Various ‘Spiritual Jazz 6: Vocals’ 2LP/CD (Jazzman) 5/5

spiritual-jazz-sixFor those not already familiar with this fine series, Jazzman records have made it their absolute priority to uncover some of the more spiritual sides of the jazz catalogue and among these rare, independent recordings that otherwise would never see the light of day on re-issue compilations. Fast forward to volume six and on this occasion, the underlying theme is vocal jazz with the time span covered surprisingly long beginning in 1960 and going right up to 1986. Newcomers will adore the modal tribute to John Coltrane by the Clifford Jordan Quartet, the boss selection off a wonderful Strata-East double LP originally and the soothing hues of Leon Thomas on Pharoah Sanders’ epic ‘Prince of Peace’ from the same aforementioned label. For the more developed jazz brain, both the Gary Bartz and Andy Bey collaboration on ‘Celestial Blues’ and Byron Morris’ ‘Sunshower’ will deliver on all fronts. However, jazz aficionados will be in their element with some of the lesser-known material such as the joyous 45 by Eddie Gale, ‘African Sunshine’, which enables one to re-evaluate the two excellent Blue Note albums he recorded and wonder why his output was restricted to this. Pride of all, though, must go to the stunning tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk form the Vibration Society with ‘Spirits up above’ which is a stunningly beautiful and instantly catchy piece featuring the late Hilton Ruiz on piano and the great Steve Turré on trombone, not forgetting two of hard bops greatest ever brass players, tenorist Junior Cook and trumpeter Bill Hardman. Elsewhere a relatively obscure Charles Mingus number ‘Moves’ is a welcome addition and there is a brief edit of Max Roach’s ‘The Freedom Suite’ to introduce proceedings. As befitting such a lovely compilation of jazz vocal vibes, the terrifically informative inner sleeve notes are once again penned by compiler Gerald Short with introductory notes by renowned jazz vocal writer Will Friedwald who also helped produce the Vibration Society album. Where next for the Spiritual Jazz series? Possibly poetry meets jazz would be an interesting departure. In the meantime savour these esoteric sides to your heart’s delight.

Tim Stenhouse

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