Various Artists ‘Peace Chant – Raw, Deep and Spiritual Jazz Vol.1’ LP/DIG (Tramp) 3/5

peace-chant-vol1Whilst Tramp Records do release new music, the German label is best known for their compilations.
This is not an area where we are so easily impressed any more. Lots of good music from the pre-digital era has already found it’s way on to the re-issue/compilation market and Internet search engines have made it much easier to source some of the rare nuggets, although not necessarily any cheaper.
Tramp’s mission in this latest series is to explore “spiritual sounds through jazz, soul, funk, latin and afrobeat styles”. Laudably, on this, as with many of their releases, Tramp focus on music that has never been compiled before, the majority of the tracks originally appearing only on obscure 7-inch singles that were either pressed privately or by small, independent record labels in limited numbers. Many of these have subsequently become desirable within specialist collecting circles.
The selection is eclectic, pulling together music from different genres and from around the globe. Most of the tracks were originally released in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, with two exceptions, “Mozambique” from 1963 and a recent recording, “Don’t Give Up Your Smile Today”, which was previously unreleased.
Overall the album does what it sets out to do, although for me there are as many misses as hits.

With most of the material having come from singles the tunes tend to be more ‘immediate’, in the main funky, up-tempo numbers. The compositions are less distinctively spiritual jazz (although this term itself can be rather imprecise) but have broader spiritual influences, either in their message, inspiration or style of play.

The organ features heavily, whether it is the obscure Detroit jazz of the Nu Art Quartet, the Filipino jazz funk of William “Genghis” Kyle & The Horde’s “Bakit Ba” or The Milestones and their raw, energetic “Funk”.

There is also an exotic feel to the album – the aforementioned “Bakit Ba”, John Tinsey’s sensual “Freedom Excelsior” with it’s Moorish sax line, or Hozan Yamamoto’s “Spotlight on Sapporo”. Yamamoto is an interesting artist; he was a pioneer in pushing the boundaries of the shakuhachi (end-blown bamboo flute) beyond its use in traditional Japanese folk music. This track was originally titled “Yasuki-Bushi” and recorded in 1971 with the Big Band, Sharp and Flats. Philips Austria renamed it and released it as the B-side of a 7-inch with Wachauer Buam’s “Ja, So War’s in Sapporo” (a comment on Austrian skier Karl Schranz’s ban from the Sapporo Winter Olympics for admitting professionalism).

The most recent track is “Don’t Give Up Your Smile Today” by the German group Das Goldenes Zeitalter, a spiritual jazz side project of the group Poets of Rhythm. For me the vocals don’t quite work, coming across as somewhere between Edwyn Collins and Lloyd Cole. Given that the rest of the album comprises of tracks recorded at least a quarter of a decade beforehand it does feel out-of-place.

Putting the content to one side, the sound quality is patchy, either because the original recording/pressing or the sourced copy wasn’t great. This is particularly noticeable on quieter passages of “Mozambique” and “Bakit Ba”.

As a compilation, ”Peace Chant” lacks any real highlights although there are some interesting footnotes.

Tramp will release Volume 1 on vinyl and digitally, Volume 2 following shortly thereafter (with the pair being combined on one CD).

Andy Hazell