King Britt

The Cosmic Lounge

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DJ/producer King Britt detours from house and R&B, pulls up truffles from his collection of '60s/'70s spiritual free jazz, and makes his parents, who would forgo a babysitter and pack up their wee son to catch Sun Ra, proud in the process. Beginning with Toudie Heath's woodwinds-and-words "Kawaida," involving a recitation of Nguzo Saba (the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa), The Cosmic Lounge's tone is set as a compilation that X Clan's Brother J might describe as "African, very African." The disc taps into an era when many jazz musicians, mostly black, were making vividly adventurous music that looked to African roots as a way to springboard into inventive rhythmic structures, consciousness-enhancing vocalizations, and mind-bending celestial otherness. Instruments both ancient and modern mixed it up, whether made of metal strips and wood or circuits and oscillators. Should your frame of reference for jazz extend little beyond basics like Blue Train and Kind of Blue, prepare for a bewildering 400-level course in one of the least appreciated (or least compiled, not reissued to death) chapters of jazz history. Several of the disc's inclusions come from out of print sources, but there is no sense that crate-digging one-upmanship is in effect. The stuff needs to find ears instead of being left only to those who are actively exploring; Britt is clearly using his stature and power for good. Relatively accessible material, for the most part, is packed into the disc's first half. Michal Urbaniak's "Ekim" chucks Miles Davis' "One and One" into a tar pit, skronking and writhing into an agitated slow-motion funk twister. The cooking, propellant "Yebo" bridges Mtume's earlier untethered explorations (he composed "Kawaida," for instance) to his late-'70s and early-'80s funk and pop-R&B albums. On "Scorpio Libra," Eddie Henderson's trumpet and Bennie Maupin's saxophone trade charged shots over rumbling Buster Williams bass and seething/jerking Billy Hart and Lenny White percussion. Things then get increasingly out-there, as far as Brother Ah's maximally spaced-out "Beyond Yourself," which sounds like it is being transmitting from an unknown planet. Bringing it back down to Earth, Doug and Jean Carn's deeply touching reading of John Coltrane's "Naima" closes out the disc in gorgeous, becalmed form. If you were to attempt to diagram the overlapping personnel from track to track, including some direct familial relations, you'd be drawing a lot of knotlike shapes. Kuumba, indeed.

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