Various ‘IF Music presents: You Need This – An Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note – 1975-1985’ 3LP (BBE Music) 4/5

In recent years there has been something of a rediscovery of both the spiritual side of jazz and indeed the Afro-centric components of the music, in terms of content and ideology. Two labels who have championed this approach are actually based in Italy, Black Saint and Soul Note, and were founded by Giacomo Pellicciotti, with the former label being created in the mid-1970’s. It was in fact the Billy Harper album of the same label title that was the very first release in 1975 and that piece has indeed featured on a previous jazz compilation on BBE. This latest installment trawls the vinyl crates further for some sumptuous and, in several cases, harder to find examples of the spiritual jazz sound, expertly compiled by DJ and owner of IF Music, Soho, Jean-Claude, whose thoughtful selection is to be applauded. A real discovery is the Afro-centric flavoured, ‘Oasis’, by Harriett Bluitt, and he is a musician worthy of re-investigation. Jazz violinist Billy Bang is best known for his Afro-Latin classic, ‘Abuella’, from the ‘Live at Carlos’ session, and that has featured on another BBE jazz compilation. Here, the strong African influences are discernible on, ‘The Nagual Julian’, by the Billy Bang Sextet, and this is a welcome addition. Both labels favoured a wide-ranging approach that encompassed blues and Latin among other genres, and this is reflected on the present anthology. An eleven minute blues-inflected, ‘Down home New York’, by Archie Shepp, is indeed a worthy successor to ‘Attica Blues’, while Brazilian fans will enjoy an interpretation of the Nana Vasconcelos composition, ‘Verde que eu te quero ver’, by the Riva String Band, even if it is relatively brief. Max Roach in the 1970’s was founder member of a percussion collective known as M’Boom and one of their more esoteric pieces, ‘Mr seven’, takes up the whole of one side of vinyl, and is a fine example of jazz and African rhythms seamlessly combining. Tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield is no stranger to modal and Latin grooves, having been a regular member of both the McCoy Tyner big band and the Fort Apaché band under the leadership of Jerry Gonzalez. His contributions as a leader are somewhat less recognized and that is why the spiritual vibe of, ‘Confessin’, is such a welcome addition here. Between the two labels, some five hundred albums were released between the 1970’s through to 2008. While this excellent compilation barely touches the surface of that wealth of musical and no single compilation could ever claim to, it does nevertheless shed light on some relatively little known musicians and the quality of the music is maintained throughout. Devotees of the Black Jazz, ECM, and MPS labels will be sure to find their musical nirvana here. A definite contender for one of the year’s best left-field jazz re-issues.

Tim Stenhouse