Galt MacDermot

Up from the Basement

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While known mostly for his work on the '60s Broadway sensation Hair, accomplished jazz pianist/composer Galt MacDermot was far more prolific than a one-hit wonder. Proof positive is this collection of some of the progressive musician's funkier leanings, culled literally from the maestro's extensive cache of basement recordings. None of the album's 24 cuts (circa late '60s/early '70s) was originally meant for commercial consumption, but the final six tracks were lifted wholly from reel-less acetates (hence the lack of post-production polish). MacDermot's ivory tickling is aided by a host of relatively unheralded sessionaires (including funky drummers Idris Muhammad and Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, guitarists Charlie Brown and Billy Butler, and bassist Jimmy Lewis). Various soulful corners are explored throughout, from straight-ahead funky jazz ("Ripped Open By Metal Explosions," "Prison Life") to Age of Aquarius aesthetics ("Never Die, Desire Not," "Lost Dreams") to more frenetic flourishes ("Ghetto Suite Melody," "Flurry"). Tempos and vibes are shifted with regularity, giving the collection a herky-jerky feel, but the overall strength of the music generally overrides the haphazard sequencing. The album reaches its pinnacle with an alternate take of "Let the Sunshine In," one of Hair's more memorable overtures. MacDermot's revival was likely influenced by the new-school vinyl generation's interest in his music's sample-friendly elements.

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