Creative Arts Ensemble with B.J. Crowley ‘One Step Out’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5

In 1981 The Creative Arts Ensemble recorded their debut album ‘One Step Out’ for the Nimbus West record label based in Santa Barbara, 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The private press label was founded by producer Tom Albach whose collaboration with pianist/composer/educator Horace Tapscott gave rise to some incredible music and memorable albums during the 1980s. Over the last 40 years, the album has become highly collectable and, like many of the early releases on Nimbus West, the interest in that deep spiritual jazz sound has grown along with the prices. In a similar vein to labels such as Strata-East, Tribe and Black Jazz and the collective spirit of say the Chicago based AACM movement, the music on Nimbus West epitomised the core principles of a collective desire to nurture the artistic talents from within the community without needing to conform to the pressures of a more commercially minded record label, who were often required to meet targets and audiences.

During the early 1980s a community arts centre in Los Angeles, set up by Horace Tapscott and company, provided a grounding platform for many of the emerging young musicians and artists within the area, with many contributing on albums that came through the Nimbus West label. Both Gary Bias and Dadesi Komolafe went on to record their own albums for the label a few years later.

On this debut lead role, pianist/composer Kaeef Ruzadun Ali is joined by his sister B. J. Crowley upfront on vocals, Gary Bias [alto saxophone], Dadesi Komolafe [flute], Henry “Skipper” Franklin [bass], Jeff Clayton [Baritone Saxophone], SonShip Phaeus [Drums/Percussion], Wilbert Hemsley [Tenor Saxophone], George Bohannon [Trombone] and Al White [Trumpet].

The Creative Arts Ensemble was formed from members of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. Kaeef was first inspired by the ethos of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and their community spirit when visiting the ‘Great House’ in Los Angeles; a mansion that acted as a commune and place to bring unity and creativity to the forefront of those who were involved and illuminated by the Arkestra’s movement. The pianist went on to form this first large ensemble to follow in the footsteps of the Arkestra and ‘One Step Out’ is the result of a remarkable debut for Kaeef and company.

There’s a sense of togetherness and understanding that streams throughout the album and the lengthy compositions give each musician ample space to stretch out. ‘Flashback Of Time’ featured on a compilation by Soul Jazz Records in 2014 titled ‘Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical And Revolutionary Jazz In The U.S.A. 1957 – 1982’ and interestingly enough ‘Stars In Lightyear Time’ was the chosen track for the compilation CD ‘L.A’s Unsung’, chosen by the Nimbus West record label. It’s hard to mark out any highlights as the album works as a whole and each track evokes a timeless spirit and testament to the high level of musicianship and improvisation.

The reissue by Pure Pleasure Records comes with 180g Analogue Audiophile Vinyl Remastered from the best available sources. ‘One Step Out’ is one of the most collectable jazz recordings from the Nimbus catalogue and ranks up there with their 1983 album ‘New Horizons’ which is also in high demand by collectors.

Mark Jones