Great to see Weldon Irvine’s seminal debut album, ‘Liberated Brother’, respectively reissued via Pure Pleasure Records. The album was originally released in 1972 on Weldon’s self-funded label, Nodlew Music, a name inspired by his mentor Horace Silver who covered the title track on his own album, ‘In Pursuit Of The 27th Man’, a year after Weldon’s release.
An early Horace Silver/Art Blakey album became the catalyst for Weldon’s changing trajectory. After majoring in English Literature and minoring in music, a move to New York from Virginia saw Weldon begin to shape his career surrounded by a wealth of inspirational figures within the jazz community. After joining the Joe Henderson/Kenny Dorham big band in the mid-1960s, Weldon went on tour with Nina Simone, who apparently heard a minute of his playing in an audition and immediately hired him. It was within this three-year collaboration that he wrote the lyrics to Nina Simone’s music for the hugely successful recording, ‘Young Gifted and Black’. A song further illuminated by the legendary vocalist Donny Hathaway.
Weldon Irvine’s unique blend of high spirited afro-centric fusion permeates this whole album. The elements of jazz, soul, funk, blues, Latin and gospel suffused with Weldon’s Moog synthesizer, electric piano and a wealth of igniting instrumentation adds to the special qualities that make up this debut album.
‘Sister Sanctified’ is a funk induced classic popularized by Stanley Turrentine, whose version was later embraced by a younger generation via a sample used by Boogie Down Productions for ‘My Philosophy’. The conscious spoken word/hip hop community continues to recognize Weldon Irvine as Master Wel, holding his music and philosophy in high esteem amongst those on the periphery. Check Madlib’s album, ‘A Tribute to Brother Weldon’ on Stones Throw, recorded under his Monk Hughes pseudonym.
‘Liberated Brother’ is an uplifting soulful jazz composition with Weldon Irvine laying down short percussive piano riffs and motifs with a percussive style not too dissimilar to the signature sounds that we love about Horace Silver.
On the deep and reflective composition, ‘This Is Where I Came In’, guest tenor saxophonist James Stroud and Preston Williams [Flugelhorn] complement a more subtle lyrical playing by Weldon on an acoustic piano.
The cosmic funky jazz piece, ‘Mr Clean’, is propelled into another dimension by Weldon’s switch from acoustic to electric piano and Moog synthesizer, enhanced by the contribution from Tommy Smith [electric guitar], Roland Wilson [electric bass], drummer Chipper Lyles and Napoleon Revels [percussion], who all create a timeless piece of music, covered by jazz artists including JJ Johnson, Freddie Hubbard, Peter Herbolzheimer and more recently by hip hop artist MF Doom on his album, ‘Vaudeville Villain’.
The mysterious captivating sound surrounding the album is captured on ‘Homey’, a delightful downtown bluesy funk piece with Weldon playing the melodica instrument, described as a cross between the keyboard and a harmonica, to great effect.
His jazz, blues and soulful progressive artistry shows great sincerity on this classic album. It’s quite remarkable that the whole album was recorded within a day after two days of rehearsal.