Pure Pleasure

Weldon Irvine “Time Capsule” (Pure Pleasure)

2020-03-13T20:33:46+00:00March 5th, 2020|

The sublime Time Capsule remains Weldon Irvine’s most fully realized and influential recording. A supremely talented multi-instrumentalist and composer, Irvine had a musical vision that was unerringly soulful, spiritual, and funky. Assembled as a kind of musical scrapbook documenting the thought patterns and belief systems of the early ‘70s, it nevertheless boasts a surprising vitality and timelessness thanks to luminous funk grooves that anticipate the latter-day emergence of acid jazz. Irvine also rhymes over several tracks, further cementing his influence on successive generations of hip-hop. A profoundly righteous spirituality winds through all eight of Time Capsule’s performances, assaying both the affection (“Soul Sisters”) and anger (“Watergate”) vying for control of post-Woodstock America. Irvine’s searing keyboard and piano playing further capture the moment in question, deftly balancing between beatitude and bitterness. For fans of funk, soul and jazz, it doesn’t get much better than this 1973 classic.

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Milt Jackson “Sunflower” (Pure Pleasure)

2020-03-13T20:34:15+00:00February 20th, 2020|

Recorded over two days in December of 1972 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood, New Jersey home studio, vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s Sunflower is the first — and best — of his three albums for Creed Taylor’s CTI imprint. (And one of the finest offerings on the label.) With a core band consisting of Herbie Hancock (playing electric and acoustic piano), bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Cobham, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, drummer/percussionist Ralph McDonald, and guitarist Jay Berliner. A chamber orchestra exquisitely arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky adorns the session as well. Jackson’s “For Someone I Love,” opens the five-tune set, with Berliner playing solo flamenco guitar before the vibes, trumpet, and elements from the chamber orchestra delicately, impressionistically color the background.

It gradually moves into a languid, bluesy ballad that slowly gains in both texture and dynamic until the strings trill tensely. Hubbard and Hancock engage them in solos that gently swing out the tune. The reading of Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life” is a gorgeous showcase for Jackson; his solo dominates the arrangement. Carter gets downright funky on his upright to introduce Thom Bell’s “People Make the World Go Round,” and Hancock follows him on Rhodes. Jackson takes the melody, striking a layered contrast as Hubbard slips around all three playing an extension of the melody with requisite taste, fluidity, and taut phrasing. Hancock gets funky to the bone in his brief solo, as the vibes soar around and through his phrases. The title track is a Hubbard composition that floats and hovers with a Latin backbeat before shifting tempos as the solos begin.

The expanded harmonic palette of trumpet with the reeds, woodwinds, and strings on the melody add an exotic textural palette for his solo. Jackson’s “SKJ” closes the set with an old-school, swinging hard bop blues with barely detectable embellishments by Sebesky. While Sunflower sometimes feels more like a group session rather than a Jackson-led one, that’s part of its exquisite beauty.

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Linda Hill “Lullaby For Linda” (Pure Pleasure)

2020-03-19T20:09:51+00:00January 31st, 2020|

Linda Hill recorded this LP for Nimbus West in 1981 with fellow Arkestra members, including flautist Adele Sebastian. And it’s Sebastian’s vocal duet with Hill on the spiritual jazz epic “Leland’s Song” that opens this stunning LP. Hill’s ensemble also included the serious horn player Sabir Matteen, as well as bassist Roberto Miranda and drummer Everett Brown Jr., who would all go on to record LPs for Nimbus.

The Arkestra first started rehearsing at pianist Linda Hill’s house in the early ‘60s. “In a few months, we’d built up from seven or eight to about 18 cats, musicians started living there,” Tapscott wrote in his autobiography. “People got involved with the Arkestra like it was their life’s work.” Hill took the role seriously, earning her the name of “the Ark’s matriarch” by Tapscott.

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Gary Bias “East 101” (Pure Pleasure)

2020-03-19T20:09:51+00:00January 31st, 2020|

A beautiful, dreamlike expression of spiritual jazz recorded at a time when the idiom was completely out of vogue, Gary Bias’ East 101 remains little known even by cult-classic standards, but its free-flowing approach demands attention from listeners who believe this kind of LP ceased to exist somewhere around the late 1970s. Recorded with a stellar supporting cast including vibist Rickey Kelly, bassist Roberto Miranda, and pianist David Tillman, Bias unspools a suite of deeply soulful and profoundly far-reaching original compositions that vividly evoke the blue skies of the record’s Los Angeles origins. His flute and soprano saxophone somehow divine gravitas from weightlessness, creating music that challenges as much as it comforts.

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Leon Thomas “Spirits Known And Unknown” (Pure Pleasure)

2020-03-19T20:09:52+00:00January 31st, 2020|

Leon Thomas’ debut solo recording after his tenure with Pharoah Sanders is a fine one. Teaming with a cast of musicians that includes bassist Cecil McBee, flutist James Spaulding, Roy Haynes, Lonnie Liston Smith, Richard Davis, and Sanders (listed here as “Little Rock”), etc. Thomas’ patented yodel is in fine shape here, displayed alongside his singular lyric style and scat singing trademark. The set begins with a shorter, more lyrical version of Thomas’ signature tune “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” with the lyric riding easy and smooth alongside the yodel, which bubbles up only in the refrains. It’s a different story on his own “One,” with Davis’ piano leading the charge and Spaulding blowing through the center of the track, Thomas alternates scatting and his moaning, yodeling, howling, across the lyrics, through them under them and in spite of them. It’s an intense ride and one that sets up the glorious “Echoes.” This tune is Thomas at his most spiritual and uplifting, carrying the mysterious drift of his tune entwined with Spaulding’s flute and a set of Pan pipes, fluttering in and out of the mix before his wail comes to the fore as a solo. The end of side one reaches into Thomas’ past (he sang with everyone from Count Basie to Grant Green and Mary Lou Williams) for a highly original read of Horace Silver’s classic “Song for My Father.” Thomas imbues the tune with so much emotion, it’s a wonder he can keep it under wraps. Side two is more free from in nature with “Damn Nam,” a near rant, but one possessed with melodic vision and harmonic invention with this band. There’s also the deeply moving “Malcolm’s Gone,” a co-write between Thomas and Sanders that features the latter’s gorgeous blowing, hard and true in the middle of the mix, and a wildly spiritual Eastern vibe coming through in the improvisation. It’s the longest track on the record, and one of the most criminally ignored in Thomas’ long career. The album closes with Bell and Houston’s “Let the Rain Fall on Me.” It’s a shimmering straight jazz number with a beautiful piano solo by Smith. It sends out a visionary album out on a sweet, soulful note. Ultimately, this is among Thomas’ finest moments on vinyl, proving his versatility and accessibility to an audience who, for too long already, had associated him too closely with the avant-garde and free jazz. -Thom Jurek/AMG

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Charles Tolliver “Charles Tolliver’s Music Inc: Live At The Loosdrecht Jazz Festival” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-12-13T05:58:13+00:00December 13th, 2019|

Charles Tolliver began his professional career and simultaneously his recording debut with the saxophone giant Jackie McLean on Blue Note Records in 1964. Since then he has become one of the all-time preeminent trumpeters in Jazz as well as one of its most gifted composer/arranger bandleaders. He is also a Grammy nominated recipient for his Blue Note Records recording “With Love”.

With a career that has spanned five decades he has recorded and/or performed with such renowned artists as Roy Haynes, Hank Mobley, Willie Bobo, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Booker Ervin, Gary Bartz, Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Oliver Nelson, Stanley Cowell, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Louis Hayes, Roy Ayers, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and owned the trumpet chair with the great Max Roach for some years.

This LP is jazz of high energy and high sincerity. Jazz at it’s best. One of Tolliver’s (and jazz’s) masterpieces. It is a live recording from 1972. On another occasion, Tolliver recorded with another quartet with Stanley Cowell on piano, and some critics prefer that quartet. However, this quartet is the equal of that one. I think John Hicks did a masterful job of piano playing here. Hicks equalled Charles in energy. The bass playing of Reggie Workman (who was John Coltrane’s bassist) is equally smouldering. Drummer Alvin Queen is a perfect match for the other three.

Tolliver’s music (which holds on to one’s attention throughout the live set) has its connections to the bebop tradition but also forges ahead and can be quite passionate.

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Johnny Shines “Last Night’s Dream” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-12-13T05:58:13+00:00December 13th, 2019|

Another wonderful production from Mike Vernon and released on his Blue Horizon label. Engineered and recorded by Malcolm Chisholm at the Chess Records Ter-Mar studios (Fleetwood Mac – Blues Jam.. recorded in the same studio 6 months later) in Chicago on the 10th Junes 1968. Johnny Shines at the height of his skills along with the cream of the Chicago blues musicians of the day. Spent his early years travelling with the legendary Robert Johnson working the bars/dances/fish fries/house parties/streets/roadside cafes/speakeasies/taverns/levee camps/sawmills/coal yards.

“Johnny Shines is the ultimate Delta bluesman, combining the classic styles he learned as a youth into a very personal style, fluent, creative and forcefully talented as both a singer and guitarist” – Jim DeKoester “He rates amongst the most important and individualistic blues stylists of the post-war years” – Pete Welding “A forceful explosive blues singer whose strong, vibrato laden voice possesses a range and sensitivity which is rivalled by few other bluesmen”

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Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments “A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-11-15T05:14:26+00:00November 15th, 2019|

Pete Brown was a Londoner and a veteran of the underground scene. Born in 1940, he first came to prominence as a poet. He was just 14 when his first poem appeared in ‘Evergreen Revue’ in the US. Then in the early sixties he worked alongside another British poet Mike Horowitz. His direct involvement with rock music came when he was asked to form a songwriting partnership with Jack Bruce to write lyrics for Cream and the partnership proceeded to produce the lyrics for many of their finest songs:- Wrapping Paper, I Feel Free, Sunshine Of Your Love and White Room. After the demise of Cream, Brown continued to write with Bruce but also began his own recording career with The Battered Ornaments who included Chris Spedding. After an initial 45, which with its wailing saxes and effective vocals was underrated, the band recorded this album which was a mixture of jazz-rock and blues. Dark Lady, The Old Manand Station Song were among the fine tracks and the latter later got a further airing on the Before Singing Lessons compilation. Station Song and Dark Lady had earlier featured along with Travelling Blues on the ultra-rare promo-only Harvest Sampler in 1969.
Brown then suffered the humiliation of being thrown out of the band the night before they had a Hyde Park gig with The Rolling Stones.Brown’s response was to form a new band, Piblokto!
This release breaks the long sides down to four sides of vinyl which enhances the sound quality considerably. Also of interest is that it has been mastered in the same studio at Abbey Road as was the initial release and from the same original analogue tape masters.

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John Coltrane “In The Winner’s Circle” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-10-25T03:48:19+00:00October 25th, 2019|

Rare stuff from John Coltrane! The album features Trane playing tenor on only 4 of the album’s 8 tracks – making it kind of surprising that they used his name in the title – but the album is a lesser-known batch of large group recordings that offer an interesting early chapter in his career! The main force behind the album is arranger Harry Tubbs – possibly not a name that’s as sexy as John Coltrane, hence the billing – but a worthy leader for the date, given the quality of the music.

Many of the other players here are small combo heroes who can also shine brightly in bigger groups – such as Donald Byrd and Art Farmer on trumpets, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Al Cohn on baritone sax, Eddie Costa on piano and vibes, and Oscar Pettiford on bass – plus Rolf Kuhn, making an early American appearance on clarinet. Coltrane gets in some nice, but short moments on the date – but the bigger charm is the full ensemble work – on titles that include “She Didn’t Say Yes”, “Turtle Walk”, “At Home With The Blues”, “Seabreeze”, and “Love & The Weather”.

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Cal Massey “Blues To Coltrane” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-08-30T02:44:24+00:00August 30th, 2019|

Cal Massey, a track title from the Clifford Jordan album “Glass Bead Games”. And this album, the only one recorded under his name. There was much more to his musical life than this title.

Born January 11th 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Massey studied trumpet under Freddie Webster, and following this played in the big bands of Jay McShann, Jimmy Heath, and Billie Holiday. After that he mainly worked as a composer.

In the late 1950s he led an ensemble with Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner, and Tootie Heath; John Coltrane and Donald Byrd occasionally played with them. In the 1950s he gradually receded from active performance and concentrated on composition; his works were recorded by Coltrane, Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan, Philly Joe Jones, Horace Tapscott and Archie Shepp. Massey played and toured with Shepp from 1969 until 1972. He also performed in The Romas Orchestra with Romulus Franceschini.

In examining Massey’s life and music, three names continually emerge. One is that of the great tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, whom Massey met as a teenager in Philadelphia and who remained a close friend until his death in 1967. After Coltrane’s passing, Massey frequently joined forces with saxophonist, poet, and playwright Archie Shepp; though Shepp was about ten years Massey’s junior, the two developed a bond that remained close for the rest of the older man’s life. Massey, Coltrane, and Shepp are all linked by the prolific but obscure composer and arranger Romulus Franceschini, who lent his hand to many important jazz projects, such as Coltrane’s Africa/Brass and Shepp’s Attica Blues. He maintained with Massey a symbiotic relationship not unlike that of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. On the whole, as in the case of Ellington and Strayhorn, it was difficult to tell where one musician’s contribution ended and the other’s began.

Massey also shared a radical political stance with Shepp and Franceschini. It is impossible to separate his work from the militant arm of the Civil Rights Movement that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. As Fred Ho has noted, “Titles such as ‘[Hey Goddamn It], Things Have Got to Change,’ ‘The Damned Don’t Cry,’ and ‘The Cry of My People’ spoke directly to a consciousness of oppression and a politics of liberation.” In fact, the Black Panthers were a driving force behind Massey’s creation (with Franceschini) of The Black Liberation Movement Suite. At the first Pan-African Arts Festival in Algiers in 1969 Massey met exiled Panthers leader Eldridge Cleaver who commissioned the Suite primarily as a fundraising venture. The work would be performed at Black Panther benefits three times during Massey’s lifetime.

Massey paid heavy dues for his adventurous music and ideology, as did many of his contemporaries. According to his widow, an altercation with an executive at Blue Note Records resulted in his being blacklisted (or, as Fred Ho put it, “whitelist-ed”) from major recording companies. As a result, only one album was recorded under his name, Blues to Coltrane (Candid, recorded 1961, released 1987).

Massey died from a heart attack at the age of 44 in New York City, New York. October 25, 1972.

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Weldon Irvine “Liberated” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-07-05T03:20:01+00:00July 5th, 2019|

Weldon Irvine’s debut as a leader remains one of the most fiercely idiosyncratic electric jazz outings of the early ‘70s. Innovative not only for its moody, nuanced jazz-funk sensibility, Liberated Brother also translates the uncommonly strong passion of Irvine’s political and philosophical views into its grooves, creating music of rare sincerity and ambition. While the record’s first-half features longer, more meditative songs, like the Latin-inspired title tune and “Blues Wel-Don,” the second side of Liberated Brother commands the most attention. With sterling contributions from guitarist Tommy Smith, bassist Roland Wilson, and drummer Napoleon Revels-Bey, cuts like “Mr. Clean” and “Sister Sanctified” (later sampled by Boogie Down Productions for the rap classic “My Philosophy”) achieve a deeply funky consciousness forged from elements of jazz, soul, and psychedelia; “Juggah Buggah” even features Irvine on Moog synthesizer, further expanding the LP’s cosmic reach.

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Charles Brackeen “Rhythm X (The Music Of Charles Brackeen)” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-05-24T20:05:09+00:00May 24th, 2019|

On this record, the little-known Charles Brackeen brings his saxophone to a party with most of Ornette Coleman’s band. As might be expected, while Brackeen certainly holds his own, it’s Ornette’s boys who bring the thunder, playing around Brackeen’s muscular alto as if they were a gang jumping on a new member. Haden’s bass playing provides the frantic pulse, here and there ceding the stage to Blackwell’s flexible drumming and dropping out to provide rolling sheets of sound by bowing his instrument. Brackeen and Cherry wrestle across this solid bedrock, with results that are often surprising and never short of beautiful.

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Clifford Jordan Quartet “Glass Bead Games” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-04-19T02:18:32+00:00April 19th, 2019|

Fifth part of the Strata-East Dolphy Series, Glass Bead Games is arguably the crown jewel of the Strata East movement, an amorphous genre that treads an unusual path between post-bop, 70’s avant-garde and spiritual jazz, with a groove.

Glass Bead Games is full of revelations at many levels. First, the decade of the 1970s did produce genuinely creative, “human” new music flowing from the jazz mainstream; second, Bill Lee was more than Spike’s dad: he was a superlative bassist, a team player of the first order, a powerful catalyst who, if anything, deserves to be better known than his son; third, Billy Higgins was, as so many musicians insist, a once-in-a-lifetime drummer—the bellows inspiriting the collective flame.

Most importantly, Clifford Jordan was an artist of the first order, his playing so effortless and unforced, unselfconscious and focused, mature and wise that, at a time when altissimo fury was all the rage, it’s small wonder his authentic voice frequently went unheard. His musical rhetoric is so personally expressive, its substance so compelling, the listener couldn’t care less about the extraordinary technique required to convey its captivating message. Compared to some of his more acclaimed peers he’s a less aggressive yet paradoxically more directive and shaping influence. The climaxes, rather than spelled out, are merely suggested, registering with deep and lasting impact on the listener. It all comes down to learning the language, those precious little beads. Not every player, including Jordan or the listener, can use it like Shakespeare, but all can learn to read Shakespeare and understand its principles of arbitrariness and serendipity, of invariance and transformation.

Jordan, no less than Shakespeare, requires a like-minded cast of players—in this case four musicians of such redoubtable proficiency that each remains committed to keeping the beads in play. He’s not a man content with a mere musical “dialogue” with his fellow musicians nor is he about to take the initiative in pulling his troops up to his level. Instead he begins to tell a musical story that’s so compelling his three comrades are inspired equally to contribute to a collaborative narrative. This is brilliant music-making by a Coltrane- influenced successor who feels no obligation to mime the predecessor. It may be the most significant saxophone performance on record since Coltrane and, providing the listener stays with it for any length of time, the most deeply satisfying. Jordan’s game—so effortless, unforced, and “level”—erases distinctions between composed and improvised, soloist and ensemble, narrator and narrative, the dancer and the dance. It seems incapable of wearing out its welcome.

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Charles Tolliver “All Stars” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-04-19T02:18:31+00:00April 19th, 2019|

This was Charles Tolliver’s first album as a leader. The setting is unique only because his second Freedom-Black Lion album “The Ringer” and all of his subsequent albums on Strata-East featured his quartet Music Inc. with pianist Stanley Cowell. Here he is surrounded in quartet and quintet formats with a truly stellar cast of the leading players on the New York jazz scene.

Charles plays the role of leader, composer and trumpeter. But it is surely that last role that deserves the most attention. The trumpet is a brass instrument that leans toward a hard sound and staccato phrasing. Yet Tolliver is the quintessence of fluidity. While it may be undeniable that he has learned from his musical heritage and past trumpet masters, a trumpeter of such flow, tone, control, lyricism and creativity is, by definition, a major musician.

Charles Tolliver first came to the professional jazz scene in the mid-sixties, when he first met Jackie McLean. Under McLean’s leadership, he played on a number of Blue Note record sessions, some of which have yet to be released. He contributed original tunes to many of those sessions.

Within a couple of years, Tolliver was a well known figure in New York circles, playing and/or recording with Booker Ervin, Archie Shepp, Andrew Hill, Roy Ayers, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Willie Bobo, Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Hank Mobley, and many others. His compositions were getting recorded by many artists. He gained his greatest recognition during a two year stint with the Max Roach quintet that also included Gary Bartz and Stanley Cowell.

There is also a previously unreleased bonus track of the song, “Repetition”, recorded by Charles for this LP which will be included on this new release of the album. This song was originally made famous by Charlie Parker’s LP With Strings.

This album is certainly an important and lasting document in light of the musicians involved and in light of its unique context for Charles Tolliver. But basically, it is just a great album to listen to.

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Cab Calloway “Cab Calloway” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-04-05T03:01:25+00:00April 5th, 2019|

From 1932 to the late 1940’s the period covered by this set, Cab had an orchestra that was about as swinging a band of solid senders as you’d find on the big-band circuit.

Cab projects, in his singing on records, something of the vital magic of his stage presence, a boundless exuberance and enthusiasm. His orchestral backing during the Thirties and Forties included many well-known names in jazz. At various times, Milt Hinton, Danny Barker and Cozy Cole were in his rhythm section.The reeds included the late, great Chu Berry as well as Ben Webster. Dizzy Gillespie was in the band, some members of which, at odd moments, served as a laboratory for the style to be called Bop. “This whole new chord structure idea was interesting to me,” Milt Hinton recalled, “and I would walk the new chords behind his playing.” Cab wasn’t the least enthusiastic. Danny Barker quoted him as saying, “I don’t want you playing that Chinese music in my band.”

The main attraction, however, was always Cab—showman, singer, entertainer. Most audiences didn’t even know that some of his sidemen were candidates for the jazz hall of fame. And that was as it should be. The musicians’ first function was to provide musical backing and a musical setting for the man who was being called “King of the Hipsters,” and this they did, wonderfully well. It was as Barry Ulanov noted in Metronome ( January, 1943) a band extraordinary in every respect, hailed for its “clean musicianship, its jazz kicks, its brilliant showmanship.”

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John Hicks “Hells Bells” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-04-05T03:01:25+00:00April 5th, 2019|

John Hicks (1941-2006) gave much to jazz over several decades but never really received the appreciation he so richly deserved. As a pianist, he proved himself in the Art Blakey and Betty Carter universities. He was also the prototypical musician’s musician, a first-call pianist for many jazz greats and a magnificent accompanist to the art’s best saxists, including Pharoah Sanders, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Archie Shepp, and David Murray.

He was often accused of hovering in McCoy Tyner’s shadow, which is unfair and untrue. But he evinced a great fondness for Coltrane’s music and was often heard on many a Coltrane tribute, showing affection for the saxophonist and his appreciation for Tyner’s contribution to Coltrane’s finest music.

Another facet of John Hicks’ career, which gets even less attention than his wondrous playing, is his ability to craft identifiable compositions that are wandering and melodic, suggestive and malleable yet memorable all at once.

It would be difficult to conceive the ideal tribute to John Hicks. As a jazz contributor, he wasn’t easily pigeon-holed. While he was always a (straight) jazz player, he skirted the edges of free jazz and pure romanticism that neither side ever appreciates in the other. But both camps could find moments of joyous life in all the ways Hicks chose to express himself. He was an unmistakably perfect accompanist in any mode.

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Billy Harper “Capra Black” (Pure Pleasure)

2019-04-05T03:01:24+00:00April 5th, 2019|

Capra Black remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz’s black consciousness movement. A profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant-garde as well as the emotional potency of gospel, its focus and assurance belie Billy Harper’s inexperience as a leader. Backed by an all-star supporting unit including trombonist Julian Priester and drummer Billy Cobham, Harper’s tenor summons the brute force and mystical resolve of John Coltrane but transcends its influences to communicate thoughts and feelings both idiosyncratic and universal. This is music of remarkable corporeal substance that somehow expresses the pure language of the soul.

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Weldon Irvine “Cosmic Vortex (Justice Divine)” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-12-07T00:10:39+00:00December 7th, 2018|

After two visionary LPs for his own tiny Nodlew label, Weldon Irvine signed to RCAfor Cosmic Vortex (Justice Divine), exploring the deeply spiritual and political terrain of his previous efforts on the kind of grand musical scale that major-label funding accommodates. This is a big, bold record by any measure, with a startlingly pronounced focus on lyrics and vocals. At the same time, however, the melodies spread out like tentacles, informed by the improvisational sensibilities of jazz and the deep-groove spirit of funk. Jason Ankeny/AMG

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Wendell Harrison & Phillip Ranelin “An Evening With The Devil” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-12-07T00:10:39+00:00December 7th, 2018|

“The Tribe is an extension of the tribes in the villages of Africa, our mother country. In Africa everyone had a talent to display. There were no superstars; just people and collectively all the people of the village played a vital role in shaping that culture. We see all the black communities within this country as villages and the tribes are the people residing within them. The Tribe is composed of creative artists from the Metropolitan Detroit area who have travelled extensively with many well known musicians and have returned with the intention of sharing these experiences with our people in order to broaden the cultural base in this city. They are some of the most original and creative artists in the area. We hope to bring out points, situations, and events that are happening in our communities by way of music, poetry, and dance and rapping to the people. You see pure music must reflect the environment that we live in if it is to be educational and beneficial to our culture. It must portray our way of life. At this point in our history, harmony for the most part, is not reflected in our communities. There’s a lot of rebellious tension and discord, even though we have some groovy or harmonious moments along the way. There are many people within this society, black and white, who don’t understand what is happening in regards to the direction the black musicians are moving toward. Our music is reflecting more so than ever before the stress, tension, and discord that is taking place within our communities along with the positive and harmonious things happening. This is evident when one listens to the music of composers like the late the late John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, and the late Albert Ayler. These guys understand the relationship between art and culture and they took the total vibrations, positive and negative of the whole culture and served as amplifiers or speaker systems through the arts. You cannot divorce art from its root culture and expect it to be relevant for both the artist and his culture.

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Wendell Harrison & Philip Ranelin “A Message from the Tribe” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-09-28T03:31:10+00:00September 28th, 2018|

Genius work from the Detroit underground of the 70s – one of the greatest records ever on the now-famous Tribe Records label, and a masterpiece of soul, jazz, and righteous spirit! The session’s headed by tenor player Wendell Harrison – and it’s got an all-star Motor City lineup that includes Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Phil Ranelin on trombone, Jeamel Lee on vocals, Charles Eubanks on electric piano, and Charles Moore on flugel horn. The tracks have a spacious spiritual approach that recalls some of the later Archie Shepp on Impulse – a blend of soul jazz with slight touches of electric instrumentation, some vocals, and a very progressive spirit overall – stepping proud in the new freedoms of the 70s, yet still swinging and very groovy.

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Harold McKinney “Voices & Rhythms Of The Creative People” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-09-28T03:31:10+00:00September 28th, 2018|

One of the most righteous albums ever issued by the always-righteous Tribe Records label of Detroit – a really collective effort, one that features ensemble vocals and spiritual jazz – all pulled together by pianist Harold McKinney! The album showcases a group named Voices Of The Creative Profile – formed by McKinney to accompany his Creative Profile instrumental group – and the overall style is a great blend of spiritual soul jazz that gives equal time to the voices and instruments in the set. Gwen McKinney heads up the vocal ensemble, and other players on the set include Wendell Harrison on flute, Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Billy Turner on percussion, and Ed Pickins on bass. Also features some cool moog from Darryl Dybka

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Doug Hammond & David Durrah “Reflections In The Sea of Nurnen” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-09-28T03:31:09+00:00September 28th, 2018|

An incredible session from the legendary Tribe Records scene — an equal effort from leader Doug Hammond and keyboardist David Durrah, who contributes some ground breaking Fender Rhodes and moog work to the set! Hammond handles drums plus a bit of vocals and synthesizer on the session — working alongside Durrah in a groove that mixes electric and acoustic instrumentation into a totally righteous sound with lots of heavy Afro Jazz leanings. A number of tracks feature great vocals from Hammond — righteous, and with a beautifully soulful message-oriented approach — and a few other tracks, such as the classic “Space I” and “Space II”, feature a sparer all-electric sound. The whole thing’s wonderful — skittishly rhythmic, warmly flowing, and righteously beautiful. Titles include “Sea Of Nurnen”, “Fidalgo Detour”, “Reflections”, “Space II”, and “For Real”.

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Harold Vick “Don’t Look Back” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-05-31T20:03:07+00:00May 31st, 2018|

For a label that wasn’t around long, Strata East achieved the same sort of label recognition that Impulse! or Blue Note managed to build. In other words, you knew what you were getting when you bought a record on the label, even if you didn’t know the names on the outside of the cover.

“Don’t Look Back” is an album led by American saxophonist Harold Vick recorded in 1974 and released in the wake of Harold Vick’s recovery from a heart attack, which may partially explain the passion with which he approaches his playing throughout.

One of the best-ever Strata East sessions! The album’s a masterfully conceived session by reed player Harold Vick – best known to the world as the funky tenorist from albums by John Patton and Jack McDuff in the 60s, but emerging here as an incredibly sensitive soul jazz player, capable of turning out some incredibly sophisticated and emotional compositions. Vick produced and wrote all the material on the album. A treasure all the way through.

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Billy Harper “Capra Black” (Pure Pleasure)

2018-04-20T14:17:38+00:00April 20th, 2018|

Capra Black remains one of the seminal recordings of jazz’s black consciousness movement. A profoundly spiritual effort that channels both the intellectual complexity of the avant-garde as well as the emotional potency of gospel, its focus and assurance belie Billy Harper’s inexperience as a leader. Backed by an all-star supporting unit including trombonist Julian Priester and drummer Billy Cobham, Harper’s tenor summons the brute force and mystical resolve of John Coltrane but transcends its influences to communicate thoughts and feelings both idiosyncratic and universal. This is music of remarkable corporeal substance that somehow expresses the pure language of the soul.

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