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MICHAEL WHITE/Spirit Dance-Pneuma: The good doctor and his jazz violin were a little too early to the next stage of the world beat party in the early 70s and came out with a few sides that were well off the beaten path focusing well beyond the legacy Stephane Grappelli had sown. World beat with indigenous sounds as well, this was serious doob music as you could wrap your head around it while your synapses were getting toasted. Not jazz violin in the usual sense, White was a fearless sonic warrior in those days and the contemporary world beater will feel right at home taking a byte of this twofer. A product of it's times but not really dated.

KEITH JARRETT/Mysteries-Shades: From the outside looking in, Jarrett always made it look like long term contracts were a quaint notion. Recorded in the mid 70s, while he was well ensconced as an ECM artist, he turned in two dates that were a little too peppery for ECM, with the usual ECM suspects in tow, and he's still playing with the same guys nearly 40 years later (at least the ones that are still alive). Going with the kind of 70s progressive stuff you would expect from a Miles alumni, Jarrett is right on the point to satisfy any Miles fan yet be his own man. Here's a twofer of some quite solid progressive playing in which the focal piano man sounds like he's all over the map, but he also sounds like his GPS is on and working.

MEL BROWN/The Wizard-Blues for You: Yeah, kiddies, there was a time when Impulse and Verve weren't even close to being sister labels and Impulse deserved to have a Wes Montgomery of it's own as the 60s were rolling to a close. Using the dreaded format of covering a lot of current pop tunes, Brown and his pals sound like anything but a bar mitzvah band. A charming, finger popping twofer, you'll easily enjoy the stylings of everything from "Ode to Billie Joe" to "Stranger on the Shore". Several notches well beyond supper club hip, this could easily have been one of the templates for the easy jazz to follow. Well done.

CHICO HAMILTON/El Chico-The Further Adventures of El Chico: It was the mid 60s and the fuego-y drummer seemed to know how to attract the hippest cats from across the spectrum, each continuing a different flavor to the caliente mixture that stands up today as some classic, left of center Latincentric jazz. Way to ferocious to be background music, even when tripping on tripe like Babs Streisand's "People", it works like a stone cold mutha. This is the sound that inspired the look of love in paneled rec rooms across the country and fueled the romance dance that was the key party. Whew!

ALICE COLTRANE/Huntington Ashram Monastery-World Galaxy: It's pretty well settled that Coltrane was one of Impulse's most impenetrable artists, but you can't tackle a retrospective of the label without including a few twofers on her, and this is the second one out for Ravi's mom. The linking thread here is Coltrane bringing a harp into the mix. Recorded three years and a few light galaxies apart, "Ashram" has Ron Carter and Rashied Ali in tow so no matter how out there it gets, the wheels really can't come off the track. "Galaxy" starts out with Peter Max cover and a few covers of John's signature pieces, but done from the next galaxy. Certainly controversial to the jazz police of 40 years ago! Going places Paul Horn and probably Sun Ra wouldn't have gone at those times, Coltrane uses her fairy princess harp to make music that you almost have to be dared to comprehend. But to call it invalid is like calling Michael Hurley invalid. Just because you're well off the beaten path doesn't mean you don't have your adherents and acolytes. It still helps to be open eared to get into this today.

MARION BROWN/Geechee Recollections-Sweet Earth Flying: Pop quiz, hot shots. Hey, Marion wasn't a chick. He was a sax player that was to Coltrane what Coltrane was to Davis. Brown could fire off some flights of fantasy but do it with some sweet tone and control. A different side of civil rights jazz, there's no denying Brown's progressive edge was intact on these early 70s dates, and the cats he attracted made sure to keep the progressive edge well honed but not to the point of scaring the tourists away. If you ever loved an early 70s Watt Record, you'll know what's going on here and dig it just as well.

BLUE MITCHELL/African Violet-Summer Soft: A pair of late 70s dates in which the vet trumpeter could have been given the CTI treatment but instead actually sounds like he's in the same room with most of the other players at the same time. Loping along with a "Sanford & Son" vibe, this is some solid backyard funk that'll feel right at home in your headphones today. It wasn't the stuff hits were made of, but it certainly is the stuff long lasting, slow burning flames are made of. Check it out, jazz and funk meet on this corner in a warm embrace.

Volume 35/Number 145
March 14, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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