A weekly dig through the crates for the stuff you really need to hear.
Free for all
Timed perfectly to coincide with Black History Month, Universal has just issued the stellar Free America series of 15 individual discs of vintage "new thing" jazz by the likes of the Art Ensemble of Chicago , Archie Shepp , Anthony Braxton , Roswell Rudd , Alan Shorter , Mal Waldron and others, most of which have been out of print for 30 years.
The great irony of Free America, of course, is that all the sessions were cut in France by adventurous Yank musicians fleeing the creative restrictions imposed by narrow-minded label owners, club bookers and critics in their home country. It's only fitting that it was Universal France that recognized the lasting value of this exciting music and reissued 15 titles in brilliant 24-bit remastered versions, and, thankfully, Universal is distributing the numbered limited-edition discs in Canada at a reasonable price.
Those looking for a way into the series should check out the Art Ensemble 's celebratory blues homage, Certain Blacks, the Clifford Thornton Quartet 's fist-raising The Panther And The Lash and under-appreciated tenor saxophonist Frank Wright 's surprisingly lyrical Uhuru Na Umoja, featuring hard bop stalwart Art Taylor on drums. Don't sleep, they'll vanish quick.
Soulful reggae crooner Horace Andy - now best known for his cameo appearances with Massive Attack - was already an established roots star by the time he hooked up with Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes 's New York operation during the late 70s, but those Wackies recordings are among his career best. So Jammyland 's 10-inch dub-plate-style reissue of Andy's lesser known classic Be Good (righteously recycling Dennis Brown's Look Of Love rhythm) is a welcome sight, particularly because it comes backed with Stranger Cole 's Red, Gold And Green (from 76's Forward In The Land Of Sunshine) and a dope melodica-enhanced instrumental version to boot. www.jammyland.com.
Many advanced-class break spotters will be familiar with DJ Shadow 's sample use of the track Reservation (on UNKLE 's Psyence Fiction album) as recorded by jazz bassist Leroy Vinnegar , but few will know that Reservation is actually the least interesting track on the experimental album The Kid (PBR), recorded by the walking bass boss in 74 and just reissued by Q-Tape Records.
As the story goes, Vinnegar, the respected sideman of Stan Getz, Chet Baker and Les McCann among others, had his buddies bring loads of food, beverages and various electronic gizmos - guitarist Barry Zweig brought his banjo - into Santa Monica's Spectrum Studios. They locked the door and got busy for a freaky-deaky jam session, with a Moog werping wildly away in the background. But as out as the session got, Vinnegar never loses hold of the groove, which makes The Kid well worth investigating for more daring club selectors. www.q-tape. com.