Various Artists

Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA: 1957-82

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This double-disc set is the companion soundtrack to Soul Jazz's book of the same name. It documents 14 wide-ranging tracks by well-known foundational artists and those who followed the New Thing path to other realms during a fertile period during and after the Civil Rights Era. Soul Jazz has always done an admirable job both in curation and presentation. Here, the feel is less consciously outside and more global and spacious. Among the many highlights is the inclusion of Yusef Lateef's "Chang, Chang, Chang" from 1957's fantastic Before Dawn. It's a beautiful and poetic place to begin Dr. Lateef's journey from the very beginning; Dr. Lateef sought to combine the music of the East with modern sounds. Don Cherry's "Utopia and Visions," from 1973, is another excellent pick because of its complete integration of post-'60s modal and improvisational jazz with global traditions. Likewise, Grachan Moncur III's collaboration with the Jazz Composer's Orchestra seamlessly melds Latin and South African jazz to Nigerian highlife. "In the Moog" by Harold McKinney & the Creative Profile off Detroit's Tribe Records in 1974 is deeply funky, an all too brief insight into how Detroit was not only crossing musical boundaries and integrating various traditions, but was also completely unique in doing so. And speaking of funk, the inclusion of Richard Davis' "Dealin'," from his 1974 Muse album of the same name, is stellar. Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee's "Blasé" melds everything from modal blues to moaning gospel. Lloyd McNeill and Marshall Hawkins' "The Banjo Lesson" is an exercise in chamber meets folk meets spiritual jazz. It's haunting, spare, and beautiful. The swinging pan-African post-bop of the Creative Arts Ensemble -- with Kaeef Ruzadun on piano, Gary Bias on saxophone, George Bohannon on trombone, and Henry Franklin on bass, is on full display in "Flashback of Time" from 1981. The big surprise here is the inclusion of Tyrone Washington's fantastic "Universal Spiritual Revolt," which is a joyous groove revolution with the saxophonist playing several instruments accompanied by Rene McLean, Idris Muhammad, and Hubert Eaves III, among others. Even Doug Hammond's texturally and harmonically brilliant "Spaces and Things," which is the most outside thing here, follows along rhythmic lines -- albeit labyrinthine ones. While this set is more for the newcomer than the seasoned collector, it is a hell of a mix and can be thoroughly enjoyed with or without the book.

blue highlight denotes track pick