Afro-Blue Persuasion ‘Live at Haight Levels, Vol. 2’ LP (Tramp) 3/5

Live at Haight Levels, Vol.2 follows the recent January release of Volume 1. The accompanying notes state this recording is from 1967 and Afro-Blue Persuasion appeared to be the brainchild of an impressively monikered chap called Ulysses Crockett. I have to admit that he’s new to me but a little research suggests he’s a professor at the University of California Berkeley (and a potential California senator!). He is also credited as the vibraphone player here.

Track 1, listed as Cuban Fantasy, sets the tone of this release (and also the previous, Vol.1) with afro-cuban rhythms from piano, upright bass and congas. Solos from flute, congas and piano with the conga solo being the most successful (even eliciting some applause from the sparse audience). In my opinion, it is the weakest track, so it is surprising that it’s the opener. Track 2, listed as Mambo at the M (or Cuban Fantasy?), it’s vibes all the way from Professor Crockett. From here, it starts warming up a little. Impression Theme eschews the Latin feel of the rest of the album and leans towards a solid post-bop with a saxophone leading. The saxophone player is uncredited but is proficient. This track doesn’t seem to really fit in with the rest of the record but to me, it appears the players are the more confident here as if they are still learning this Latin thing! We return the afro-cuban style for Poinciana. It’s my favourite track and also appears to be the favourite of the audience. There’s more cohesion between the players. They are pretty tight here. Then, a bright and breezy vibes-led version of Night In Tunisia closes the set.

There is a suggestion that this release (and also volume one) are one recording from a single performance but I get the impression that these are really recorded at different times with different musicians. There’s a significant difference in the performance of the first two tracks to the rest. Who knows though, apparently these recordings have been archived for 51 years! The sound quality is generally good maybe a little dull.

I assume that the performances are mainly by students and as you’d expect, the musicianship is variable. The set list and some of the solos are rather pedestrian. In that context, it’s hardly an essential release and certainly not “afro-cuban jazz at it’s very best” as claimed. However, it does have charm. I enjoy the enthusiasm of the performers and their pleasure in performing. It’s fun!

Kevin Ward