BGP returns to its jazz roots, with a compilation that looks at the funky, afrocentric and distinctly spiritual grooves coming out of North America in the latter part of the 60s and early 70s. Its musical landscape was dominated by the politics of the post civil-rights era, the two jazz totems of Miles and Coltrane, the success of soul and its little brother funk. The outcome was a mixture of rhythms from Africa, Detroit and Latin-America, imbued with a healthy dose of free thinking. As the jazz scene of the early 70s was shrinking, the music featured here was one attempt to get it out of its trough.
We have sought-after records by Azar Lawrence, Gary Bartz and Jack DeJohnette, who learned their trade playing in the ground-breaking early 70s Miles Davis groups, from albums such as “Jack Johnson”, “On The Corner” and “Agartha”. Musicians who came out of the post-Coltrane school of jazz are led by Coltrane’s pianist McCoy Tyner with the beautiful ‘Ebony Queen’. ‘Mother Of The Future’, which has since become a UK jazz dance classic (and features dream-like vocals from Jean Carn, as does our title track by Azar Lawrence) is by Norman Connors, whose path from Pharoah Sanders’ band to jazz funk chart star hit a crucial mark with the release of this song. But the unofficial star of our show is Joe Henderson, who hooks up with John Coltrane’s widow Alice for the inspirational ‘Fire’ and is also present with his beautiful chant-led ‘Tress-Cun-De-O-La’, a tune that also boasts one hell of a bass-line.
Both ‘Mother Of The Future’ and Gary Bartz’s ‘I’ve Known Rivers’ are big records on the UK jazz dance scene, but this CD places them in a setting where we can take in their meaning and beauty alongside delicate improviational masterpieces such as DeJohnette’s ‘Brown, Warm and Wintry’, and Idris Muhammad’s amazing modal groove on ‘Peace’.
This is deep, but accessible music for the soul, music that has a realtionship with events in the musicians’ own lives. For example Bayete (Todd Cochran) writes music in tribute to Angela Davis, a cause celebre of the black power movement, and Gary Bartz’s ‘I’ve Known Rivers’ sets a poem of leading black poet Langston Hughes to a melody while Connors, Tyner and Lawrence are all singing of an imaginary (better) place where descendents of Africa are treated with a sense of respect not afforded to them elsewhere.
BGP’s return to jazz is a mighty one.
By Dean Rudland