Lonnie Liston Smith

Exotic Mysteries

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If any bridged the gap between the soul and funk of Earth, Wind & Fire and the post-bop of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, it was Lonnie Liston Smith. Like those post-boppers--and like Earth, Wind & Fire's founder/leader Maurice White--Smith had a deeply spiritual, eastern-influenced outlook. He never lost his love of classic 1960s post-bop, and it continued to influence his writing and playing even when he was recording an album as commercial as Exotic Mysteries. This LP had a minor soul/funk hit in "Space Princess" (a Marcus Miller tune that features Donald Smith on vocals and isn't unlike something EWF would have done), but most of the album consists of fusion/crossover instrumentals that fuse elements of post-bop's more mellow side (think of Charles Lloyd's work or Coltrane's "Central Park West") with a big dose of soul, funk and pop. To be sure, pieces like "Mystical Dreamer (A Tribute to Miles Davis)" and the enchanting "Quiet Moments" aren't straight-ahead jazz; rather, they meet soul and pop fans half way and do so with some integrity. Exotic Mysteries isn't among Smith's essential albums, although its plusses outweigh its minuses.

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