VA “Spritual Jazz 3: Europe” | Jazzman Records
“Sublime choral jazz in an ecclesiastical setting, revolutionary sounds deep within the USSR, radical modal experiments inspired by excursions to Asia and Latin America, advances in rhythm and sound where modern jazz combines with Balkan and Scandinavian folk traditions. This is Spiritual Jazz – European style.” -Jazzman Records
The illustrious Jazzman Records is at it again with their series of archival recordings excavated from the threshold of the most powerful and uplifting spiritual jazz from the European continent. The first two volumes have all sold out in first runs and are some of the most breathtaking windows into how much influence Europe’s top jazz composers had soaked in during the transitional era of the late 50′s into the early 70′s. John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Miles Davis and many others were changing the concepts and possibilities of jazz in the 50′s, configuring modal shapes that still resonate as deeply as the day they were recorded. Europe had some of the best schools and networks of musicians and was a landing spot for many of the premier American artists. The legacy of this series stretches even further into the musical hemisphere with the inclusion of principle composition and rhythmic identities of the Latin Americas. Add some of the most technically proficient musicians to ever walk this earth and a sense of musical freedom that broke down any walls that existed in the past and you have a formula for one of the best kept secrets in jazz history. The secrets are bring bought back full circle with the help of Jazzman Records and this years release of Volume 3 in the Spiritual Jazz series that examines Europe’s composers of the late 50′s into the early 70′s. This set of music is as mind blowing and important as any reissue or compilation album ever released. I don’t make this statement lightly either. It’s the realization and essence of culture that bridges humanity, not just concepts into music theory.
The beginning of Spiritual Jazz 3: Europe starts with an untitled piece from composer Jel Gilson. Steeped heavily in a chamber of vocal harmonies, drums and keys, this is a really spiritual vehicle of sound that speaks the essence of European culture. It’s a stripped down song that relies on very little to create a uniquely powerful song. Almost religious in nature, it represents the spiritual power that religion became a derivative of. Not even 2 minutes in length, the beginning piece segues perfectly into the deep sonic pathways of Herman Gehlen and his song “Kyrie”. The songs swings rhythmically, leaving a sense of motion that never stops. Trumpet and sax hover in and out of the matrix of rhythm tandem while a chorus of male and female vocalist uplifts the music into a very spiritual state. It is a true bridging of the music that America was innovating in jazz and the strong powerful vocal language that Europe was known for. The stand up bass is a marvelous treat to hear in this song as it carries the underside in a way electric bass can never touch.
Michel Roques turns out a Pharaoh Sanders influenced piece with the song “Le Temps”, constructing a deep pathway into African percussion and soaring sax work. Bass centers around the same pulsing note and leaves an endless amount of space for the percussion to subdivide itself into layer after layer. Sax is extremely uplifting and has the presence of a lion. It’s unreal to think this was created in Europe and is a testament to how open the continent was to the musical landscapes of the world. The work of Duke Ellington is channeled into the piece “Variations On The Azerbajian Mugam ‘Chargiakh” from The Crescendo Quintet. The song is raw, it swings, it moves on every level and every musician plays with a technical approach that is of the highest degree. You can tell these were some dedicated musicians to capture something of this nature.
Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet present Sakura Waltz on this collection and it leans heavily on the European influence. The sax work is incredible as you hear him go through every note imaginable. The bass is positioned heavily to the right side of the mix with soloist positioned into the left side. Drums bridge both sides, creating a very interesting mixing style that is reminiscent of records pre-60′s. Jan Allan Quintet stirs up the spiritual legacy of John Coltrane with the piece “Odins Oga”. The sax and trumpet is mesmerizing, chasing one another non stop as the stand up bass and natural sounding piano anchors the music into a deep modal field of post bop and the first wave of spiritual jazz. The drums are very alive on this piece with accents and fills that stretch the area of sound into a loose yet organized world. The trumpet and sax solo sections are beyond words and highlight some of the best playing I have heard on both instruments in the European jazz network.
The musings of Dusko Goykovich and his composition “Macedonian Fertility Dance” dive into the older states of jazz and Latin fusion. The solo sections come in very short and fast phrases and it’s one of the most dated songs of the compilation. “Udoyeleg” from That’s Why is a phenomenal resting piece, highlighting a minimal presentation of drums and bass with a very deep vocal and piano exchange. The pianist has time to really open up in this track and it contains some of the most personal piano parts of the compilation. Yoki Freund Sextet turns out the most sublime groove of the compilation with “Aisha”. Featuring a stunning display of flute from beginning to end, piano introduces the piece into another minimal configuration of bass and drums and the song moves right into flight shortly there after. It’s a really calming song and speaks an entirely different language than anything else on the album.
The Binder Quintet take this compilation to a very interesting destination with the intro of accordion. Once the rest of the music becomes pronounced, a very spiritual essence takes over the music. Bass drones form a short sequences of notes and as the accordion fades out the music travels to the continent of Africa. The percussion is very minimal yet remains a dominant presence and sax is the beacon of light that takes the song home. The ending shows the sax open up in abstract form, exploring the make up of the instrument in a completely exhilarating and unorthodox manner. Trombone and sax interlock at the end and the percussion and piano become more pronounced, more realized. It’s a beautiful take on sounds from two very different regions.
There are those times in life when a song hits you so hard that you can’t help but put it on repeat for days upon end. This came true for me on Spiritual Jazz 3: Europe with the song “Samba Miaou” from the Full Moon Ensemble. I have easily listened to this song over 30 times and it has become something I absolutely love every time I hear it. Placed deep into a cosmic and powerful energy, the music constantly moves my hips from the flavor the percussion possesses and the sultry and resonating vocals in the first half of the piece. Keys gently place the melodic direction of the song into a very grooved out state with a beautiful addition of bird sounds that comes into the mix every so often. Guitar is softly spoken and adds a jazz filled dimension of presence. The intro is dominated by a beautiful flute that sets the mood into the cosmic aura mentioned before. The vocals are lovely and represent everything I love about the possibilities of what vocals can achieve and add to the entire whole. Completely unaware of what this vocalist is saying, I find myself lost in the phrasing and style of her vocals, hanging onto every word and syllable. The second half of the song sends the music into the outer reaches of the universe. The keyboard changes key and the inclusion of a multitude of saxaphones take flight. The rhythmic identity is still intact, plugging away at a spiritual mode of Latin jazz that is some of the loveliest sounds I have ever heard. The keys remain a dominant center of energy under the cosmic sax work of the Full Moon Ensemble and as the energy winds down, the ethereal essence of the music shines with an effects laced guitar that phases the music out.
With a 16 page color booklet of very detailed liner notes on each track, gem after gem of the finest underground music ever assembled under one roof and a 180 gram vinyl pressing that will impress any audiophile, this easily goes down in my book as the best compilation reissue of the year. Don’t hesitate on grabbing a copy of Spiritual Jazz 3: Europe if you love jazz music.
Order the LP or CD versions here: http://www.jazzmanrecords.co.uk/