26 Nov 2021

Gambia

Alhaji Bai Konte - Greatest 20th Century Kora Player

'Bai Konte is a virtuoso performer on the kora, the 21-stringed African harp. He gets a sweet sound from the harp, and the flowing chords, shifting rhythmic patterns, and spirited runs create a quiet, meditative atmosphere. Since its release in 1973, this album’s gentle, transcendant charms have captivated thousands of listeners — you don’t have to be an African music fan to love it.' -N. Feagin

'Alhaji Bai Konte is an African music master able to fit a traditional instrument and sensibility into a contemporary framework. Konte plays the kora, a 21-stringed harp, with such rhythmic virtuosity and wide-ranging ability that he negates questions of language and adaptability. His 14-cut disc features everything from a 58-second fragment, "Tuning Kora," to a spectacular six-plus-minute triumph, "Cedo." During the disc, he demonstrates the properties, appeal, and charm of the kora, sometimes going through uptempo pieces that accent his speed, other times probing and exploring an ancient number in a manner that showcases his knowledge of and reverence for vintage African music.' -Review by Ron Wynn

'Alhaji Bai Konte born 1920 / Died 1983 (aged 63) was a jali (praise singer) from Brikama, Gambia. He played the 21-string kora and is believed to have been the first kora player to perform and tour in the United States as a soloist, playing at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival. (Les Ballets Africains, a dance and music group from Guinea, had first performed in the U.S. in 1959, and featured a kora player.)'

Alhaji Bai Konte Kora Melodies from the Republic of the Gambia, West Africa (Rounder 5001) – 1973

“Kora Melodies from the Republic of The Gambia, West Africa was the first release in our international series,” comments Rounder founder Bill Nowlin. “This record and perhaps a few others led to the concept of ‘world music,’ preceding the trend. Many people at the time might have associated the term ‘international’ with something like the Soviet Army Choir. This was more energetic and colorful.”

“Producers Marc and Susan Pevar got in touch with us cold, following a recommendation by Joe Hickerson of the Library of Congress. They talked us into it. I was impressed with Marc as a scholar. He had gone to The Gambia and was fully committed, having spent several months living with Bai Konte and recording him.”

“A number of musicians we knew were impressed by him,” Bill continues. “We thought it might appeal to a Leo Kottke audience,” adds Ken Irwin.

With his flowing and dreamlike music, Alhaji Bai Konte became pretty well known on the folk circuit, including a performance at Tufts University.

The release is also notable because of its full color cover, with a solarized photo of the artist. “Marc thought it would attract attention,” remembers Bill. At first, Rounder’s album covers were modeled on those released by Moses Asch and Folkways Records, with a single two-color sheet laminated to a pre-made black jacket, extending about a third of the way around the back. Graphically, then, this was a small step forward for the fledgling label.

1. Alla L'Aa Ke 5:39
2. Cewe Ienkele Wecho 2:11
3. Cedo 6:09
4. Kelefa Ba 2:12
5. Baa To Toto 4:56
6. Jato 6:23
7. Alhaji Bamba Bojang 3:00
8. Fayunkunko 2:35
9. Dalua 4:27
10. Jula Jekere 5:05
11. Tara 6:55
12. Jato 5:34
13. Tuning Kora 0:58
14. Simbomba 15:55

Notes
Tracks 11 to 14 previously unissued.

Ghana

Dagara gyil field recordings from Ghana - two side-long tracks of dizzying acoustic trance music - musicians include Aaron Bebe Sukura and recorded by Hisham Mayet on location in Lawra, Ghana in 2019.

'Long form trance music with acoustic instruments sounding like several minimalist orchestras getting to maximalist sonic peaks. The gyil music of the Dagara is a complex multi-dimensional symphony of notes, bringing to life an animist expression that reveals a cultural dialogue between the spirits, the deceased, musicians, dancers, and audience alike. The intensity of this recording reaches a level of complexity that rivals techno music. It is in essence an acoustic techno music, utilizing organic instruments made of wood, leather and gourds filled with spider egg sacs for resonance and played by master musicians creating a sonic wanderlust of mesmerizing sound.'


trance-like pointillist xylophone music

'Recorded by Sublime Frequencies label co-founder / co-owner Hisham Mayet in the Upper West Region (an administrative unit similar to state or province) in Ghana in 2019, these recordings of music played on gyil – a type of xylophone with wooden blocks for bars tuned to a pentatonic scale and gourds filled with spider egg sacs for resonance, usually accompanied by a calabash gourd drum which can be played by the gyil performer at the same time or as part of a duo – are a wonder to listen to in their pointillist density, sounding very like several maniac orchestras all belting out dot-by-dot music at the maximum speed possible. Following such maddening music with a mix of hard wooden tones and buzzing tones that, funnily enough, sound a bit like people playing thumb pianos, you can end up in a trance state with your conscious mind amenable to interactions with spirits and denizens of other worlds and dimensions. Incidentally the gyil instrument is the major traditional musical instrument of the Dagara people of northern Ghana and of the Lobi people in Ghana, Burkina Fasso and Côte d’Ivoire. One of the musicians playing on this album is Aaron Bebe Sukura, considered to be a master musician in playing gyil.

The music on this album is continuous and two parallel layers of music – the gyil itself and the rhythmic drumming, itself as much a fast melodic flow of knocking noises as it is in defining the music’s pace and structure – can be clearly heard. In some parts of the recording there is possibly a third layer of music that sounds as if it is playing in a different key and in the middle of the album someone appears banging on a wooden stick which can be a bit annoying. There are voices in the background though I do not know if they happen to be incidental or part of the music. Repetition is constant throughout this apparent non-stop performance, which adds to the trance-like immersive nature of the music. It can be so spellbinding and intense in parts that when the album comes to a close, listeners can feel quite tuckered out!

I wouldn’t say this music is equivalent to an acoustic version of techno as the Sublime Frequencies blurb claims, as the aims of both genres are not necessarily the same though they may strive for a transformation of consciousness on the part of musicians, listeners, dancers and passive participants, and are very speedy, even urgent in their pace. It seems to me that gyil doesn’t seek to be hedonistic in its ultimate intent though it can satisfy such urges if people come to the music purely for self-enjoyment; there may be other purposes the music fulfils as well which may explain how it continues to be the Dagara and Lobi people’s main expression of music culture. Overall the album is a very pleasant and enjoyable music experience.' - nausika

Field recordings of Lobi traditional xylophone (gyil) music recorded on location in Ghana's Upper West Region, West Africa in 2019.

Anthony D'Amico Reviews
This mesmerizing and unique gem from Sublime Frequencies documents some killer field recordings made by Hisham Mayet in the Upper West region of Ghana back in 2019. I knew absolutely nothing about gyril music before hearing this album, but the most salient detail is that the primary instrument is a traditional xylophone used by the Lobi people. That does not even remotely convey how strange and wonderful these recordings are, but SF's description includes phrases like "long form trance music" and "acoustic techno," and those seem to hit the mark in spirit. To me, this album sounds like a ritualistic drum circle, but way more sophisticated, melodic, and psych-damaged than anything I would expect from actual communal percussion. As with a lot of field-recorded Sublime Frequency fare, it is very easy to dismiss this album as just an interesting window into an underheard culture from a cursory or casual listen. Once I listened to Dagara in a focused way, however, it quickly revealed itself to be something quite transcendent, as it seamlessly merges the otherness of great "experimental" music with an almost ecstatic visceral intensity.

Sublime Frequencies

This album is ostensibly composed of two separate pieces that each span one side of vinyl, but the digital version is presented as a single 40-minute track, and the latter is exactly what it feels like. You can drop the needle anywhere on Dagara and roughly expect to get the same thing every time: vibrant percussion rhythms and unusual-sounding, interwoven xylophone melodies. That is primarily because no one piece of the puzzle stands out as particularly brilliant or memorable on its own. That said, the insanely complex web of overlapping rhythms and processed-sounding textures is legitimately amazing. And so is the way that the piece subtly and organically transforms like a dense cloud of migrating birds effortless shifting direction in perfect unison. It all cumulatively amounts to something psychedelic as hell, leading me to both envy whatever wavelength these cats are on AND marvel at how they managed to get there in perfect harmony. This is total hive mind, wheels-within-wheels territory in the best way. Beyond that, I would describe the overall aesthetic as "a tropical steel drum band went to India to study classical raga and Eastern spirituality and returned home completely unrecognizable and waaaaaay into psychedelics." That is a compliment (I would totally listen to such a band), but it also feels like that hypothetical band was then grist for a killer sound collage by a great tape artist. While I assume this was recorded entirely live, the smearing, deep vibraphone-like tones and the stammering, hesitating melodies sound alien and hallucinatory, similar to a serendipitous pile-up of unrelated loops locking gloriously in sync. There is much happening and all of it is interesting. In fact, I would be truly hard pressed to think of a "complex polyrhythm" opus from the 20th century avant-garde that could beat this ensemble at that game. Albums like this are exactly why I love Sublime Frequencies, as Dagara is a richly immersive tour de force of constantly shifting, interwoven patterns.

A Sebru 20:03
B Bagr-bine 20:38

Columbus, Ohio

Powers / Rolin Duo, the amazing Columbus-based folk/drone duo consisting of Jen Powers on dulcimer and Matthew Rolin on guitar.

'It’s been a prosperous year for the ever-unfolding iterations of the Powers/Rolin consciousness. Strange Fortune delves ever further into the duo’s own hall of mirrors, offering yet another facet of their diamond-mind union. Each piece flows effortlessly, and it would be easy to think of the record as a continuous whole if not for the gentle tolling bells to signal new beginnings along the way, imbuing the proceedings with a sense of ceremony, reminding whoever’s listening to take a breath and to return to the moment, before being beckoned ever onward. All paths ultimately ascend toward the gorgeous, sidelong finale, ‘Amaranth,’ where swaths of 12-string guitar and strands of dulcimer braid together in shimmering drones, blooming through the speakers in slow motion, manifesting a music of pure and resplendent light.' -j annnis

'Some mornings when I wake up, the whole house is still and everyone else is still asleep. On my less frantic days, I’ll just lie in bed, thinking about the day ahead and trying to set positive intentions. Usually, I’m awake before dawn, so I’ll watch as the window begins to softly glow, welcoming the sun back to Earth. These small rituals are the signposts that get us through life and help fill the gaps between the big moments. When the brilliant Strange Fortune cracks open its eyes with “Birdhouse,” it’s that moment amplified.

Jen Powers and Matthew Rolin take those daily rituals and turn them into big moments. Strange Fortune is a masterpiece that echoes the unbound love and respect these two have for each other. In the radiating resonance from Powers’ dulcimer and Rolin’s 12-string, light forms and encases everything in a warm embrace. There’s barely any separation between their individual sounds as it all becomes a harmonious beacon, brined in the astral affections that light the cosmos. 

Multitudes of emotion exist throughout Strange Fortune; sonic landscapes rise and fall like empires made from ash and dust. There’s tension and anticipation woven throughout “Tea Lights,” Powers and Rolin each taking their turn at the front of the chase, driving past the cliffside and into something that feels and sounds timeless. It’s a stunning, evocative piece of music. 

I can’t write about Strange Fortune without touching on the sidelong opus, “Amaranth.” As strong as the A-Side is, the narrative sprawl of “Amaranth” is something else. Maze-like passages conjure spirits that tell tales of past lives lived in gilded splendor, loves lost, and battles hard-won. “Amaranth” is the story of a life well-lived and well-loved, the details and quiet interludes leaving the darkest marks all recorded in the steel-stringed grace of hammered dulcimer and guitar.  

Powers and Rolin are in rarified air right now, dialed in so tight that every move they make goes supernova. They’ve made some great records, but Strange Fortune is on another level. Their compositional style draws from a lot of places but is ultimately, singularly their own. Their work is approachable yet deep, a reflection of their personalities and relationship. Sometimes something or someone(s) come along and there’s a specialness that’s hard to articulate. That is the combined force of Powers and Rolin. They’re incredible, sure, but together they are worlds greater than the sum of those parts. We should all be so lucky to have Strange Fortune as the soundtrack to our lives.' -Brad Rose


"Underground music is filled with all kinds of characters, personalities, and peculiarities. Rare are the musical/artistic soul mates who have forged life, as well as creative, partnerships. Foundationally, the work of couples like Alice and John Coltrane or La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela set standards of artists who share a complete aesthetic worldview, in which the pair complement and lift each other to higher vistas, the newly created work completely collaborative and unable to be untangled from its divine union. More recently, soul mate musicians like Wayne Rogers and Kate Village, or Rick Brown and Sue Garner, continue in this seemingly impossible tradition, a lifetime of musical co-expression. Jen Powers and Matthew Rolin, as the Powers/Rolin Duo, are the latest, fully realized musical version of this unique dynamic. On their new album Strange Fortune, for the Astral Spirits sister label Astral Editions, the pair offers a sage-scented, instrumental love poem, which straddles the lines of psychedelic and folk idioms. Over the course of four extended tracks, including the sidelong “Amaranth,” showers of 12-string acoustic guitar and hammered dulcimer mix to dizzying heights as the two players weave in and out of each other's melodies, finishing each other's musical sentences. The sounds of the instruments commingle, yielding a cosmic sense of compatibility as if there is little distinction between the players. Over the past few years, the Powers/Rolin duo has spread its developments over a string of limited LP releases and hard to find cassettes. Strange Fortune, which was recorded live with few overdubs, feels like their first signature statement as a duo: it’s a deep listen, a bliss-inducing ramble through acoustic tonalities. So open up the windows, turn the volume up, and let the Powers/Rolin duo be the soundtrack to your summer and all the kaleidoscopic days ahead.“


Liner Notes with Matthew J. Rolin and Jen Powers | Record Crates United

'If you’ve been following RCU within the last year or so, you should know already that Jen Powers and Matthew J. Rolin are responsible for some of the most exciting and original guitar soli and folk-inspired free improv records being released today.

As the Powers/Rolin Duo, Powers plays hammered and bowed dulcimer (while usually hooked up to some effects peddles), while Rolin flies across the frets of his acoustic 12-string guitar. Their sound is exceptionally ethereal and will never leave you feeling anything other than completely blissed-out. For a perfect example of this, just check out their self-titled full-length LP that Feeding Tube Records released last May.

With several releases credited to the Powers/Rolin Duo, solo recordings plus various side projects under his belt, Rolin has gained the rightful reputation as being one of the most proficient and creative fingerpickers in the newest wave of American Primitive guitarists. He was even featured on one of the most recent volumes of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series, which is a sort of long running guide to the best and brightest names in guitar soli music.

So it is our absolute pleasure to be able to feature Powers and Rolin on Liner Notes. Take a look at their answers to our questionnaire below, and be sure to take notes, as they certainly have impeccable taste!'

RCU: What was the last song that you listened to?

MR: The last song that I listened to was side-B of the first volume of live recordings from Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit. Crazy sounds!

JP: My friend was playing some music on their porch last night when I went by to say hello, but “Ten Years Nug II” by Willie Lane is the last song I purposely listened to. I’ve had “Keening Song” by Kitty Gallagher looping in my head all day, though.

RCU: What was the last album you felt obsessed with?

MR: Last album I’ve felt obsessed with is Patrick Shiroishi’s Descension. End of the world sounding solo free jazz sax. Sounds like it was recorded through five Marshall stacks and a fuzz face. Perfect sounds for the end of the world!

JP: Delta Momma Blues, by Townes Van Zandt. Every couple years or so, I go on a big Townes bender. This is probably my fourth time around. Lately, I can’t stop listening to “Rake” and marveling at how absolutely perfect the arrangement is.

RCU: Which artist do you most want to listen to on a Friday night?

MR: Historically on a Friday night I’d be trying to hang with friends on a porch somewhere. We could all stare off into the world while The Monks’ Black Monk Time plays loudly. 

JP: Depends on the Friday night—some weeks it’s T2, other weeks it’s Sibylle Baier, and other weeks it’s Albert Ayler.

RCU: Which artist do you most want to listen to on a Sunday morning?

MR: Sunday morning I would probably need to be making coffee to Vashti Bunyan or Jessica Pratt.

JP: Anne Briggs comes to mind. Mary O’Hara, Pentangle, McPeake Family… my Sunday mornings are for sublime European folk.

RCU: What record do you wish more people knew about?

MR: There is finally a “sort of” affordable reissue of Apache/Inca by Maitreya Kali. Craig was definitely unhinged, violent, and homeless by the time he died on the streets of Los Angeles not too long ago. I don’t support any of that, although the book about him goes into pretty good detail how he ended up that way. Those recordings transcend all of that and are some of the most beautiful folk and psych rock songs I have ever heard. Everything is anchored by his angelic voice and incredible songwriting. 

JP: Oh man, the list is endless! I’m always going on about Jan Dukes de Grey’s Sorcerers to people, though. Not even their “masterpiece,” but I just adore it so much. Derek Noy is a madman and a genius.

RCU: What’s your favorite album to drive to?

MR: Over time I’ve gradually gotten more into podcasts for driving, but historically I’d have to say it’s a tie between Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West, or The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

JP: There are so many—I get a lot of my best listening done while driving—but Ali Farka Touré’s Niafunké has circled the top of the list since I learned to drive in the first place.

RCU: If you could pull a Groundhog Day and relive one concert that you’ve previously attended over and over again, what would it be?

MR: My Bloody Valentine at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago during October of 2013. They played a 30 min version of “You Made Me Realize” where people were actually passing out from the volume. I don’t think I’ve ever experience such intense live sound ever before or since, and I’ve seen Sunn 0))), so thats saying something!

JP: That’s a tough one. I’ve seen so many great shows, but I never think of them as repeatable experiences. Honestly, the energy at that 75 Dollar Bill show at Tubby’s in March was so beautiful, I might go for that one! They are one of my very favorite bands, and Tubby’s is such a great venue. That night was truly magical.

RCU: Which artist, living or dead, do you wish you could have a conversation with at a bar over drinks?

MR: Jim O Rourke. I know he’s a musical genius, and he is mainly responsible for getting myself into the kind of music I make. I would probably only ask him questions about music production and mixing because his ear is probably my favorite part about him.

JP: Easy! Margaret Barry. Can’t imagine having a better time at a bar with anybody else.

RCU: What’s the music doc/concert film that you’ve probably seen the most?

MR: The Last Waltz. Insane live performances from a band who went out on top!

JP: You know, I’m so bad about watching things, I couldn’t tell you for sure. I do go back to the footage of Bert Jansch recording L.A. Turnaround a lot, and the footage of Karen Dalton singing in her living room in the mid-60s.

RCU: If we blasted a follow up to the Voyager 2 gold record into space, and you could choose just one song to put on it, what would it be?

MR: This is an impossible question for me to answer because I could never narrow it down to one song. I’ll just say “Blues Run The Game” by Jackson C Frank. Perfect song and so sad. I don’t know if aliens get sad, but they can learn a lot from that song. 

JP: Wow, truly an impossible question! I’ll just say “Alla L’Aa Ke” by Alhaji Bai Konte—something with a voice on it for sure, as I think that’s humanity’s finest instrument.

1. Birdhouse 6:32
2. Tea Lights 5:35
3. Drifts 4:53
4. Amaranth 20:17

Credits
Dulcimer [Hammered Dulcimer], Autoharp – Jen Powers
Layout, Artwork – Dylan Marcus McConnell, Tiny Little Hammers
Mastered By – Mikey Young
Twelve-String Guitar, Chimes, Recorded By, Mixed By – Matthew J Rolin

Los Angeles

If you have any interest at all in contemporary jazz, I highly recommend this spellbinding record from an artist who I believe will eventually become one of the all-time greats of his generation.

Patrick Shiroishi is a Japanese-American saxophonist based in Los Angeles. He’s extremely prolific, with Hidemi (2021) being his 4th solo album of the year so far, and 13th overall, with the others being collaborations with other jazz musicians, 3 in quartets and 6 as duos. And the year still has two months left. The album is dedicated to the grandfather he never met but was named after, Hidemi Patrick. He was one of the over 100,000 Japanese civilians who were imprisoned in concentration camps in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor in 1941. With Hidemi, Shiroishi develops his interest in the plights of the many Japanese victims of unwarranted incarceration, as he did in his harsh and blistering live album Descension (2020). In that record he embodied in music the spirit of those who suffered in those camps. Hidemi, on the other hand, is about liberation: a sonic interpretation of what it must have felt like for his grandfather to finally be free.

It’s incredible. I haven’t listened to enough contemporary jazz to be able to contextualize the sonic elements of this album, but it most reminds me of a cross between ECM-style jazz and classical minimalism, with flashes of free improvisation. Because of Shiroishi’s conceptual conceit, the music is expectedly blissful and as the record progresses it feels like the soundscape opens up and more and more light comes through. Some sequences climax in dissonant passages but they somehow feel not so much chaotic but celebratory, as if inner turmoil transformed into colorful cathartic release. Shiroishi’s approach also meaningfully balances these avant-garde elements in a way that somehow makes the overall listening experience quite accessible. And accessibility and the avant-garde often don’t collide cleanly.

This record truly blew me away. I didn’t know anything about Patrick Shiroishi before deciding to check this out, but after hearing this album (and Descension) I feel like he’s going to be one of the most important jazz musicians of this generation, hopefully reaching the relative commercial heights of someone like Shabaka Hutchings sooner than later. The way he single-handedly creates a woodwind orchestra for himself and arranges it together with such skill is just mind-blowing. All at a tight 26 minutes too. I can’t wait to explore his other records and everything else he’s going to be up to over the next few years. If I’ll be able to keep up at least. Has anyone ever even been this prolific? -jrcfreviews


'Hidemi is a timely and relevant release, an album accompanied by a special edition chapbook. While the name of the label is American Dreams, the subject of the album is dashed American dreams. Patrick Shiroishi‘s grandfather Hidemi was incarcerated along with other Japanese Americans during World War II. And since the beginning of the pandemic, violence against Asian-Americans has exposed buried bigotries, flamed by the very government sworn to protect all of its citizens. The pain is evident across the essays of the appropriately-titled Tangled, as Asian-American artists wrestle with their love of a country that has in many ways betrayed them. And yet, while one might expect the overall tone to be injured and accusatory, Shiroishi uses his platform to educate and encourage, while sharing an uplifting surge of saxophone energy that serves as a dual metaphor of heritage and perseverance.

So let’s start with the music. The album begins with three long blasts, like a foghorn, or a ferry to Ellis Island. But just as quickly, “Beachside Lonelyhearts” turns wistful and gorgeous, layer upon layer of breath-infused notes sounding a clarion call, the promise of a new beginning. The center of Shiroishi’s quintuple saxophone cake is joyful, its far edge reflective.

What must it have been like for people with such high hopes to find themselves behind barbed wire? “Tule Lake Like Yesterday” builds on the phrase, “I remember it as if it were yesterday,” the anguish rising to the surface generations later when Shiroishi asks his grandmother about the experience. The music is confrontational and dramatic, swirling like dueling thoughts.

“What Happens When People Open Their Hearts,” Shiroishi asks a couple tracks later, providing the first solid hint of hope. In essay after essay, poem after poem, a wide array of authors convey their own internal struggles while memorializing the external struggles of their recent ancestors. Kozue Matsumoto’s “This Moment in My Life” is a legitimate blast of anger directed at those who sympathize more with a white shooter than an Asian victim. But she is also a teacher, responsible for the molding of young minds. Given the choice of bitterness or resolve, she lands on the latter, despite the emotional toll.

Another respite arrives in “Without The Threat Of Punishment There Is No Joy In Flight,” a title which may spark debate, but a song that sounds like listening, a rare feat. Shiroishi writes in his essay that the time for gaman ~ “to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity” ~ is over, although for years it was considered a virtue. Through Tangled, he provides an platform for artists to unload their experiences: classmates pantomiming Asian stereotypes and repeating ugly names; parents sworn at by bigoted cashiers; loving a country while perpetually labelled as foreigners instead of, as Dustin Wong writes and hopes, humans.

I will play music and break stereotypes, writes Matsumoto. These artists ~ poets, essayists, and musicians ~ make declarative statements of pride, energy and determination. What better way to honor Hidemi’s post-incarceration life than to live, truly live? In the closing track, Shiroishi shouts into the whirlwind, “Is this the end of the storm?”  The finale’s title, “The Long Bright Dark,” leaves the ending wide open. But the entire project leads to this shining thought: these artists are not just looking forward, but walking forward, leading so that others may follow.' (Richard Allen)


Patrick Shiroishi's 'Hidemi' Is a Stunning Tribute to Victims of Racism and Oppression.

Experimental jazz saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi continues his ambitious homage to incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II with Hidemi.

'For experimental jazz saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi, his heritage as a Japanese American has given him plenty of artistic influence, a lot of it steeped in the horrors of war. “The concentration camps that Japanese Americans had to go through has been a major part of my work for the last couple of years,” he explains on his Bandcamp page. In 2020, he released Descension, which focused on experiences inside these camps, which housed more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry, forced from their homes on the U.S. Pacific Coast following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But while that album places the listener directly inside those horrific places, his new album, Hidemi, is influenced by his grandfather’s experiences upon his release.

Hidemi is named after Shiroishi’s grandfather, Hidemi Patrick Shiroishi, and features Shiroishi playing all instruments himself – alto, baritone, tenor, C melody, and soprano saxophones, as well as voice. Hope, perseverance, and grace are some of the musical themes of this potent, emotionally charged album. The opening track, “Beachside Lonelyhearts”, begins with three loud blasts of saxophones, as if announcing the music like a jarring alarm. What follows in the remainder of the song is a gorgeous interplay of Shiroishi’s overdubbed saxophones, lyrical and majestic, often each recorded – like the rest of the album – in one take. With tempi shifting from funereal to frenetic and back again, the song introduces the combination of tenderness and cacophony that follows throughout the record’s nine songs.

The title of “Tule Lake Like Yesterday” refers to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center where Shiroishi’s grandparents were incarcerated. The words “like yesterday” are a reminder that this horrific location served as a memory, a “life-changing event filled with uncertainty, chaos, and hope slipping away”, Shiroishi explains in the album’s press materials. The music chugs along with an almost maddeningly repetitious multi-tracked saxophone figure as a baritone horn weaves in and out of the rhythmic cadence. Shiroishi’s astonishing dexterity with the instruments carries the song from complex melodies to dizzying atonality as he tries to convey the frustration and fear his grandparents must have felt during this inconceivably frightening period in their lives.

This type of frantic/reflective back-and-forth so widely present in Hidemi occasionally shifts to more ballad-oriented post-bop jazz moments, such as in the luminous “What Happens When People Open Their Hearts”. Here, the saxophones play off each other in sustained, deliberate notes and stay that way even when Shiroishi tears himself away to release a manic, John Coltrane-esque solo. Likewise, “Without the Threat of Punishment There Is No Joy in Fight” sees Shiroishi exploring the pain of oppression with just a solo saxophone, which seems jarring, following so many tracks of overdubbed instruments. Still, the naked vulnerability of the recording speaks emotional volumes.

Some moments seem to originate from tangential, less direct wartime inspiration, as the multifaceted “To Kill a Wind-Up Bird” is likely named after a combination of classic fictional works by Harper Lee and Haruki Murakami. The song is even accompanied by a rather unsettling but weirdly comic animated music video by director Dylan Pecora. One of the most emotionally charged moments on Hidemi comes on the closing track, “The Long Bright Dark”. It combines clusters of rapid saxophone buzz as a soprano saxophone floats over everything as Shiroishi’s multi-tracked voice briefly enters as a sort of wailing chorus before the song comes to a screeching halt. One can imagine Shiroishi using this performance as pure catharsis, channeling his reaction to the oppression of his grandparents into something loud, tangible, and deeply moving.

In conjunction with Hidemi, Shiroishi is also releasing Tangled, an 82-page chapbook featuring writings, art, and poems by himself and other Asian Americans, including Amirtha Kidambi, Dustin Wong, Susie Ibarra, Mai Sugimoto, and many more. This serves as a unique companion piece and allows Shiroishi to let other voices speak on experiences unique to their heritage. Reflecting on the horrors of war and racism, Hidemi is a staggering, important work, not just as a meditation on wartime internment but also to remind us that these horrors continue to exist in various forms today.' -Chris Ingalls


'Los Angeles-based experimentalist, Patrick Shiroishi, has spent years writing compositions that protest racism against Asian Americans. His last record, Descension, is a collection of free jazz compositions that brood upon the inhumane interment camps of his Japanese-American ancestry in the 1940’s. On the saxophonist’s latest record, Hidemi, Shiroishi shifts his focus to the life of Hidemi Pat Shioirshi, his grandfather who spent four years in an internment camp. The album explores a broad range of emotions. While the music evokes sadness, it also overpowers tragedy with therapeutic inner peace.

Shiroishi’s latest album arrives through Chicago-based experimental label, American Dreams. DIY noise mainstay, Jordan Reyes (ONO, Threshing Spirit), started the label with the intention of exclusively distributing synth-based music, but over time began signing ambient and noise artists. American Dreams has since grown into a hub for the most sought-after experimental musicians. This year, the label has released acclaimed records from Claire Rousay, Devin Shaffer, Brett Nauke, and Blue Lick, amongst others. As their roster grows, the imprint’s collection becomes more eclectic and esteemed.

Hidemi incorporates several playing styles from jazz to experimental, and classical music. For the majority of his career, Shiroishi has refined the free jazz and minimalist counterbalance, so both of these subgenres sit at the center of his recordings. The album’s second song, “Tule Lake Like Yesterday” (above) is a seamless fusion of uplifting spiritual jazz and understated classical. The tone of Shiroishi’s saxophone echoes like a frenetic Dexter Gordon, but the composition leans toward a minimalist classical build. It unfolds as though a saxophone street performer assumed the challenge of covering a complex Steve Reich composition, and closes with a set of abrasive scattered notes that recall a free jazz blueprint. The song moves from graceful to intense in a matter of three minutes, and quickly establishes a deep sense of emotional turbulence that drives the isolating concept of the album.

The following track, “Jellyfish in the Sky” (below), is played with the same inspirational energy as staple spiritual jazz recordings, but its structure mirrors minimalist classical even more than the previous track. The repetitive cyclical nature of the first section of the song sounds like Philip Glass’ most influential pieces, such as “Vessels” (1983.) While the song ends with a layered harmony of saxophones, every section leading up to the closing medley is a nod to the likes of pioneering noise artists like La Monte Young. Hidemi embraces Shiroishi’s jazz roots far more following this track, after showcasing his versatility as a musician on the first few songs.

A high point on the album is the stunning “Stand Up And Let Us Go Witness This Ourselves.” It’s one of the shorter pieces on the record, but an incredible triumph for a solo act. The track plays like one of the noisier sections on a Mingus big band recording, as though it were influenced by the iconic composer’s The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) or Changes One (1974). Both of these Mingus records are humongous productions, defined by polarizing horns and intricate spurts of noise throughout each track. The significant difference between the Mingus big band era and Shiroishi’s comparative recordings is that Shiroishi elicits a similar range of overwhelming emotions solely through his saxophone, and even more impressively as a solo artist.

The album hits its blissful emotional peak as it progresses towards the end, with its brightest track being “The Long Bright Dark” (below). After several tragic-sounding portions on Hidemi, the ninth track is rapturous and upbeat. Shiroishi pulls from minimalist classical influences once again, but the composition’s climax appears at the two minute mark, when an unexpected and reserved vocal harmony joins the warm horn harmonies. As the choral vocals follow the horn melody, Patrick’s message of strength and hope is realized, he reiterates the strength of his culture, even after a dark period of oppression.

The nature of healing has been the defining characteristic of free jazz since it’s conception. From John Coltrane’s opus, A Love Supreme (1965), to Pharoah Sanders’, Karma (1969), the saxophone has been an integral tool in crafting the soundtrack to this spiritual awakening. Shiroishi falls somewhere in between Sun Ra’s avant-garde jazz and Steve Reich’s theory-based minimalism. Hidemi has its abrasive moments, but the balance of harsh noise and graceful harmonies reinforce the inspiring story that spawned this record and the saxophone’s historical context solidifies the healing power of his music. Shiroishi’s grandparents left the internment camps after four years, but they never completely escaped their memories of that time. The composer’s compassionate meditation on this buried period of American history is not only a reminder that it happened, but also a testament to the power of community, family, and resilience.' -Chuck Trash


On 'Hidemi,' Patrick Shiroishi Uses His Saxophone to Reckon With the History of His Namesake

'Patrick Shiroishi has made a career out of reckoning with histories, stretching them out and tangling them up into new forms. He is best known for playing saxophone in jazz-adjacent circles, but his stylistic roots run wider than genre nomenclature would imply: he has played in brutal-prog groups, was classically trained in guitar, and grew up near The Smell, a D.I.Y. venue in downtown Los Angeles famous for raucous and defiantly experimental bookings. (It should come as little surprise that John Zorn’s Naked City, a full-throttle jazz-metal freakout of a record, changed his life.) In his work, Shiroishi takes these myriad influences—both sonic and ideological—and filters them through the shattered lenses of individual, familial, and communal stories.

His oeuvre is accordingly varied. He has assembled a dizzying CV in an ever-growing number of ensembles: noisy electronic collagery, intimate musique concrète, glacial duets for saxophone and strings, sparsely populated field recordings, ECM-indebted chamber-jazz. He tends to rein things in a bit for his solo work, focusing on personal histories rather than aesthetic traditions. In 2017, he released Tulean Dispatch, a volatile and discordant reflection upon his grandfather’s time in the Lake Tule internment camp; four years later, he recorded i shouldn’t have to worry when my parents go outside, an elegant and pained series of tracks in response to 2021’s spike in violence against Asian-Americans.

This range makes Shiroishi tough to pin down, even though he’s a mainstay of Los Angeles’s experimental-music scene. But one throughline stands out. His music is concerned with conversation, no matter the form: a quartet sending files over Dropbox, a trio interrogating the language of free jazz, a duo composing around snatches of found sound, an individual opening his history book. With Hidemi, Shiroishi lays that core bare. On one level, it is twenty-five minutes of minimal and bracing jazz compositions; on another, it is a kaleidoscope of feeling, bridging hard-won joys and pain that cuts to the marrow.

This emotive variance is encapsulated in the book released alongside the LP. Inside the pages of Tangled: A Collection of Writings From Asian American Musicians, sixteen musicians share stories and poetry about their experiences as Asian-Americans, blurring the spaces between sorrow and celebration, pride and fear, displacement and community. In his entry, Shiroishi touches upon the concept of “gaman”: to “endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” As a child, if asked to do something he wasn’t keen on, “I was told to ‘gaman’ until I did what was needed.”

Examples of this surface throughout the texts. One author recalls learning a full-toothed smile to fit in with white classmates (“mom told me i should smile really big (to make up for the things i wasn’t born with)”). Grandparents order silverware, two pieces at a time, over the course of several paychecks. College students purchase pepper spray for their parents, just in case they might need it. From one angle, these are stories about resilience. But, just as critically, they are about families and tightly held histories: children, parents, and parents’ parents, stretching across oceans, languages, and traditions.

On Hidemi, Patrick Shiroishi uses his saxophone to reckon with the history of his namesake, Hidemi Pat Shiroishi, a third-generation Japanese-American who died before Patrick was born. Shiroishi’s grandfather seems to have entered his home through memories, stories, and reflections, but that sort of intangibility offers the saxophonist plenty to speak with. This time, his closest sonic companions are minimalists and experimental composers the world over: Wacław Zimpel, whose elliptical phrases grow until they become too massive to ignore; Steve Reich, who fractures rhythms into new forms via repetition; and frequent collaborator Matthew Sage, whose work blurs the line between the pastoral and the queasy.

The music on Hidemi, in other words, tracks with the rest of his discography while pushing it forward. It is insular but peppered with a wide range of tangible reference points, burrowing between genre traditions and finding new forms in the spaces between. At its most subtle, Shiroishi’s playing is downright spectral, and at its most wild-eyed an endless supply of pent-up frustration seems to come blaring out of his horn. This series of dualities is achieved, in part, thanks to clever multitracking: Shiroshi quintuples down on his instrument here, layering tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones into veritable sheets of sound.

“Beachside Lonelyhearts” makes this voluminous ethos clear from the start with its train-whistle cluster of woodwinds, each blast portending an incoming danger. But Shiroishi makes the canny—and equally predictive—decision to promptly undercut that force, shifting gears into plaintive melodies, a mournful tumble atop wide-open chords. The record is full of moves like this: barely controlled chaos ratcheted down at the last moment, piles of instruments and tempi giving way to plainspoken minimalism.

This approach affords Shiroishi plenty of space to maneuver. “What Happens When People Open Their Hearts” begins as a slow-motion duet, but one of the partners grows agitated, moving in increasingly frantic patterns until it turns to a flurry of notes. In the piece’s final moments, the lines reunite. The frenzied and calm find a blistering middle ground as a white-hot chord pierces the noise, stretching into infinity. The last-minute reunification acts as hard-earned catharsis: a cloud of dissonance gives way to a harsh and clarifying blast of sunlight.

“Jellyfish in the Sky” is a dance for three, all close harmonies locked in a descent that eventually turns to a series of stretched-out chords. “To Kill a Wind-Up Bird” takes the approach to an extreme, oscillating between sounds at a rapid clip: tightly coiled saxophones bleating in unison; melodies circling each other atop a stop-start bass line; cacophonous playing melting away into a hymnal bridge, only to resurface with a bit more gut-punch energy not long after.

This parabolic rhythm makes Hidemi’s barest moments all the more affecting. “Without the Threat of Punishment There Is No Joy in Light” is the record’s loneliest piece, a single saxophone moving between a frenzied high-end and a more somber alto register. The sheer amount of negative space between Shirhoishi’s notes turns the piece a bit mournful, coming off like a duet for one: a song made elegiac thanks to what’s missing.

That conversation with emptiness—fractured histories and missing voices—runs through much of Hidemi. “Punishment” makes this clearest thanks to its monastic sound, but it is likely no coincidence that the record’s first dip into scrambled soloing—“Tule Lake Like Yesterday”—is named after the camp in which Shiroishi’s grandfather was imprisoned. There, Shiroishi takes a Reichian approach to rhythm, laying countervailing rhythms atop each other to offer a shifting foundation for an increasingly unsettled topline. It is the sound of Shiroishi creating a structure only to push against it until it can no longer hold.

Writing in Tangled, Shiroishi puts his foot down. “We can no longer ‘gaman,’” he says. “We must be loud and speak up, so what our grandparents and ancestors went through will not be forgotten or taken for granted.” On Hidemi, he channels decades of hope and pain through his horn, finding rays of light peeking through a gnarled family tree. He blurs traditions and moods until they molt into entirely new forms: gloomy free-jazz minimalism, ebullient kitchen-sink blasts, haunted and disorienting tonal explorations.

The only words recited on Hidemi arrive on its final track. Shiroishi’s voice cuts through the elliptical playing of “The Long Bright Dark,” a million voices crying out in Japanese: “Is this the end of the storm?” The chorus of horns pauses for a moment, affording his question the space it deserves: the traumas and joys outlined in Tangled grow more visible with each passing day; will the former help unravel the latter? And then the sound barrels on. Saxophones spiral around each other at a manic pace, blasts of woodwinds turning to a hurricane of sound. It is tumultuous and uplifting, a mirror held up to the tangled histories that Shiroishi centers. Of course even its climaxes are laced with thorns, just as its loneliest moments contain communal beauty. Hidemi is the sound of Shiroishi refusing to hold his tongue any longer. In the resultant blur, he pours generations of sound out of his saxophone, stretching towards a deeply felt and more unrestrained future.' -Michael Mckinney

1. Beachside Lonelyhearts 3:58
2. Tule Lake Like Yesterday 3:24
3. Jellyfish in the Sky 2:28
4. What Happens When People Open Their Hearts 2:46
5. Stand Up and Let Us Go and Witness This Ourselves 1:46
6. To Kill a Wind-Up Bird 3:05
7. Without the Threat of Punishment There Is No Joy in Flight 2:59
8. The Dowager's Clipped Wings 2:36
9. The Long Bright Dark 2:45

Jamaica

A collection of great tunes and remixes from every era of the great Albert Griffiths' Gladiators. Amazing remastered sound. Classic roots tunes, With some of Clinton Fearon's last lead vocal recordings for the Gladiators.

Remastered from the original tapes and including the 1983 U.S. Tour-E.P. in it’s entirity!

'Omnivore’s reissue of the Nighthawk catalog begins with the 1992 album by the Gladiators which featured material from their 1980’s recording sessions. 

The Gladiators were founded by Albert Griffiths in 1968 after he experienced a positive reaction to early solo singles. Success came quickly for the new roots reggae band with “Hello Carol” which topped the charts in Jamaica. Working at Studio One in the early ’70s, the Gladiators produced a string of hits; “Roots Natty,” “Bongo Red,” and “Jah Jah Go Before Us.” Naturally the major labels came calling and the band was signed to Virgin Records where they cut albums for the rest of the decade. They started by revisiting their history on the classic, Trenchtown Mix Up, their Virgin debut, on which the Gladiators recorded new versions of their early hits. 

Roots reggae underwent a decline in popularity during the ’80s, but it was a busy decade for the Gladiators who were at the height of their powers. They recorded eleven albums during the decade, including three for the U.S. label, Nighthawk Records. Those albums, Symbol Of Reality (1982), Serious Thing (1984), and their collaboration with Leonard Dillon (the Ethiopian) Dread Prophecy (1986), will all be reissued by Omnivore. The reissue program begins with Full Time, which was originally issued in 1992, and comprised of material from the productive sessions the band did for Nighthawk in the previous decade. 

From the liner notes: “The Gladiators’ Nighthawk sessions were all recorded and mixed at Harry J Studio by the legendary engineer Sylvan Morris who first worked with the Gladiators in the early 1970s at Studio One where they developed a deep respect for each other and a unity of purpose in their mutual work. At Harry J Studio, the riddims were tight and Sylvan was feeling the vibes, so all the resulting albums are blessed with hot dub versions by the master.” Full Time is more from these great sessions. Now newly mastered from the original tapes by Grammy®-winner Michael Graves. The 14 track release features new liner notes from original co-producer Leroy Jodie Pierson. “Full Time“ means “making it” and is a vital piece of the Gladiators history and essential to any reggae fans’ collection.'

'The Mighty Diamonds and Culture may be more famous, but when it comes to reggae harmony groups, the Gladiators can give the best of them a run for their money. Figure in the fact that lead singer Albert Griffiths is also a fine songwriter and that all three singers play instruments as well (unusual for a harmony group in this genre), and all of a sudden you start wondering why the Gladiators haven't gotten all the press. Not that they've been ignored -- their two Groovemaster LPs (Trenchtown Mix Up and Proverbial Reggae, both later picked up by Virgin and reissued together on one CD in the early '90s) are generally regarded as classics. In the early '80s they recorded several albums for the American Nighthawk label, and Full Time is a collection of tracks left over from those album sessions, filled out with a generous handful of dub versions. These don't really sound like outtakes -- "Boy in Long Pants," "Run Them," and "Reggae Jamboree" all rank with the best of the group's previous work, and Griffiths is in fine voice. The production, by Griffiths, Leroy Pierson, and Nighthawk label head Bob Schoenfeld, is excellent.' -Review by Rick Anderson


1. Bongo Red 3:16
2. Red Version 3:29
3. Ship Without A Captain 3:30
4. Run Them 2:50
5. Fussing And Fighting 3:14
6. Fussing Version 2:55
7. You Little Rat (aka Prince Tony’s Head) 2:13
8. I'm Not Crying 3:16
9. Rocking Vibration 3:27
10. Vibration Version 3:21
11. Reggae Jamboree 3:39
12. Boy In Long Pants 3:09
13. Full Time 3:41
14. One Love 3:08

Sixteen Soul Slathered Sizzlers!!!

SIXTEEN SOUL SLATHERED SIZZLERS! This is as HOT as it gets. Essential soul compilation.

'Hey Amazons and Coyotes, pick up on this crazy notion and start doing the motion. Join the ranks and begin to crank... things will really click when you pull, wiggle and kick. Get up on the floor and shake it baby, shake it good and show the boss what you got!' - The Boss With The Red Hot Sauce

A1 The Chanteurs - The Grizzly Bear 2:06
A2 The Belgianetts - Do The Crank 2:21
A3 King Coleman - Show Me What You Got 2:38
A4 Joe Cooke - Dish Rag 2:14
A5 Little Hooks & The Kings - Jerk Train 2:20
A6 Dumas King - Loose Eel 2:12
A7 The Daylighters - Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie) 2:24
A8 Marvelle & The Blue Mats - The Dance Called The Motion 2:29
B1 Wiley Terry - Shake It Baby 2:45
B2 Jerome Kidd - Doin' The Ape 2:12
B3 Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers - I Gotta Go Now (Up On The Floor) 2:39
B4 The Five Dutones - The Gouster 2:20
B5 The Arabians - The Shack 1:51
B6 Little Dooley & The Fabulous Tears - She's So Fine 2:10
B7 The Exciting Sparklers - Pull, Wiggle And Kick 2:23
B8 King Leo & The Champions Featuring Little Reuben - Chicken Scratch 2:34

Philadelphia

Rare Philly soul release with killer ballads like "When I'm With You" by The Four Thoughts, "Where Are You" and "Tell Me So" by Herb Johnson And The Impacts, "Cold Cold Love" by Jeri And Joe plus a few others that make this an absolute must have for the soul music fan.

22 track CD containing a mixture of ballads and uptempo's realized by 60's and 70's PHILLY SOUL/R&B producer Wally Osbourne. Included here are 4 unreleased songs by falsetto led TOPICS from '68. Further ao HERB JOHNBSON, JERI & JOE, BOBBY HOLLAND, FOUR THOUGHTS, PASSIONETTES, ROCKY BROWN, etc. (philly archives)

'Producer Wally Osborne is not a household name, even to students of Philadelphia soul, but he did involve himself in numerous Philly soul records, as producer, songwriter, and musician. This anthology collects 22 of his productions from 1964-1973 (all but three from the 1960s); none of 'em hits even on a large local scale, let alone a national one. There wasn't a Wally Osborne sound, and the material here (some previously unreleased) -- by obscure artists like Herb Johnson, the Topics, the Four Thoughts, and Bobby Holland -- wasn't of such high quality that it demanded airplay. The CD has its value, though, as further evidence of just how incredibly prolific the Philly soul scene was, years before it peaked commercially in the early '70s, with entrepreneurs like Osborne hustling to get whatever they could together. And even if these have a somewhat generic quality, these are very professional, good-sounding records, displaying the tight arrangements, horn sections, creamy lead vocals, funky guitars (at least on the up-tempo numbers), and effective backup harmonies for which the region was renowned. Some of the better cuts include the previously unreleased "Cement, Plaster & Gold" by the Natural Soul Brothers LTD, which has a very 1970 expansion of the soul format in its jazzy flutes, swelling organ, and looser grooves, and the Passionettes' "My Life Depends on You," with haunting doo wop-indebted harmonies that were very retro (yet appealing) for 1969. The sound quality is usually excellent, although a few tracks seem to have been transferred from acetates and the like.' -Review by Richie Unterberger


1. Herb Johnson / The Impacts - I'm So Glad 2:39
2. Herb Johnson / The Impacts - Where Are You 2:50
3. Herb Johnson - Two Steps Ahead Of A Woman 2:21
4. Herb Johnson - Tell Me So 1:59
5. Herb Johnson - I Found True Love 2:48
6. Jeri & Joe - Without You Babe 2:40
7. Jeri & Joe - Cold Cold Love 2:50
8. Bobby Holland - You Can't Have Your Cake 2:29
9. Bobby Holland - I Wish I Knew 2:54
10. The Four Thoughts - Kisses And Roses 2:39
11. The Four Thoughts - When I'm With You 2:53
12. The Topics - A Nicer Girl 2:37
13. The Topics - Dear One 2:24
14. The Topics - Rags To Riches 2:46
15. The Topics - Tears Tell The Story 2:57
16. Stella & The Gazelles - I'm Not In Love With You Anymore 2:50
17. The Passionettes - My Life Depends On You 2:43
18. Rocky Brown / The Impacts - I Wish I Knew 2:52
19. The Natural Soul Brothers, Ltd. - Cement, Plaster & Gold 3:54
20. Chapter One - How Can Anyone 2:50
21. Topaz - It Wasn't A Lie 3:08
22. The Soulburst Orchestra - I'm Not In Love With You Anymore 2:40
23. Herb Johnson / The Impacts - (Unlisted Track) 2:38

Credits
Producer [Original Tracks] – Wally Osborne

Notes
Tracks 12 to 16, 19 and 22 are previously unreleased.

25 Nov 2021

Pow City!

Long out of print '60s soul party comp, excellent! 

Another digital disc full o' buttshakin', wailin' soul and funky 45s, quite probably by the hands of Tim Warren! The whole (party) spirit throughout this CD it's from the period of time when the soul music was morphing and transforming into something funkier. The beats are heavier, more African oriented but not at all "ethnic". A plain rawness that had only in mind to shake some ass and nothing else. I got this at first just for King Little Richard's "Soul Train" but maaaaaan, imagine my surprise when I've found out that it was just another killer shot of hot-shit rhythm shaker among others!!! Dig also Dottie Campbell's groovy reworking of the Sir Douglas Quintet "He's About A Mover" (with THAT crazy and naughty organ, man!) or Andre Williams and Andre Williams disguise as Jomo or The Ditalians opener "I Gotta Go" which is an absolute cracker. 22 ultra rare stompers and groovers for your parties. Don't worry, dance now, you can thank me later!


1. Ditalians - I Gotta Go 2:03
2. Little Richard - Soul Train 2:53
3. Eddy G. Giles - Go Go Train 1:55
4. Dottie Campbell - He's About A Mover 1:59
5. Roscoe Robinson - You Don't Move Me No More 2:35
6. King Coleman - Do The Boogaloo 1:58
7. Milton Howard - The Funky Shing-A-Ling 2:02
8. Gate Wesley & Band - Do The Batman 2:34
9. Lonnie Youngblood - Go Go Shoes 2:38
10. Chet Poison Ivy - Poo Poo Man 3:15
11. Freddy Scott - Pow City 2:36
12. Soul Brothers Six - What You Got 2:38
13. Johnny Jones & The King Casuals - It's Gonna Be Good 1:51
14. Jesse Anderson - Get Loose When You Get Loose 2:58
15. Warren Lee - Under Dog Back Street 2:49
16. Andre Williams - The Stroke 2:38
17. Roy Hightower & Gant Green - False Advertising 3:09
18. Jomo - Uhuru 2:41
19. Willie Parker - You Got Your Finger In My Eye 2:36
20. Tony Borders - Polly Wolly 2:20
21. Interpretations - Automatic Soul Part 2 3:15
22. Lonnie Youngblood - Go Go Place 1:49

Benin

Great LP from Benin by the second most important orchestra -behind the Poly-Rythmo- including the raw Afrobeat track "Assounon Dje Dokoli" and the sunny Afro-Latin "Bonne Année".

'Beninese band Black Santiago was formed in Cotonou 1964 by trumpeter and bandleader Ignace De Souza. Since the early 2000s, Black Santiago is led by guitarist Goby Valette. The band pioneered genres such as Afrobeat and Afrofunk and currently includes some of the oldest group of musicians from Africa still in activity. The musicians play a wide range of styles, such as Congolese rumba, Afro-Cuban music, highlife, Afro-funk and Afrobeat.'


Honoré Avolonto Et L'Orchestre Black Santiago – Honoré Avolonto Et L'Orchestre Black Santiago

Label: Disques Tropiques – SAT 143
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: Benin
Released: 1978
Style: Afrobeat, African, Soukous, Afro-Cuban

A1 Lonlon Simpé 6:25
A2 N'Fa Nouwé 6:14
A3 Dokofi Wè Gbêdé 6:35
B1 Assounon Djê Dokoli 12:14
B2 Bonne Annee 6:45

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Editions Satel
Printed By – Imprimerie Saint-Roch

Credits
Accompanied By – Orchestre Black Santiago
Music Director – Ignace De Souza
Photography By – Rouillé
Written-By, Music By – Honoré Avolonto

Notes
Imprimé en France
Made in Benin

New York

Valley Of Search might have been the first and last recording of its kind. The 1975 album was perhaps the final moment of reconciliation between the rapidly diverging sides of John Coltrane’s musical legacy—a unity of the modal, Eastern-influenced spiritual jazz with the intense free-form—that never again would occupy the same strain of music.

'In late 1974, India Navigation label owner Bob Cummins set up microphones in a New York City building’s storefront, documenting two short sets by the band with no alternate takes or additional cuts. These recordings became Alan Braufman’s debut album Valley of Search. Valley of Search has enjoyed a cult status and captures a unique and very alive historical slice of New York’s creative improvised underground.'

A 1974 recording from a largely forgotten downtown artist loft space captures some fierce players putting their talents toward a questing, incandescent strain of jazz.

'In 1974, after Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins slagged their fellow Berklee alum David S. Ware in newsprint, a few musician friends residing at a little-known artist loft space at 501 Canal Street goaded Giddins with mimeographed posters. If he really wanted to hear what was happening in downtown jazz, they taunted, he should visit the building’s first-floor performance space. Giddins took the bait and caught reedsman Alan Braufman’s band, writing a positive review that noted the group’s “kaleidoscopic densities.”

By the early 1970s, those incandescent strains of jazz, as exemplified by John Coltrane, were in sharp decline. While plugged-in fusion acts were topping the charts, forward-thinking players practicing “black creative music” were no longer drawing bar-friendly crowds to clubs. For players and fans who deemed such music “as serious as your life” (a phrase subsequently used as the title of Valerie Wilmer’s excellent book about that era) they began to gravitate toward downtown loft spaces like Ornette Coleman’s spot on Prince Street, Sam and Bea Rivers’ Studio Rivbea on Bond Street, and late Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali’s own Ali’s Alley. But there’s little documentation of what was cooking at 501 Canal Street save for the lone record credited to Braufman, 1975’s Valley of Search.

There’s nothing to suggest that Valley of Search, the second release on the revered India Navigation label, attained grail status among collectors or was heavily in demand, and Braufman never released an album as leader again; there are no canonical drum breaks fetishized by latter-day beat producers, though Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden did slot “Rainbow Warriors” in his Just Jam set in 2013. But with players like Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, and Makaya McCraven initiating a groundswell of interest beyond the confines of the jazz community, the moment is ripe for rediscoveries.

While the sleeve denotes nine selections, Valley of Search really moves as two sidelong suites. Across these large-scale pieces, the first takeaway might be that Braufman is often eclipsed by his excellent sidemen. That’s no knock against him: The album features one of the 1970s’ most formidable bassists in Cecil McBee, a nimble and foundation-deep heavyweight who could be both lyrical and primal as he held down the low end for Pharoah Sanders, Jackie Mclean, Andrew Hill, and Charles Lloyd. The extra percussion and whistles that add to the din come from Ralph Williams, a future collaborator of Wadada Leo Smith.

Making Valley of Search especially noteworthy for jazz historians is an early appearance from Gene Ashton, known today as Cooper-Moore, who continually adds curious new textures throughout the session. Soon after the recording, Ashton decamped to Virginia, but he reemerged in the late 1980s as one of the most electric and eclectic players on the downtown scene, playing with artists like William Parker and Susie Ibarra. Here, he shows flashes of his multifaceted genius and acts as a catalyst for the album’s unique energy. His dulcimer playing gives opener “Rainbow Warriors” its uncanny African folk edge; his chanting of the Bahá’í prayer “God sufficeth all things above all things” leads to a fiery outburst from the band; his dense, choppy piano chords power the climactic “Love Is for Real.”

Braufman’s alto and flute provide the emotional resonance on the album’s final two pieces. His careening, drunken playing on “Little Nabil’s March” is a fine foil to the lurching martial beat behind him. On “Destiny,” he and his band muster a lucidity that is perhaps not as dense as Valley of Search’s other chaotic peaks but quite evocative, drawing on the roiling emotions of something like John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” luminous and sorrowful at once. It verifies Giddins’ impressions in that early press clip and reveals Braufman’s sense of the kaleidoscopic.' -Andy Beta


'The avant-garde can be notoriously difficult to perceive – a constellation of brilliants lights, cloistered from view. It is a proximity of creative risk, integrity, and ambition – those very things which we presume to demand of the arts, bound to a forward momentum, forced to live in the shadows while others capitalize on its work. It is a space for which basic forms of infrastructure and support rarely come. A nomad. An orphan. A neglected giant whose present is all too often relegated to an unmentioned past. Even for the indoctrinated few – those willing to venture out on a limb and take the journey at hand – to rise to the inevitable challenges it presents, it can be an endless struggle to simply catch a glimpse of what limbs exist – to know what is as much as what was, and thus achieve might come to be. It is an endless ouroboros. It falls to the fans and artists, clamoring in the dark for breadcrumbs, to illuminate the path – to resurrect history and keep the contemporary afloat. The record at hand, Alan Braufman’s first solo release, Valley of Search, originally issued by India Navigation in 1975 and now reissued by Valley of Search – the imprint’s debut, offers a multi-generational window into this all too familiar tale – an album of astounding artistry which was lost, found, loved, and is now being given new life – a nomad, an orphan, a neglected giant – a crucial voice in the constellation of light, telling us what was, so we might know what is and may be. It is one of the great artifacts of 1970s avant-garde jazz, which few have ever heard.

Art, when it achieves greatness, offers a vision of what is possible – the who we are and what we might achieve. It is humanity looking toward the horizon, dreaming of evolution and change. As it was for Kant, it is through these objects that we catch a glimpse of freedoms which might be gained. If for this reason alone, the historic neglect of avant-garde music – a creative realm which delves toward territories where others have not been – the purest of quests for freedom, comes with dire consequences. Great art rarely grows in a vacuum. Each generation must build on the back of what has come before. The loss of and obscuring of history – of where our forebearers have been and what they have achieved, risks relegating the present to an endless repeat. Without access to its history, art is hobbled – unknowingly retracing its steps, incapable of performing its crucial function in our lives. Freedom isn’t a loop. Its power is bound to possibility – of becoming a better version itself. To move forward, one must always look back.

As a great many of us know, it has been a remarkable period in the history of music – one, largely in the hands of the vinyl revival and reissue culture, of resurrection and reappraisal – offering profound but neglected artists their rightful place and due. While there is an inevitable justice within these sweeping gestures, there is an urgent necessity. The long absence of the these objects has slowed us down. Without them, our past became unknown and with it the future obscure. And this, beyond the beauty and incredible creative achievement which it holds, is why the current reissue of Alan Braufman’s Valley of Search is such an important thing. It is an opening of a window, all too often closed, into a seminal part of avant-garde’s past. It captures a moment – the incredible things which overwhelmingly important artists achieved in the dark – a flowering seed from which so much grew, and so much of our future may still spring.

Alan Braufman belongs to a generation of artists which is incredibly close to my heart – that of “loft era” New York – a period beginning during the first half of the 1970s, running until the mid 80’s. Sparked as a great many free jazz artists began to return from Europe, having migrated there toward the end of the 60s, in the classic Dickensian sense, it was the best of times and the worst. Empowered by their creative achievements and freedoms they had been given during the time away, their art form was at towering heights – becoming something which had never been heard or imagined. Despite this, their efforts fell on deaf ears. Audiences, record labels, and venues in the United States had all but abandoned them – the white counterculture having embraced folk and rock, while the majority of African Americans did the same with funk and soul. These artists, with those they returned to, where in the process of creating some of the best music that ever was, but had nowhere to be heard. Rather than give up, they banded together – offering their homes as venues or starting makeshift clubs in storefronts, beginning their own record labels, and embarking on a process of endless collaboration and mutual support. Within the realm of music, this generation gave us the original DIY. Unfortunately, as inspiring as it was, and as much they endlessly played, for a great many artists, documentation was slim. Bound to these circumstances, we find the reason for which so few people know Alan Braufman’s name – a player of profound power, who didn’t get nearly enough opportunities to record and transcend pitfalls of time.

Serious fans of avant-garde jazz will have encountered Braufman singular voice on sax and flute on Richard Landry’s Solos, issued by Phillip Glass’ Chatham Square in 1973, Cecil McBee’s incredibly sought after effort for Strata East, Mutima, from 1974, Carla Bley’s Musique Mecanique, and a series William Hooker’s efforts, beginning with his second LP, issued in 1982. But, as great as all of those albums are, it is upon Valley Of Search, issued by India Navigation in 1975, his debut as a bandleader, where it all comes together and truly shines.

The India Navigation catalog is one of the great archives of 1970s and 80s avant-garde music. It was also one of a very small number of efforts during the loft era, documenting its output, which was not artist run – founded by a fan and tireless supporter, the lawyer Bob Cummins, who was known to help artist with legal advice. While its catalog is slim by most standards – around fifty titles, it is as iconic as they come – led by Cummins’ passion and ear, rather than by names and the hope for financial return. As such, it captures one of the purest visions of what occurred in NY during those years – a community taking form in sound.

The fact that Valley Of Search appears very early in India Navigation’s discography is telling. The label had begun with the Revolutionary Ensemble’s incredible Manhattan Cycles, but then went into a two year lull. Like so many releases within that scene, it may have been conceived of as a one off. Then in 1975, a second release miraculously appears – Valley Of Search, kicking off a flurry of activity which stretched over the coming decade. It had been recorded in a small storefront space in 1974 by Cummins, presenting two short sets with no alternate takes or cuts. It only takes a glance at the ensemble to know why he was there – Braufman on saxophone, Cooper-Moore on piano, dulcimer, and voice, Cecil McBee on bass, David Lee on drums, and Ralph Williams on percussion. It takes less than a listen to understand why those recordings kick-started India Navigation back to life. Valley Of Search is fucking astounding. It’s a monster – one of the great unheralded documents of free jazz in 1970s New York – a monument to the generation to which it belongs, it’s creative heights, ambitions, and overwhelming heart – a tapestry of wonders, weaving intoxicating polyrhythms with a brilliant interplay of structure and tone.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to account for taste. Valley Of Search hits nearly every one of my sweet spots – channeling the ethnic diaspora of the Untied States, radical political consciousness, while falling simultaneously embracing the fire of outright free improvisation and the deep soul and heart of spiritual jazz. It’s got a weight which pulls you under – immersive and transcendent. One of those records which changes you from within – that rare brilliance, achieved by a small ensemble with a huge chugging sound.

I could easily exhaust all the available adjectives within my arsenal of praise for this one. It’s as essential as they come. A lost piece in the puzzle. History emerging in the present and illuminating the path. The sublime in sound – the freedoms of past through which the future might unfold. Stunning on every count.

The beautifully produced LP comes with fantastic new liner notes drafted by the always brilliant Clifford Allen. Check it out below, and pick it up from Valley Of Search or a record shop near you. If you read this in time and are anywhere near New York City, Braufman is performing the album in full tonight in Brooklyn at National Sawdust with his including Cooper-Moore and James Brandon Lewis.  It’s as rare as events come and an absolute must if you can. You can get more info and tickets here. Get there if you can!' -Bradford Bailey


Valley of Search: The family affair behind Alan Braufman's forgotten loft jazz record

Written by Nabil Ayers | The Vinyl Factory

Recorded in the storefront of 501 Canal Street in downtown NYC in 1974, Valley Of Search was saxophonist Alan Braufman’s debut release, and represents a lost piece of the city’s explosive free jazz movement. Encouraged by his nephew Nabil Ayers to reissue the LP over forty years later, Valley Of Search is assuming new meaning at a time when Kamasi Washington and friends are finding broader avenues for improvised music.

Toward the end of 2017, I embarked on the process of reissuing my uncle, Alan Braufman’s free jazz album. Valley of Search had originally been released in 1975 by India Navigation but has long since been out of print. Pianist Cooper-Moore and bassist Cecil McBee both played on the album, adding to its rising price on Discogs. Alan has also remained musically active and expressed great interest in reintroducing this music.

I have a strong personal connection to this album and I spent a lot of my childhood in the downtown New York City loft where it was recorded. Alan bought me a drum set when I was two-and-a-half and I used to play with him while he played saxophone, crafting the framework for some of these songs. One of the songs, ‘Little Nabil’s March’ is named after me.

On 3rd August, Alan and Cooper-Moore, whose first ever recording was on this album, will perform Valley of Search live for the first time in over 40 years at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust.

Ahead of the show, Alan and I discussed what it feels like to release the same album in 1975 and 2018.

Nabil Ayers. Do you remember the first time you held a copy of Valley of Search?

Alan Braufman. I don’t remember the first time I held the album itself, but I remember the first time I heard it. Soon after we recorded it, [India Navigation label owner] Bob Cummins said he had a rough mix of it and to come over his house to listen. He lived in a loft around Chambers and Hudson St. in lower Manhattan on the west side. It sounded great but I was a little disappointed because the piano was a bit back in the mix. The remaster really sounds much better – the piano is less in the background.

N.A. There seems to be a resurgence in free jazz from this era. Albums are being reissued, younger people are discovering this music, and playing their own versions of it.

A.B. It’s great because people are taking the music forward. It used to be referred to as “the new music” and “the new thing”, but it’s not new anymore. People are being influenced and taking it somewhere else, and that’s really cool.

N.A. How different is it to release this album in 2018, compared to 1975?

A.B. It’s funny because when it first got released I was too young. It came too easy, and I hadn’t really worked for it. It just kind of fell into my lap when I met Bob from India Navigation at Cecil’s [McBee, the bassist] apartment. I don’t know if I appreciated it as much then as I do now.

N.A. What led to Valley of Search?

A.B. My mom, when I was eight, only played jazz in the house. It was cutting edge at the time – Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy. That’s what I grew up listening to. At such an early age, it really moved me. It took me to another place, and I was very surprised to learn that I was the only kid listening to that – I figured everyone did. I kept growing with it, and I knew at an early age that I wanted to play music.

My dad took me and my sister to see John Coltrane at the Village Theatre in New York in 1966. Later that same year I saw him there again. Ornette Coleman went on first, and then Coltrane played a two hour set. In the last tune, he played a five minute unaccompanied solo. It was like being in a room listening to him practice. That was about nine months before he died. I wish I had a time machine to go back and see that again.

I also saw a double bill of Dexter Gordon and Pharoah Sanders at the Village Vanguard. Music continued to evolve and Valley of Search caught me at a certain time. Music’s grown since then and it’s still growing, but Valley of Search is a good document of what was going on at the time.

N.A. I remember a period in the ’80s when you, as a saxophonist, felt like you were being replaced by synthesizer players. How do you see that in hindsight?

A.B. In the mid-’80s, although the whole synthesizer thing got out of hand, generally there was some really vibrant music based around it at the time. There were some really good bands writing really interesting music, and I always thought that taking jazz that way would be really cool – to create some intensity by inserting that into jazz. But instead, jazz went smooth and the whole synth movement stayed where it was. It never mixed much.

N.A. Most of the artists from this scene made several records, many in quick succession. You were very active musically throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but didn’t release another solo album until 1988. Why?

A.B. Around 1977, I decided to go a different direction and it took me a while to decide what to do. I was active in that time – touring with Carla Bley and the Psychedelic Furs, who really influenced me and convinced me that the saxophone could work well in pop music. So I was playing a lot, but I hadn’t crystallised what I wanted to do. I really liked playing melodies and I wanted to write some. I wanted to repackage the feeling of Valley of Search in a more listenable style – not to get more commercial, but because I liked it and it’s what I wanted to hear.

N.A. Are you working on new music?

A.B. I’ve been writing a tonne. If I had the opportunity to do a new album, I’d have enough music to make a 3-disc set like Kamasi Washington. I’d have trouble choosing what I would do. It’s just piling up. I live in Salt Lake City now, and I play three or four gigs a month, which is a lot.

N.A. What can we expect from the upcoming live Valley of Search performance in NYC?

A.B. I really have no idea how long the set will be. We’ve got the album – that’s about 45 minutes, ande’ll play some new stuff. Cooper-Moore will play piano and we’ve also got James Brandon Lewis playing saxophone. Some of the songs could get really stretched out. It’ll be good, that’s all I can say.
1. Rainbow Warriors 2:59
2. Chant 8:13
3. Thankfulness 5:13
4. Love Is For Real 6:48
5. Forshadow 0:21
6. Miracles 4:00
7. Ark Of Salvation 4:17
8. Little Nabil's March 5:59
9. Destiny 5:16

Credits
Alan Braufman - alto sax, horn, flute
Gene Ashton - piano, dulcimer, recitation
Cecil McBee - bass
David Lee - drums
Ralph Williams - percussion
Gene Ashton - piano

Originally released in 1975 on India Navigation
Recorded by Bob Cummins