Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes ‘Visions Of A New World’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Lonnie Liston Smith recorded 5 albums for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label, including ‘Expansions’, which became a mid-’70s jazz-funk classic, alongside other notable albums around that time including Donald Byrd’s ‘Spaces & Places’ and Johnny Hammond’s ‘Shifting Gears’. That same year Lonnie Liston Smith recorded ‘Visions Of A New World’, which has since become a landmark album and is now restored, remastered and reissued on 180g vinyl by the Pure Pleasure label out of Middlesex.

During the mid-1960s, Lonnie Liston Smith played alongside Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Betty Carter and Max Roach and many others before progressing onto working with Pharaoh Sanders in the late 1960s. It was on Pharaoh’s ‘Thembi’ album that Lonnie Liston Smith wrote the composition ‘Astral Travelling’ using the Fender Rhodes electric piano in place of the acoustic piano. The track became the title of his 1973 debut album, and the beginning of a sound which brought so many great albums and memorable tracks over the years, with unexpected collaborations and resurging interest, with each generation discovering his music and soulful expression.

It’s worth noting that producer Bob Thiele never took the publishing rights from his musicians and that held many of them in good stead and allowed for the future to remember their important contributions. It’s probably a good job when it comes to Lonnie Liston Smith as he has been sampled so many times. On ‘Visions Of A New World’ Ras G sampled ‘Summer Nights’ for his 2005 track ‘Juju’ and back in 1996, Kenny Dixon Jr sampled the same track for his ‘January’ cut off the classic ‘Soul Sounds’ EP. More recently Guillaume Berroyer [Ark] sampled ‘Aspirations’ for his electronic dance track ‘Lenlife’ off his ‘Noises & Some Voices EP’. Many of his other albums are heavily sampled and his music greatly respected by the communities surrounding many underground styles of music. Hopefully, the royalty cheques didn’t get posted to Dr. Lonnie Smith!

‘A Chance For Peace’ starts off in with a funk edge before the blend of the Fender Rhodes piano and the vocals by Donald Smith add a colourful textured palette, amplifying the peace message whilst retaining the groove throughout the track. It’s one of those classic tracks which has featured on many compilations over the years and one of the standout cuts from the album, although it’s an enjoyable experience from beginning to end with every track adding something different towards the album’s overall feel. ‘Devika’ and ‘Sunset’ are both exceptional pieces of music and ‘Visions Of A New World’ (Phase II) is almost an extension of ‘Expansions’ and, the only track which reaches out of the meditative feel of the album, using more percussion and an upbeat sound that retains the warmth and feel but adds a welcome punch.

The line up is similar to the Expansions album featuring Lonnie Liston Smith’s brother Donald Smith on vocals and flute – check his contribution on Billy Parker’s Fourth World album ‘Freedom Of Speech’, recorded a year earlier – whose voice is perfect for the album, lending an atmospheric relaxed tone and balance.

Joining Lonnie Liston Smith and his brother Donald are Guitarist Reggie Lucas, who played extensively with Miles Davis as well as Carlos Garnett, Norman Connors and many other jazz and soul artists whilst writing music for tracks such as ‘Gentle Smiles’ for Gary Bartz and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s ‘Back Together Again’. Trumpeter and tutor Cecil Bridgewater featured on many memorable albums in the 1970s including the seminal ‘Afro Blue’ album for his then-wife Dee Dee Bridgewater, before joining Lonnie Liston Smith for this recording. Trombonist Clifford Adams came into the project after a few years alongside Charles Earland, recording 4 albums with the soul-jazz organist/composer. Check him out on Robert Watson’s 1978 album ‘Estimated Time Of Arrival’.

Drummer/percussionist Michael Carvin enjoyed some memorable collaborations during this period around the 1970s, working with artists including Doug Carn, Jackie McLean, Pharaoh Sanders, Cecil McBee and of course with Lonnie Liston Smith. On this album, he teams up with percussionist Ray Armando who featured on many great jazz albums including some great soul-jazz albums for Blue Note by Lou Donaldson and Grant Green during his early career. Saxophonist Dave Hubbard plays both horns and the Soprano saxophone on the album. His depth of sound is epitomised on his self-titled album on Mainstream Records from 1971. Bassist Greg Maker was part of the Composer’s Workshop Ensemble on the 1974 album ‘We’ve Been Around’, recorded in 1974 on Strata-East. Drummer Art Gore, who recorded alongside Teruo Nakamura and Larry Young shares a platform on ‘Visions Of A New World’ with fellow drummer Wilby Fletcher who had just come from Roy Ayers band as a younger musician. Pharaoh Sander’s percussionist Lawrence Killian shared the stage with Angel Allende, who worked with Mongo Santamaria, Sivuca and many other renowned artists in the jazz and Latin​ community.

So then, a classic early insight into the incredible career of this inspiring musician/composer and an album which is highly recommended.

Mark Jones