grant Reed (tracks: B1)
Trombone – Marvin Neal (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Trumpet – Abdullah Khalid (tracks: A1, A2, B2), Malachi Thompson (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Vocals – Ghanniya Green (tracks: A1, A2, B2), Vivian Chandler (tracks: A1, A2, B2)

Recorded at Sound Ideas New York City 6/78

Reed player Shamek Farrah ranks with the great unrecorded. Two releases on Strata East in the ‘70s, some for RA, a release in ‘95. The reissue of this 1978 recording reintroduces a roomful of rarely heard musicians, along with a young Malachi Thompson. Roger Howell’s congas and Lenny King’s percussion give the music a tropical feel, while Saeed Amik’s quick luscious piano harmonies blossom all over the music.

The disc opens with the title track. Preceding the '80s African jazz boom, “La Dee La La” features a lush, easygoing composition and arrangement, not unlike Abdullah Ibrahim’s gentle Cape Town swing. After a bracing acapella chorus intro, pianist Saeed Amir introduces the chords, Lenny King and Roger Howell hit the hand drums, and Ghanniya Green sings the theme. Guitarist Harry Jenson plays silky rhythm, while Farrah’s playful soprano sax composes festive variations. Playing a vocalesque plunger mute, trumpeter Abdullah Khalid makes a soulful statement, followed by Amir’s elegant variations.

Moving into a warmer hemisphere, “Waiting for Marvin” sees Amik’s effervescent piano dance over the joyously grooving rhythm section. Farrah serves ripe alto, twisting through the changes. Thompson romps his full-toned trumpet around the festive sounds, followed by Amik’s cool, refreshing inspirations. The orchestra returns to take it out. Some shuffling on “White Lady” brings Sonelius Smith to the piano chair. Sans percussionists, the band just swings with Farrah taking the first solo. Smith plays chords blocks, as opposed to Amik’s blending shimmer. Thompson soars again, casually taking chances. Smith solos with deliberation, poking out the right handed notes.

Jenson’s limber electric guitar slyly welcomes the listener to “And Along Came Ron Rahsaan.” With King and Howell back, Farrah blows soprano, making way for Marvin Neal’s meaty trombone solo. With Vivian Chandler singing wordlessly, Amik builds a final graceful musical lattice.
By Rex Butters@AllAboutJazz

I downloaded this from the great Never Enough Rhodes blog some time ago, yesterday I was giving it a listen, and decided I wanted a copy for my collection and upon entering the interwebs I discovered that mint copies of the LP go for 280 USD and the Cd in mint condition averages over a 100 USD... wee bit over my budget!
Well... Thank you again mister Never Enough Rhodes for sharing this very expensive beauty with us!

Shamek Farrah & Sonelius Smith - 1977 - The World Of The Children

Shamek Farrah & Sonelius Smith 
The World Of The Children

01. The World Of The Children 9:58
02. Conversation Piece 6:28
03. Milt: A Bass Solo 2:57
04. People Puttin People Through Changes 7:17
05. Juluis 5:22

Bass – Kiyoto Fuiwara, Milton Suggs (tracks: B1)
Drums – Freddie Wrenn
Percussion – Tony Waters
Piano – Sonelius Smith
Saxophone,s – Shamek Farrah
Trumpet – Joseph Gardner

Recorded at Sound Ideas, April 1976.

Shamek Farrah is an alto saxophone player, who was featured on many Strata-East Records albums, and released two albums on the label as leader.

Reviewing First Impressions, Allmusic said: "This is the standard spiritually intense new jazz one learns to expect from the label, soaked in some Eastern influences but always with its ear to the street.".

He was born Anthony Domacase in New York City, New York. He began studying the alto saxophone under Garvin Bushel at age 12. In the late 1960s he began performing with upcoming Latin and Latin-jazz groups around the New York area. In the mid 1970s and 80’s when live loft jazz was popular in New York City, He performed with his own groups and other prominent jazz musicians such as Sonelius Smith, Rashid Ali, John Stubblefield, Carlos Garnett, Walter Davis Jr..

In late 1972, at age 25, he signed with Strata-East Records and in 1974 his first jazz album "First Impressions" was released. In 1977 his second Strata-East Records album, Shamek Farrah/Sonelius Smith-The World Of The Children. In 1979, he signed with RA Records and the album Shamek Farrah And Folks-La De La La was released in 1980. Each of those recordings have since been re-released. First Impressions and The World Of The Children were re-released in 1996 on the Japanese record label, Bomba Records and Shamek Farrah And Folks-La De La La was re-released in 2002 on the Quadraphonic Sound Modules Records label. His legendary composition "First Impressions" performed on the album of the same name continues to fascinate listeners around the world many years after its inception. In 1992, Soul Jazz Records, a British record label, released the original recording of "First Impression" on a compilation CD "Soul Jazz Loves Strata-East" featuring other Strata-East Records artists as well. In 2006 the British record label Soul Brothers Records re-release "First Impressions" again on a compilation CD "Fusion With Attitude" featuring jazz greats Joe Henderson, Nat Adderley and Walter Bishop Jr. performing on their own selections.

Sonelius Smith (1942) had a classical piano education after moving with his family to Memphis (Tennessee) as a nine-year- old. After completing his highschool degree, he received a scholarship to study at Arkansas AM & N College (now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff ), where he studied piano and music theory with Josephus Robinson. After the graduation he toured with John Stubblefield in the formation The New Directions through Europe; Then moved to New York City. There he worked in the quartet of Rashied Ali for the music education project Jazzmobile ,

At the beginning of the 1970s he went on tour with Rahsaan Roland Kirk and played on his albums Blacknuss, Rahsaan Rahsaan and Black Inventions Strata 1 . In 1976, he played with Olu Dara , Byard Lancaster, and Don Moye in the Flight to Sanity , with which 1976 recordings were made at the New York Jazz Loft sessions . 1977 appeared with Strata-East Records his album Shamek Farrah The World of the Children . He also worked with Frank Foster , Archie Shepp , Lionel Hampton , Robin Kenyatta , David Murray , Noah Howard, and Andrew Cyrille, as well as the Piano Choir conducted by Stanley Cowell . Smith played 18 recordings between 1970 and 1997. His compositions were recorded by Ahmad Jamal ( The Need to Smile ) and Robin Kenyatta ( Mellow in the Park ). Smith taught at the Community Museum of Brooklyn for several years and was the founder / conductor of the New York Jazz Philharmonic . He is currently teaching at the Harlem School of the Arts and the Third Street Music School Settlement .

Another great session of spiritual soul jazz and one of the rarest albums on Strata-East from 1976. Shamek Farrah's soulful alto is matched with the free spiritual piano of Sonelius Smith, for a totally memorable session that virtually defines the essence of the Strata East sound. The music is free, but not too free; lyrical, but never indulgent; and always turning over with a fresh sense of imagination, and a strident groove that's very much in the classic Strata East mode.

The highlight of this lp is the latin romp of the 10 minute title tune "World Of The Children", a real banger of the first order. David Murray also cut a fantastic version of this with his big band on "South of the Border" which i will post some day.

Shamek Farrah - 1974 - First Impressions

Shamek Farrah 
First Impressions

01. Meterologicly Tuned 11:00
02. Watch What Happens Now 5:35
03. Umoja Suite 7:21
04. First Impressions 11:29

MUSICIANS tracks 1-2

Alto Sax - Shamek Farrah
Bass - Milton Suggs
Trumpet - Norman Person
Piano - Kasa Mu-Barak Allah
Drums - Clay Herndon

MUSICIANS tracks 3-4

Alto Sax - Shamek Farrah
Bass - Milton Suggs
Conga - Calvert "Bo" Satter-White
Drums - Ron Warwell
Percussion - Kenny Harper
Piano - Sonelius Smith
Trumpet - Norman Person

As Strata-East Records got rolling, one of the admirable things it was able to do was offer a platform to some more obscure artists who weren’t being heard elsewise, folks like Billy Parker’s Fourth World (including DeeDee, Ronald, and Cecil Bridgewater); the Washington, DC ensemble Juju (who evolved from an Art Ensemble knock-off into the great jazz-funk band Oneness of Juju by the mid-70s); and alto sax player Shamek Farrah. I don’t really know too much about Shamek except that he made two great albums of spiritual jazz for Strata-East in 1974 and ’77 (the second and half of the first in collaboration with pianist Sonelius Smith).

Both are way cool, but my favorite is probably this one, recorded with 2 slightly different ensembles but consistent in style: largely dark, minor-mode pieces w/a drone implied or explicit and executed w/plenty of edge. The playing is chunky, heavy, and group-minded; Farrah emits a glorious wail on alto sax that takes the lead on most cuts but still leaves plenty of elbow room for everybody else. The most “out” cut is the opener, 'Meterologically Tuned' (titled perhaps for the bracingly out-of-tune trumpet & sax on the intro & outro unison melodies), swirling horns and percussive piano and a rhythm that moves in and out of focus throughout; while the album closer, 'First Impressions', hovers like fog above a loping bassline digging a moody jazz-funk furrow so deep it’s hard to see up over the edge (no surprise it was sampled by Tribe Called Quest some years back).

Check the "First Impressions" above. When I was about fourteen years old, a few years after this record would have come out, a late night US radio DJ used to play this song every night - I guess he was kind of obsessed with it. Soon, I was too - it was like an alien message being transmitted into my cheap AM radio headphones. The bass - percussion - drums unit holds down a dark, finger-snap funk, while saxaphonist Shamek Farrah and trumpeter Norman Person emit this eerie, wailing series of rolling arpeggios, almost falling into quarter tone gaps.

At fourteen, I thought of snake charmers and other Hollywood-style images of the middle east, there was something exotic here. But it's really pianist Sonelius Smith who takes us on the journey in "First Impressions". In his slightly distant, reverbed space, he rhythmically and melodically skirts around the other musicians, tone clusters rolling up and down the piano to settle in clouds of arpeggiated colour - it's almost as if he drifts off, only to get brought back by the insistent pull of Milton Suggs' bass and Kenny Harper / Calvert Satter-White's hypnotic click percussion. It's still my favourite piano performance, and an extraordinary piece of music ....

Kevin Moist says : 

As Strata-East Records got rolling, one of the admirable things it was able to do was offer a platform to some more obscure artists who weren’t being heard elsewise, folks like Billy Parker’s Fourth World (including DeeDee, Ronald, and Cecil Bridgewater); the Washington, DC ensemble Juju (who evolved from an Art Ensemble knock-off into the great jazz-funk band Oneness of Juju by the mid-70s); and alto sax player Shamek Farrah. I don’t really know too much about Shamek except that he made two great albums of spiritual jazz for Strata-East in 1974 and ’77 (the second and half of the first in collaboration with pianist Sonelius Smith).

Both are way cool, but my favorite is probably this one, recorded with 2 slightly different ensembles but consistent in style: largely dark, minor-mode pieces w/a drone implied or explicit and executed w/plenty of edge. The playing is chunky, heavy, and group-minded; Farrah emits a glorious wail on alto sax that takes the lead on most cuts but still leaves plenty of elbow room for everybody else. The most “out” cut is the opener, 'Meterologically Tuned' (titled perhaps for the bracingly out-of-tune trumpet & sax on the intro & outro unison melodies), swirling horns and percussive piano and a rhythm that moves in and out of focus throughout; while the album closer, 'First Impressions', hovers like fog above a loping bassline digging a moody jazz-funk furrow so deep it’s hard to see up over the edge (no surprise it was sampled by Tribe Called Quest some years back).

Odyssey - 1972 - Odyssey


01. Home Of The Brave 3:31
02. Georgia Song 3:24
03. Country Tune 2:46
04. Gossamer Wings 3:00
05. Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love 3:36
06. Wondrous Castles 3:06
07. Battened Ships 2:59
08. Sunny California Wo-Man 3:33
09. Black Top Island (Of The West) 3:28
10. Broken Road 2:44

Acoustic Guitar, Guitar – Don Peake
Acoustic Guitar, Guitar, Guitar [Slide] – Don Dacus
Bass [Fender], Bass – Warner (Doc) Schwebke
Drums – Gene Pello
Lead Vocals – Royce Jones
Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Vibraphone, Vocals – Kathleen Warren
Vocals – Billy Pierce

Mowest was Motown’saWest Coast label and I think it’d be fair to describe it as a general failure. It only lasted 2-3 years and few of the albums ever became commercial successes with the possible exception of Syreeta’s self-titled LP. Of the 10 or so LPs that actually came out on Mowest, Odyssey’s self-titled album has been a consistent “want” for soul collectors; I first heard it at a small DJ gig I did with Vinnie Esparza and I was a little surprised that a ’70s Motown-related release could regularly garner more than $100 on the market.

Then again, once you listen to its best songs, it makes more sense. Overall, Odyssey seemed like a uniquely, uber-California album for its era – a mix of everything from Topanga Valley psych folk rock to clunky funky rock but it’s hard to argue with the quality of the two songs above.

“Battened Ships” is a livelay, Latin-infused mid-tempo cooker that would work beautifully to bridge a DJ set into some proto-disco. I’m not in love with Billy Pierce’s lead vocals but add in the background vocals and it all comes together nicely.

And then there’s “Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love,” a beautiful composition all around…real “lightning in a bottle” in terms of all the elements that could have just as easily gone south and don’t. Great, great hook too. 

Noah Howard Group - 1977 - Berlin Concert

Noah Howard Group 
Berlin Concert

01. Introduction by Noah Howard 0:24
02. Lotus Flower 6:32
03. New York Subway 4:12
04. Mardi Gras 7:29
05. Olé (John Coltrane) 9:02
06. Marie Laveau 11:11

All compositions by Noah Howard except where indicated.

Recorded live on January 30th & 31st, 1975 at the Quartier latin in Berlin.

Noah Howard – Alto Saxophone
Takashi Kako – Piano
Kent Carter – Double Bass
Oliver Johnson – Drums
Lamont Hampton – Percussion

Born in New Orleans, Howard played music from childhood in his church. He first learned trumpet and later switched to alto, tenor and soprano saxophone. He was an innovator influenced by John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. He studied with Dewey Johnson, first in Los Angeles and later on in San Francisco. When he moved to New York City he started playing with Sun Ra.

He recorded his first LP as a leader, Noah Howard Quartet, in 1965 and his second LP Noah Howard at Judson Hall in 1966 both for ESP Records, but found little critical acclaim in the USA. In the 1960s and '70s he performed regularly in the USA and Europe, moving to Paris in 1968.

In 1969 he appeared on Frank Wright's album One For John and on Black Gipsy with Archie Shepp. As leader he recorded The Black Ark with Arthur Doyle among others. In 1971 he created his own record label, AltSax, and published most of his music under that label.

In 1971 he recorded Patterns in the Netherlands with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. He moved to Paris in 1972, lived in Nairobi in 1982 and finally moved to Brussels in late 1982, where he had a studio and ran a jazz club. He recorded steadily through the 1970s and 1980s, exploring funk and world music in the latter decade and recording for AltSax. In the 1990s he returned to his free-jazz origins, releasing on Cadence Jazz among other labels, and experienced a resurgence in critical acclaim. His last two albums, Desert Harmony (2008, with Omar al Faqir) and Voyage (2010), reflected his interest in World Music and were influenced by Indian, Latin American and Middle Eastern music.

Muriel Winston - 1974 - A Fresh Viewpoint

Muriel Winston 
A Fresh Viewpoint

01. Children's Trilogy
02. We'll Remember Those Years
03. A Song For My Daddy
04. Sing Chillun Sing
05. The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow
06. A Song To Everyone In The World
07. Never Been In Love
08. Weekend
09. Soul Trane
10. I'm Never Happy Anymore
11. Love Took The 7:10 Tonight
12. The Happy Heart

Bass Violin – Bill Lee
Drums, Percussion – Billy Higgins
Flute – Clifford Jordan
Piano – Stanley Cowell
Vocals – Muriel Winston

Recorded at Minot Studios, White Plains, NY on October 21st & 31st 1974.

One of the most unusual albums on the legendary Strata East label – an unusual mix of jazz and soul vocal material, put together by singer Muriel Winston with arrangements from the great Bill Lee! There's a relaxed, easygoing feel to the record – one that's upfront and personal on the tunes that feature Muriel in the lead on ballads, but gets a bit more righteous on some of the spoken passages, then feels really collaborative on some of the numbers that feature a chorus of younger singers (including Spike Lee's sister, Joy). The material is an unusual mix of styles – some straighter jazz vocals, some more spiritual – and the album's divided into two sides "The Universal Side" and "The Personal Side" – the latter of which features a number of lesser-known Tadd Dameron compositions. Lee handles the music direction and arrangements, and plays bass in a small combo that also features Clifford Jordan on flute, Stanley Cowell on piano, and Billy Higgins on drums. Winston's a vocalist with a slightly spiritual kind of sound, and some of the tracks on the record are nice light little ditties with piano by Stanley Cowell, drums by Billy Higgins, flute by Clifford Jordan, and bass by Lee. 

Milton Marsh - 1975 - Monism

Milton Marsh 

01 "Vonda's Tune" (Part 1 Of "Earth Home Of The Mortals") 2:14
02 Community Music 6:43
03 Monism 8:49
04 Metamorphosis 5:57
05 Ode To Nzinga 7:18
06 Sabotage, 3 Preparations 9:15

1st gathering - July 3, 1973 at MEDIA SOUND, New York, N.Y. Monism was the only composition recorded at this session.

3rd gathering - May 23, 1974 at MEDIA SOUND, New York, N.Y. "Vonda's Tune", Community Music, Metomorphosis, Ode to Nzinga and Sabotage, 3 preperations were recorded at this session.

Milton Marsh alto saxophone, spoken word
René McLean alto saxophone
Joseph Ferguson alto saxophone
David Ware tenor saxophone
Bill Cody tenor saxophone
Reynold Scott baritone saxophone
Kamal Abdul Alim trumpet
Bubbles Martin trumpet
Frank Williams trumpet
Sinclair Acey trumpet
Bill Lowe trombone
Bill Campbell trombone
Charles Stevens trombone
Bill Davis tuba
Cedric Lawson piano
Don Pate bass violin
Greg Bandy percussion

Composer, arranger, saxophone player, flautist and educator Milton Marsh recorded Monism in New York in 1975, then the recording trail went cold for a decade. Not that he stopped being involved in music.

Marsh has been consultant to the National Center for Afro-American Artists at Roxbury, Massachusetts; director of music seminar at the Foundation for the Arts in Bermuda; visiting professor of Music at the State University College, Oneonta, New York; and professor of music and director of Afro-American Music Studies SUNY in Buffalo. So, he has by no means been away from music. But Marsh only recorded one more album, 1985’s Continuum, so Monism became very much a collectors’ item.

Now Monism has been re-released by Omnian Music Group, via Manufactured Recordings, for the first time in 40 years on vinyl — and for the first time ever on CD — offering a whole new generation an entry to the understanding of free jazz, which is at the heart of what Milton Marsh does.

Monism features some of the finest musicians living at that time, and uses varying combinations of players — sometimes “just” nine, and sometimes 17 including strings. The music was described by Vibration magazine as “intriguing and complex,” and that is a good way to sum it up. However, they forgot to add interesting, compelling and that the compositions — all Marsh’s — are beautifully arranged. The musicians on Monism include pianist Cedric Lawson, bassist Don Pate, saxophonist David Ware and percussionist Greg Bandy. All these artists went on to record several volumes of music in their careers, except for Milton Marsh.

“Vonda’s Tune” opens Monism with a horn solo, into which a rich mix of rhythms are introduced over the swing theme and textures and layers work their way to create a cohesive sound. The simple theme allows for a complexity in the arrangement, and on occasion as a variation in the theme itself. “Community Music” is a carefully crafted web of sound, with piano laying down several connected themes over the length of the piece, worked over by bass, percussion and brass. This is a free-rolling, freely played piece which is a delight. Everyone is involved and the beats range from crazy multi-plexus to a concerted swinging section introduced in the final phase, with a rollicking, sleazy undertone which then uses the piano to work back to the overriding theme. Glorious.

The title track to Monism begins with a lovely, soaring string section with strong classical overtones before the piano suggests a bit of naughtiness, a sort of “why don’t we try this, folks?” The whistles and percussion take up the offer, and they are off. A Sufi poem is read over the instrumentation by Milton Marsh himself, before the piece develops into an improvised, avant-garde explosion of the absolute highest degree. If you like free jazz, this track symbolizes a lot of what is best about it: Each player providing an interlude which stretches both them and their instruments, providing an insight into what can be achieved. The piece delves back to a swingy, rich, fully blast sound with big band overtones and a lustrous trumpet solo working its way through the sound walls. Wonderful, wonderful track.

There is a sense of the players forming a big band who, whilst their leader’s back was turned, decided to careen along slightly out of control and add mischievous little twists and tweaks to the swingy theme while almost losing control – but never quite doing so. Every so often, Milton Marsh brings back control before losing it again, yet throughout the anarchic interludes, everyone knows exactly what they are doing and when to bring it back. An amazing piano-led section works well with the bass, adding an accomplished and intuitive accompaniment whist the foundation work from the rest of the band is solid. It ends with a crashing, harmonious fugue – wonderful.

“Metamorphosis” is a deeply structured avant-garde composition with modal harmonies and rich, bottomless textures worked well over the more traditional structure. As ever, there are delicious treats interspersed and there is a surprise at around the four-minute mark, where dialogue develops between the horns and the rest of the musicians, resulting in what is definitely not a traditional arrangement. After this, the band goes to a swing feeling like nothing would melt in their musical mouths. There are essences of Ellington and big band here, as well as African rhythms and fracturing of the rhythm to weave intricate solos into the arrangements. The solos both fit in natural breaks but also include improvised elevated sections which demonstrate the class of musician used here.

“Ode to Nzinga” is African/Latin, and almost rocky at times. It begins heavy on the horns and the arrangement is more traditional than previous tracks perhaps — which takes nothing away from the musical development. The instrumentation is for piano, bass, drums, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, two trumpets and one trombone. There are solo sports for alto sax, piano and tenor sax. All the instruments create a sound through the piece, which is at once loose but also decidedly collaborative.

Monism closes with “Sabotage 3 Preparations,” and this is again a more traditionally flavored track with some great bass work under pinning exceptionally cohesive playing form the other musicians. It has some frantically paced bass lines weaving under the piano and percussion, which have a far easier time of it. It takes a while to get going but, once there, it propels along — taking the listener to the finale via solos from trombone, sax and piano. There is a section of almost indescribable loveliness towards the end, topped out by the trumpet wailing over the swinging rhythms. Absolutely bloody marvelous. It is a lovely, busy, musically hard working track to finish the album.

Monism speaks volumes about Milton Marsh’s early influences and the musical intuition his era gave him with references to big band, swing, free and avant garde, along with rhythms picked from Africa, Latin and solid straight jazz. The number of musicians means it can swing from quiet, softly whispered notes to full blast explosions and anything in between. The album is a musician’s intrigue, a multi-faceted shape which comes together to create a very acceptable form — one that wobbles, melds and melts itself into and out of various musical forms with ease. Incredibly interesting, and as relevant today as it was in 1975.

Max Roach - 1979 - M'Boom

Max Roach 

01. Onomatopoeia 5:15
02. Twinkle Toes 3:34
03. Caravanserai 4:05
04. January V 3:23
05. The Glorious Monster 6:48
06. Rumble In The Jungle 7:13
07. Morning / Midday 6:50
08. Epistrophy 4:18
09. Kujichaglia 6:26

Recorded at CBS Recording Studios, New York, July 25, 26, 27, 1979.

Roy Brooks, Joe Chambers, Omar Clay, Fred King, Max Roach, Warren Smith, Freddie Waits - drums percussion, vibes, marimba, xylophone, timpani
Ray Mantilla conga, bongos, timpani, Latin percussion
Kenyatte Abdur-Rahman - percussion, bells

In a profession star-crossed by early deaths -- especially the bebop division -- Max Roach was long a shining survivor, one of the last giants from the birth of bebop. He and Kenny Clarke instigated a revolution in jazz drumming that persisted for decades; instead of the swing approach of spelling out the pulse with the bass drum, Roach shifted the emphasis to the ride cymbal. The result was a lighter, far more flexible texture, giving drummers more freedom to explore the possibilities of their drum kits and drop random "bombs" on the snare drum, while allowing bop virtuosos on the front lines to play at faster speeds. To this base, Roach added sterling qualities of his own -- a ferocious drive, the ability to play a solo with a definite storyline, mixing up pitches and timbres, the deft use of silence, the dexterity to use the brushes as brilliantly as the sticks. He would use cymbals as gongs and play mesmerizing solos on the tom-toms, creating atmosphere as well as keeping the groove pushing forward.

But Roach didn't stop there, unlike other jazz pioneers who changed the world when they were young yet became set in their ways as they grew older. Throughout his carer, he had the curiosity and the willingness to grow as a musician and as a man, moving beyond bop into new compositional structures, unusual instrument lineups, unusual time signatures, atonality, music for Broadway musicals, television, film and the symphony hall, even working with a rapper well ahead of the jazz/hip-hop merger. An outspoken man, he became a fervent supporter of civil rights and racial equality, and that no doubt hurt his career at various junctures. At one point in his militant period in 1961, he disrupted a Miles Davis/Gil Evans concert in Carnegie Hall by marching to the edge of the stage holding a "Freedom Now" placard protesting the Africa Relief Foundation (for which the event was a benefit). When Miles' autobiography came out in 1989, Roach decried the book's inaccuracies, even going so far as to suggest that Miles was getting senile (despite the bumpy patches, their friendship nevertheless lasted until Miles' death). Roach also received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant; as an articulate lecturer on jazz, he taught at the Lenox School of Jazz and was a professor of music at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Roach's mother was a gospel singer, and that early immersion in the church had a lasting effect on his musical direction. He started playing the drums at age ten and undertook formal musical studies at the Manhattan School of Music. By the time he was 18, Roach was already immersed in proto-bop jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House (where he was the house drummer) with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, listening to Kenny Clarke and absorbing his influence. He made his recorded debut in 1943 with the progressive-minded Coleman Hawkins on the Apollo label, and played with Benny Carter's orchestra in California and Gillespie's quintet, as well as briefly with Duke Ellington in 1944. By 1945, Roach was red-hot in jazz circles, and he joined Parker's group that year for the first of a series of sporadic periods (1945, 1947-49, 1951-53). He participated in many of bop's seminal recordings (including Parker's incendiary "Ko-Ko" of 1945 and Miles' Birth of the Cool recordings of 1949-50), although he would not lead his own studio session until 1953. Even then, Roach would not be forced into a narrow box, for he also played with R&B/jazz star Louis Jordan and Dixieland's Henry "Red" Allen. With Charles Mingus, Roach co-founded Debut Records in 1952, though he was on the road too often to do much minding of the store. But Roach later said that Debut gave his career a springboard -- and indeed, Debut released his first session as a leader, as well as the memorable Massey Hall concert in which Roach played with Parker, Gillespie, Mingus and Bud Powell.

In 1954, not long after recording with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, Roach formed a quintet in Los Angeles to take out on the road at the suggestion of Gene Norman. This group included one Clifford Brown, who had been recommended to Roach by Dizzy several years before. The Brown/Roach quintet made a stack of essential recordings for EmArcy that virtually defined the hard bop of the '50s, and though Brown's death in a 1956 auto accident absolutely devastated Roach, he kept the quintet together with Kenny Dorham and Sonny Rollins as the lead horns. For the remainder of the '50s, he would continue to use major talents like Booker Little, George Coleman and Hank Mobley in his small groups, dropping the piano entirely now and then.

Heavily affected by the burgeoning civil rights movement and his relationship with activist singer Abbey Lincoln (to whom he would be married from 1962 to 1970), Roach recorded We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, a seven-part collaboration with Oscar Brown, Jr., in 1960, and he would continue to write works that used solo and choral voices. Throughout the 1960s, Roach was a committed political crusader, and that, along with the general slump of interest in jazz, reduced his musical visibility, although he continued to record sporadically for Impulse! and Atlantic. In 1970, Roach took another flyer and formed M'Boom, a ten-piece percussion ensemble that borrowed languages and timbres from classical contemporary music and continued to perform well into the '90s. Interested in the avant-garde, Roach recorded with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor in the late '70s, though the results were mostly issued on erratically distributed foreign labels. In the 1980s, he began to experiment with a double quartet (with Odean Pope, Cecil Bridgewater and Tyrone Brown) -- his regular jazz quartet combined with the partly improvising Uptown String Quartet (which includes his daughter Maxine on viola).

The late '80s and '90s found Roach unveiling special projects like a double-CD duo concert with a sadly faded Dizzy Gillespie, the much more successful To the Max, which combined several of Roach's assorted groups and idioms, and a huge, uneven concerto for drum soloist and symphony orchestra, "Festival Journey." He toured with his quartet into the 2000s, and continued to record or compose until a few years before his death in 2007. Roach was outside the consciousness of most jazz historians since the 1960s, and refused to be bound or secured into some tight little niche of history. That made him a rare, unclassifiable, treasurable breed of cat.

In 1979 Max Roach founded M'Boom, a group consisting of eight percussionists. Their debut recording (which has been reissued on this Columbia CD) is far from being a monotonous drum battle. In fact, through the utilization of a wide range of instruments that include chimes, timbales, marimba, vibes, xylophone, tympani, various bells and steel drums, there are quite a lot of melodies to be heard during these nine performances (which are all group originals other than Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy"). This is a particularly colorful set that is easily recommended not only to jazz and percussion fans but to followers of World music.