Buddy Terry ‘Awareness’ LP/CD (WEWANTSOUNDS) 4/5

Multi-reedist Buddy Terry is one of the unrecognised jazz musicians of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s whose music is being re-discovered and this fine re-issue illustrates just why. One piece, ‘Kamali’, has already figured on one of the two critically acclaimed compilations on enterprising London indie Wewantsounds and this original album re-issue helps fill in the gaps. A strong and extended line-up of musicians includes some heavyweights from the era including spiritual jazz pianist par excellence Stanley Cowell, trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, Roland Prince on guitar and a beefed up rhythm section that comprises Victor Gaskin on bass, both Buddy Williams and Mickey Roker alternating on drums and James Mtume (son of Jimmy Heath) on percussion.

The music is both accessible and challenging in equal measure, with the melodic flavour of the Latin percussion aiding and enticing the listener on the mid-tempo groove of ‘Stealin’ Gold’, which here is available in two separate versions, one of which is the shorter 45. Fine ensemble brass is a hallmark of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, even if the start might hint at a freer approach. The main motif owes a clear debt to the Eddie Harris composition, ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’, only on this occasion the interpretation takes a direct leaf out of the work of the Miles Davis quintet circa 1966 and the ‘Miles Smiles’ recording which featured a stunning reading of the soul-jazz anthem. This later derivation compares most favourably.

Where this album wins in opposition to others is in the ideal balance that is struck between, on the one hand, a funkier disposition in line with earlier albums that Terry cut for the Prestige label, and, on the other, the more exploratory territory that early 1970’s indie jazz labels in Chicago, Detroit and New York were pioneering. There are definite echoes of the Black Jazz label on a near thirteen minute suite that opens up the album, ‘Awareness (suite)’ and this unfolds into various moods of which the first, ‘Omnipotence’, impresses with some expansive piano soloing by Cowell. Definitely of interest to spiritual jazz devotees, but anyone with an interest in non-formulaic jazz will find much to entertain them here and a fine example of how Bob Shad’s Mainstream label was equally adept at producing quality jazz as well as soulful music.

Tim Stenhouse