CELESTIAL BLUES-COSMIC, POLITICAL AND SPIRITUAL JAZZ 1970 TO 1974.
CELESTIAL BLUES-COSMIC, POLITICAL AND SPIRITUAL JAZZ 1970 TO 1974.
Sometimes, music has been compared to fashion. Both industries are cyclical, with music and clothes both falling in and out of popularity.
One minute a genre is popular, the next, it’s fallen from grace. That has been the case since the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Everything from disco and doo wop, to progressive rock, psychedelia and punk, through to blues and heavy metal have all enjoyed their moment in the sun. However, as the man sang, “nothing lasts forever,” and each of these genres have fallen out of favour.
Sometimes, a genre’s fall from grace is spectacular. Especially, in the case of disco, when it went from hero to zero in the space of year. However, disco would eventually make a comeback. So would progressive rock, psychedelia, blues and heavy metal. Each of these genres went on to enjoy an Indian Summer.
The birth of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late seventies, resulted in a resurgence of interest in a genre that had fallen from favour a few years previously. Suddenly, heavy metal was back in fashion. It was a similar case with progressive rock in the eighties. Groups like Marillion introduced a new generation of record buyers to progressive rock. Since then, even disco has made a comeback in this musical merry-go-round. However, one genre had been out of fashion for way too long,..jazz.
Forty years had passed since jazz caught the imagination of the wider record buying public. For a few years in the late sixties and early seventies, jazz crossed over into the mainstream. That was when artists like Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock pioneered and popularised fusion, a meeting of jazz and rock. However, the fusion era was short-lived, and didn’t really result in a resurgence in interest in jazz. That didn’t come until last year.
That was when a struggling jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington released a triple album The Epic. It received widespread critical and hailed as a groundbreaking album. The Epicsold well across the world, and no longer would Kamasi Washington be playing sessions to pay the bills. However, the other effect the success of The Epic has had, is that it’s lead to a resurgence in interest in jazz.
At last, jazz is back in fashion, and a new generation of record buyers are rediscovering the delights of jazz. However, for some newcomers to jazz, they struggle to distinguish between a myriad of sub-genres. They’re confused by sub-genre like bop, post boom West Coast jazz, free jazz and fusion. All they want to find, and listen to, is the music that inspired Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. They need look no further.
The good people at BGP, an imprint of Ace Records, have compiled Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974. This is a ten track compilation of spiritual jazz, the music that influenced and inspired Kamasi Washington’s album The Epic. Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 features Gary Bartz NTU Troop, Azar Lawrence, Charles Earland, Roy Brooks, Joe Chambers, Carlos Garnett, Hampton Hawes and Oliver Nelson. Each and every one of these artists are musical pioneers, and innovators who pushed musical boundaries to their limits. That is apparent throughout Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974.
Each of the tracks on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 are an example of groundbreaking spiritual jazz. Its building blocks were the music of the post bop era, and the free jazz of John Coltrane. To that, boogaloo beats were combined with elements of funk, rock and soul and even African and Middle Eastern influences. When this was combined, it was potent and heady brew, that became known as spiritual jazz.
This new music was inventive and innovative. It was also way ahead of its time; and far removed from the music that other jazz musicians were making. Sadly, it was also very different to the music most record buyers were used to, and it passed them by.
The problem was, most record buyers didn’t understand this cerebral, groundbreaking music. It went over their head, and only a small, but discerning group of record buyers got spiritual jazz. It wasn’t until much later, that a new generation of record buyers discovered the delights of spiritual jazz and it began to grown in popularity. However, when the music was released in the late sixties and early seventies, it was misunderstood. This couldn’t have happened at a worst time for jazz.
No longer was jazz as popular as it once been. Jazz clubs were closing their doors, and others were being turned into rock venues. Even record companies were suffering. Sales of jazz were down and some jazz labels decided to close their doors. However, new labels like Muse began to release spiritual jazz. So did established labels like Prestige, who were renowned for releasing innovative music. Labels like Muse and Prestige would go on to release albums by some of the most pioneering music of the spiritual jazz era. Some of that music features on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974.
Opening Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 is Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s Celestial Blues. It’s a track from Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s 1971 sophomore album Harlem Bush Music-Uhuru. It was released on Milestone Records, and was the followup to the 1970 album Home! However, on Harlem Bush Music-Uhuru, a guest artist joined Gary Bartz NTU Troop.
This was none other than vocalist Andy Bey. His impassioned vocal is the perfect foil Gary Bartz’s soaring also saxophone and Ron Carter’s mesmeric, bubbling, bass line. They become part of what’s a complex but memorable and irresistible piece of music. It belatedly would become a cult classic, and is without doubt the best known track from Harlem Bush Music-Uhuru. It’s also the perfect introduction to two hugely talented artists and purveyors of spiritual jazz, Gary Bartz and Andy Bey.
Fire is another collaboration, this time, between Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane. By 1974, jazz was in the doldrums, and it wasn’t the easiest time for jazz musicians. Even Joe Henderson who had released debut album Page One in 1963. Since then, Ohio born jazz saxophonist had released ten studio albums, and several collaborations. His latest was The Elements, which featured Alice Coltrane.
She was second wife of John Coltrane. However, Alice Coltrane was a multi-talented musician, who played piano, organ and harp. She had collaborated with Joe Henderson before, on her 1970 album Ptah, The El Daoud. Now Alice sat in with Joe and his band on The Elements, which was released in 1974 on Milestone Records. One of the highlights of The Elements was Fire.
It was a meeting of musical minds, with two pioneers feeding off each other as they drove each other to new highs. Joe’s blazing saxophone is played with power and passion; while Alice flits between instruments, and is equally comfortable switching from piano, tamboura, harmonium and finally harp. She adds flourishes of harp as the rhythm section power the arrangement along. This is the perfect showcase for the multitalented Alice Coltrane, before Joe Henderson takes centre-stage and unleashing a blistering solo. The result is a groundbreaking and timeless example of spiritual jazz, at its very best.
In 1974, saxophonist Azar Lawrence entered the studio to record his debut album, Bridge Into The New Age. By then, the tenor and soprano saxophonist was just twenty-one, but was already regarded as one of jazz’s rising stars. Azar Lawrence had played on McCoy Tyner’s 1973 album Enlightenment. Now a year later, he was about to record his debut album.
The L.A. born musician had put together a band that featured some of the best jazz musicians. They recorded five tracks, that became Bridge Into The New Age. It was released in 1974, on Prestige. Bridge Into The New Age was an ambitious album of innovative music. One of the finest moments was Warriors Of Peace, which featured a masterclass from Azar Lawrence and pianist Joe Bonner. They play starring roles in a track that was indeed, a Bridge Into The New Age, one where spiritual jazz should’ve been king.
Charles Earland was a prolific artists, releasing over sixty albums. He’s known for his albums of soul jazz. However, one of his finest albums was Leaving This Planet, which was released on Prestige in 1975. It’s an album of spiritual jazz, where Charles Earland and his “big burner” are joined by such luminaries as Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard. They’re the perfect foil for Charles Earland on the album’s title-track, Leaving This Planet.
The rhythm section and Charles Earland on Hammond organ, power Leaving This Planet along, while trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist unleash blistering solos. Later, Charles unleashes a peerless solo on his Hammond organ. His fingers fly and up down the keyboard, before passing the baton to Freddie Hubbard. Together, they play their part in a blistering example of spiritual jazz, which showcases Charles Earland’s versatility. He’s as equally comfortable playing spiritual jazz as he was soul jazz and later, funk.
Eight year after releasing his debut album Beat in 1964, drummer Roy Brooks returned in 1972 with the followup The Free Slave. It was released on Muse Records and is a genre-melting live album. The Free Slave was recorded live at the Left Bank Jazz Society on April 26th 1970. That night, Roy was joined by an experienced and talented band.
It featured bassist Cecil McBee, pianist Hugh Lawson, trumpeter Woody Shaw and tenor saxophonist George Coleman. While Roy anchors the arrangement, the piano and horns play leading role. Especially, trumpeter Woody Shaw and tenor saxophonist George Coleman, who Roy allows to shine. They play starring roles on this twelve minute genre-melting epic, that results in what’s an oft-overlooked hidden gem when it comes to spiritual jazz.
Philly is one of America’s musical city’s, and has given the world some of the biggest, and most successful names in music. One name many people won’t be familiar with, is Joe Chambers. He released his debut album The Alomoravid on Muse Records, in 1974. By then, Joe Chambers had been playing on other people’s albums since 1964. The Alomoravid was the perfect opportunity for the talented multi-instrumentalist to showcase his considerable talents.
So Joe Chambers, who played drums, piano and vibes, put together a band that included some of the top jazz musicians. On The Alomoravid, Joe’s drums are augmented by a myriad of percussion. It coms courtesy of Ray Mantilla who also adds congas; while percussionists David Friedman and Omar Clay both add marimba. This adds an exotic hue, as this mesmeric sounding track meanders along sharing its subtleties, surprises and secrets.
Panama born, but New York raised Carlos Garnett only released five albums during his career. One of the saxophonist’s finest, was Journey To Enlightenment. It was released in 1974, on Muse Records. Opening the album was one of the highlights, Let Us Go (To Higher Heights). It’s a captivating, genre-melting track, where elements of soul-jazz, electronic funk, free jazz and Latin combine. The result wasn’t just an innovative track, but one that was way ahead of its time, and also funky and soulful.
Sadly, Bayeté Umbra Zindiko only ever released two albums for Prestige. His second and final album was Seeking Other Beauty, which was recorded at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California on September 18th and October 2nd 1972. The multitalented Bayeté Umbra Zindiko played piano, electric piano and electric clavinet, added vocals and took charge of production. Joining him were the rhythm and horn sections. After two days, Seeking Other Beauty was complete and released in 1973.
Seeking Other Beauty was Bayeté Umbra Zindiko’s finest album, and the album opener, and Let It Take Your Mind the standout track. It’s a joyous musical potpourri, where funk, jazz, rock and soul combine to create a pulsating, driving track. It’s best described as a funky, psychedelic fusion that’s guaranteed to get any party started.
By 1972, Hampton Hawes had been a recording artist for twenty years. His 1972 album Universe, was the first he released on Prestige. It found the veteran jazz musician reinventing himself. To do that, he embraced new technology.
Hampton Hawes added synths to his musical arsenal of piano, electric piano and Hammond organ. This he used to create a slow burner of a track, Josie Black. Gradually, it reveals its charms and secrets. The horn is a counterpoint to the electric piano, as the rhythm section add a funky backdrop. By then, Hampton Hawes was heading into unchartered-waters as elements of funk and fusion combine with contemporary and free jazz. When combined, they play their part in captivating track where Hampton Hawes succeeds in reinventing himself.
Closing Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974, is Aftermath, a track from Oliver Nelson’s 1970 album Black, Brown And Beautiful. It was Oliver Nelson’s solo debut album for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions. Black, Brown And Beautiful is a highly accomplished album, which sadly, didn’t find the audience it so richly deserved. Since then, it’s been a hidden gem of an album. One of its highlights is the opening track, Aftermath.
Joining saxophonist and clarinet player Oliver Nelson, were tenor saxophonists John Gross and John Klemmer. They join with Oliver in playing their part what starts as a slow, sultry and cinematic sounding track. Lush strings then fill out the arrangement which takes on a dramatic, cinematic sound. Then it’s all change as Aftermath heads in the direction frenzied free jazz. Oliver Nelson and his bands push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond, as they create one of the finest tracks on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974. This is the perfect way to close Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974, on a musical high.
The ten tracks lasting seventy-four minutes have flown past, as Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 reveals its musical secrets and surprises. Familiar faces and new names sit side-by-side. Each of them, share one thing in common; and that is, that they are all musical pioneers. They created music that was innovative and way ahead of its time. Sadly, much of the music on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 passed record buyers by.
When the music on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 was originally released, it went over the head of many record buyers. They neither understood nor “got” spiritual jazz. To understand the music, record buyers had to go back to spiritual jazz’s roots.
Its building blocks were the music of the post bop era, and the free jazz of John Coltrane. This was just the start. Boogaloo beats were then combined with elements of funk, rock and soul. Sometimes, African and Middle Eastern influences were combined to what was already a potent and heady brew. It became known as spiritual jazz, an oft-overlooked genre that eventually, found the audience it deserved.
This happened when a new generation of record buyers discovered the delights of spiritual jazz. These albums that once lay unloved in dusty warehouses or the Dollar bins of record shops were now appreciated by new audience who not only appreciated, but understood spiritual jazz. No longer was this misunderstood musical genre regarded as too radical and complex.
Instead, somewhat belatedly, Gary Bartz NTU Troop, Azar Lawrence, Charles Earland, Roy Brooks, Joe Chambers, Carlos Garnett, Hampton Hawes and Oliver Nelson began to receive the credit they so richly deserved. They all feature on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974. Each of these artists were pioneers, who created groundbreaking, inventive, innovative and influential music.
One of the artists the artists influenced by those on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 was Kamasi Washington. This music played a part in his 2015 album The Epic. It ransformed the career of the onetime sessions musician. Suddenly, he had released one of the most successful albums of the year. The Epic was also the album that lead to the recent resurgence in interest in jazz. However, not all newcomers to jazz know the difference between fusion and free jazz, nor the difference between smooth jazz and spiritual jazz. That’s where they good people at BGP, an imprint of Ace Records come in.
They’ve created Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974, a compilation of the finest spiritual jazz. It’s the perfect introduction to spiritual jazz, and for newcomers to the genre, a bridge into what was a new musical age, where the rules to jazz were rewritten by music pioneers.