Cecil McBee Sextet ‘Music From The Source’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

Recorded 4 years after the seminal ‘Mutima’ album, ‘Music From The Source’ was one of two Sextet albums recorded by bassist/composer Cecil McGee and company. This particular album features Tenor Saxophonist Chico Freeman, Don Moye on percussion, Joe Gardner on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Steve McCall on drums and pianist Dennis Moorman.

This first-time vinyl reissue outside of Japan comes via the Pure Pleasure record label. The album was recorded live at the famous Sweet Basil venue in NYC in 1978 for the enja label. The Three compositions were all written by Cecil McBee and each stretches out, taking you on a fully immersive journey, always engaging and never obvious. The music pushes the borders without losing the structure and a rooted artistry. ‘Music From The Source’ is another one of those understated albums which grows with each listen.

In the early 1960s, Cecil McBee joined a stellar line of bassists who had worked with Paul Winter’s ensemble that had included Richard Evans and Chuck Israels. This appointment seemed an important precursor to what was to follow. A move to New York in the mid-1960s allowed for many important collaborations alongside such luminaries as Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers. Within a short space of time, Cecil McBee had become one of the most in-demand bassists amongst the new wave of jazz that was pushing the boundaries and stretching the compositional approach.

Cecil McBee has since been an ambassador for jazz, receiving a Grammy for the 1988 recorded ‘Blues for Coltrane’ within the group that featured Pharoah Sanders, David Murray, McCoy Tyner, and Roy Haynes – do check out ‘Naima’ from the album as an example of why the album received this prestigious award.

The opening track ‘Agnez’ is with respect to drummer and friend Roy Haynes. It’s a 19-minute tour de force that begins quite serenely with Chico Freeman on flute and Don Moye on percussion, both setting the scene before the pace picks up and the tension builds to a more fiery affair. Tenor Saxophonist Chico Freeman brings some epic sustained blowing to the forefront, adding a real weighted sound that must have been a delight to the audience that night in NYC. Drummer Steve McCall brilliantly underpins the saxophonist with dynamic apparelled support. Many would state this composition as the highlight of the album but that kind of misses the point. It’s nonetheless a perfect platform for the rest of the album.

‘God Spirit’ is a beautifully reflective piece that highlights Cecil McBee’s high calibre of composition and playing. The track showcases the bassist’s superb lyrical solo style and a softer side to Chico Freeman’s Tenor.

‘First Song In The Day’ is a joyful modal arrangement with a memorable sound full of uplifting exuberant energy. It’s the perfect finale for the audience and pulls the whole album together nicely. The track would have probably featured on many a compilation, had it not been 17 minutes long.

The album features a group of musicians, all bringing a special quality and spirit that must have made this a memorable evening for the audience.

Mark Jones