Gary Bartz Ntu Troop / Gary Bartz

Harlem Bush Music

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Harlem Bush Music combines two Gary Bartz Ntu Troop albums recorded in November of 1970 and January of 1971. The title itself shows that soprano/alto Bartz and singer Andy Bey were moving toward a more expansive format to explore black consciousness within the realm of jazz. The small-group arrangements spin out long grooves on "Rise" and "People Dance" while smooth vocalist Bey adds a steady lyrical mix that weaves in and out of the music. Bass and percussion add a heavy rhythmic effect to "Drinking Song" and "Vietcong," pushing both pieces steadily forward. The overall sound of Harlem Bush Music is evocative, if unusual, but occasionally becomes stagnant -- as with the ten-minute "People Dance" -- without melodic variation. There are lots of surprises, though. Bartz's narratives in "Parted" and "A Warrior's Song" combined with bursts of music will seem dated but nonetheless intriguing, while "Blue (A Folk Tale)" shifts intriguingly over its 18-minute length. How one finally looks at Harlem Bush Music -- is it music, politics, or something in between -- matters less than understanding the time and place that it was made. And whether one ultimately finds these efforts by the Gary Bartz Ntu Troop satisfying or tiring matters less than appreciating the adventurous spirit that went into making them.

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