IF YOU’RE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION-SOUL, POLITICS AND SPIRITUALITY IN JAZZ 1967-1975.  

If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975.

Label: BGP.

By the late sixties, jazz like the blues was at a crossroads and both genres risked becoming irrelevant to a new breed of record buyers. The problem was, that jazz was no longer as popular as it had once been, and was facing competition from soul and rock music.

Soul music had grown in popularity amongst many of jazz fans. They were won over by the diverse nature of soul music, and how it often provided a voice for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. The other threat to jazz’s very future came from rock music, which over the last few years had undergone an intellectualisation, and had grown in popularity amongst college students, who previously, had been fans of jazz music. However, with fusion in its infancy, jazz like the blues was no longer as popular and many musicians were struggling to make a living. Jazz had to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

The only option for jazz musicians was to reinvent the genre, and make it more relevant to life in the late-sixties. It was make or break for jazz.

Much had been happening in America during the late-sixties, and the land of the free was still a country divided by race. The Civil Rights’ movement continued their fight for racial equality, but still, discrimination was rife in America. That was despite the best efforts of the Civil Rights movement in America,

Many African-Americans were part of the Civil Rights movement and had devoted themselves to, and had been working towards the day when America would be fully integrated since the wary sixties. That was the day that they had long dreamt about. Sometimes, it seemed tantalizingly close, other times, it looked as if their dream of integration and equality was out of reach. However, the members of the Civil Rights movement were never going to give up on that dream. Their American Dream was integration and equality.

Things started to change after The Civil Rights Act 1964 was enacted. It banned discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin in employment practices. The Civil Rights Act 1964 also ended unequal application of voter registration requirements,  and prohibited racial segregation in schools, the workplace and in public accommodation. This was a huge step forward for the African-Americans population.

So was the implementation of The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which restored and protected voting rights for minorities.  This was a hugely important piece of legislation. Another important piece of legislation was The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which removed racial and national barriers to immigration, and expanded opportunities for immigrants from regions other than Europe. The third piece of important piece if legislation was The Fair Housing Act 1968, which banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. It looked as if progress was being made in America.

Especially as many African-Americans made a conscious decision to re-enter politics, even in the deep South. Other young African-Americans became involved in the Civil Rights’ movement. It looked as if this was a new beginning in America. 

While America was changing, there was widespread rioting in many of America’s inner cities. This began in the African-American communities in 1964, and lasted right through to 1970. By then, the nascent Black Power movement’s influence was growing.

The Black Power movement’s roots can be traced back to the mid-sixties. By 1966, different groups within the Civil Rights movement had embraced the slogan Black Power. This included SNCC and CORE during the nineteen day March Against Fear in June 1966. Both organisations embraced the slogan Black Power, using it as way to describe trends towards militancy and self-reliance. Elsewhere, the Black Power movement started to gain and promote more of a sense in black pride and identity as well. 

Among the most public faces of the Black Power movement were the Black Panther Party, which had been founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. They adopted their own dress code, created a ten point plan, openly displayed firearms, used the clenched fist as a symbol of solidarity and used the slogan: “power to the people.” However, the Black Panther Party adopted the ideology of Malcolm X,  the former member of the Nation of Islam, and used a: “by-any-means necessary” approach to stop inequality. 

By 1968, the militant calls for Black Power were growing louder. It was a frustrating and worrying time for all African-Americans, not just those involved in the Civil Rights’ Movement.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 had been filibustered as the year dawned. This had happened several times before, and most likely, would’ve happened again. However,  when The National Advisory Commission On Civil Disorders in 1967 published its report on the ‘1st’ March 1968, it recommended that: “a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law” was a possible remedy to the civil disturbances. It looked as if there was a solution to what had been a long running problem.

Ironically, as The Senate debated The Civil Rights Act of 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, on April the ‘4th’ 1968. This lead to the worst ever wave of civil unrest. Suddenly, filibustering was a thing of the past.  The House passed The Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April ’10th’ and President Johnson signed it a day later on the ‘11th’. Although this was an important day for African-Americans, the death of Martin Luther King Jr, who had been an inspirational figure for many within the Civil Rights’ Movement. It was a sad and sobering day for those within the Civil Rights movements and African-Americans who wondered what the future held for them?

Meanwhile, a number of jazz musicians realised that the music they played and loved had to change to survive. They began to reinvent jazz music, and as inspiration, took their cue from what was going on in America, and in the communities they lived in. In doing so, they provided a voice for the downtrodden and disenfranchised using their music. 

That was the case with the ten musicians and bands that feature on If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975, which was recently released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. It features the Joe Henderson Quintet, Johnny Hammond Smith, Catalyst, Harold Vick, Johnny Lytle, Eddie Jefferson, Gary Bartz NTU Troop and Funk Inc and features myriad of ideas that were being put forward during this time.

If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975 opens with the Joe Henderson Quintet’s If You’re Not Part Of The Solution which lends its name to the compilation, and sets the bar high for what follows. 

This includes Hammond organist Johnny Hammond Smith’s call for Black Feelings and the meandering cosmic sound of Catalyst’s Celestial Bodies. They’re joined by the Clifford Jordan Quartet’s ruminative homage to John Coltrane, and Harold Vick’s H.N.I.C.  where the tempo increases and breezes along combining power and passion.Johnny Lytle’s Tawhid sounds as if it’s been inspired by Miles Davis, while Eddie Jefferson’s Bitches Brew has a much more innovative and experimental sound. 

Africans Unite finds Gary Bartz NTU Troop combining elements of jazz, funk and fusion on a track that is the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets. Azar Lawrence’s Warriors Of Peace and Funk Inc’s Let’s Make Peace, And Stop The War which closes If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975 are both innovative tracks full of social comment. This is the perfect way to close the compilation.

If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975 is another lovingly compiled compilation from BGP, which focuses on what was hugely important time for America, and also jazz music. Both were in crisis, and something had to be done. 

During the period that If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975 covers, the Civil Rights movement fought for racial equality and end to discrimination. Meanwhile, many African-Americans realised that something had to be done, and many political and spiritual outlets were founded. Similarly, many jazz musicians were determined to be part of the solution to the problems facing African-Americans in the land of the free.

They used their music to provide a voice for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. This includes the musicians and bands on If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975, This period was a turning point for jazz, which was no longer as popular as it had been a few years earlier, and was in crisis. However, thanks to the efforts of innovative and inventive musicians who created groundbreaking music this was the start of an exciting time for jazz music, which is documented on If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975.

If You’re Not Part Of The Solution-Soul, Politics and Spirituality In Jazz 1967-1975.

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