At a time when jazz records are often judged by the ever-increasing prices that chancers on eBay and Discogs are asking for it, the latest compilation from Jean Claude at If Music, London makes a welcome change. Ten hard to find tunes spread over three slabs of vinyl that have been selected for the quality of music, not for the devastating impact on your bank balance, make for a very interesting listening experience that hits the heights more often than not.
Imagine going to a friend’s house, a friend who is really trying hard to impress you with their record collection, and generally succeeding. That’s what this record is like. Covering a period roughly between ’73 and ’88, there’s a heavy European influence throughout, a couple of modal monsters and maybe just a bit too much fusion. All of which is bookended by Phineas Newborns Jnr’s very jazzy trio take of Manteca, from 1961 and a banging Fania style workout from Japanese group Copa Sabro from 2004.
There is also a lot of flute. Frank Strozier blows pretty on Grachan Moncur’s take on Impressions and with Louis Hayes and Harold Maben also in attendance it was always going to be a difficult tune to mess up. Gunnar Bergsten’s flute also sets the scene for Swedish bassist Björn Alkes, Nepal which starts off in a meditative, eastern kind of way before breaking into a swinging hard bop affair with Göran Strandberg clearly influenced by McCoy Tyner.
I always thought by Czech jazz rockers Probuzeni was a Paz tune, kicking off with a very happy Brazilian sounding Fender and guitar riff, that you will be very familiar with if into the jazz dance scene of the early ’80s, before kicking into a “Streets of San Francisco” style groove a la Funk Factory.
Grachan Moncur is back again with Beaver Harris and this time it’s Ken McIntyre on flute on Aladdin’s Carpet a surprisingly gentle and hypnotic Latin influenced groove, considering the players. Originally released on Italian label Soul Note in 1983.
24 Karat is a very long and funky tune from one of the more familiar names on this record the Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo. It’s from 1978 and clocks in at around 14 minutes, getting really interesting when Pop Factory alumni Wlodek Gulgowski takes centre stage on keys.
Dawn is a real hardcore fusion tune coming on like a 100mph Mumbai version of Sivuca, or Okay Temiz with a wonderful wordless vocal by Rama Mani. It was recorded by the Indian Fusion pioneers the Jazz Yatra Sextet in Germany in 1982. It’s one of the real highlights of the record which also features two absolute stone-cold killers from trombonist Tyrone Jefferson and the US composer/flautist/saxophonist and academic Karlton Hester.
Jefferson has form with James Brown, Public Enemy and James Spaulding on his call sheet. Middle Passage from his 1988 album ‘Free Your Mind’ is deep. Lonnie Plaxico’s brooding bass and a heavy percussion section set the tone for Tyrone’s meandering solos and Ellene Rockettes vocal improvisation. If you know the wonderful Belgian album by Raphaël that was issued a few years back, then you are on the right lines with this Pan African Ballet Music at the centre of this compilation. It’s epic in scope and length coming in at just over twenty minutes. Karlton Hester’s Contemporary Jazz Art Movement throw everything into the mix. The opening passage swings from Rag Time to Bop into a polyrhythmic march taking in elements of contemporary classical music before Hester comes in and suddenly, we are deep in Tapscott territory with Kamau Seitus drums laying down a relentless and hypnotic rhythm for violin, oboe, bassoon, piccolo and clarinet. Stunning.
Do I “Need This”, as the album title tells me I do? Well, there’s enough on here to keep me coming back for more and maybe making a mini-splurge on Discogs for a few of the originals.
Various ‘If Music Presents: You Need This – World Jazz Grooves’ 3LP/CD (BBE Music) 4/5
Various ‘IF Music presents: You Need This – An Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note – 1975-1985’ 3LP (BBE Music) 4/5