black saint

Since its inception in 1975, jazz label Black Saint/Soul Note, like the similarly run Delmark in Chicago or FMP in Berlin, remains independent. Based out of Italy, the label has been the point of passion for owner Flavio Bonandrini since 1977, when he bought the label from fellow jazz fanatic Giacomo Pelliciotti. While the Soul Note side of the operation focuses on “less avant garde” (Bonandrini’s term) jazz, the Black Saint imprint has released highly regarded cutting edge sessions by Billy Harper, Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Cecil Taylor, and Henry Threadgill, to name a few. With over 600 albums in the catalog, it’s virtually impossible to keep all of their discs available while surviving on a labor of love budget. The following is a partial list of CDs that have recently gone out of print. Fortunately for those who may have missed them, Bonandrini has devised a way to make sure these sessions get to the die-hard listeners through his website.

Joseph Jarman & Don Moye - Black Paladins
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During the '70s, Art Ensemble of Chicago members Joseph Jarman and Famoudou Don Moye often performed outside the band as a duo, sometimes bringing in other musicians. Here, they made the inspired choice of the late, great South African bassist Johnny Dyani (founding member of the Blue Notes and long-time collaborator with musicians such as Abdullah Ibrahim and John Tchicai) resulting in a buoyant, joyful release. Dyani's opening "Mama Marimba," propelled by both his bass and voice, is an exceptionally infectious number and contrasts wonderfully with Jarman's ensuing "In Memory of My Seasons," a misty dirge featuring the composer's haunting flute work. Moye is ablaze throughout, notably backing Jarman's lovely sopranino on "Ginger Song," and Dyani's deep, throbbing bass is a joy. On the closing piece, "Ode to Wilbur Ware," the bass groove is as thick as honey, providing the framework for elaborate, coloristic percussion and plaintive bamboo flute, bringing the album to a rich, satisfying conclusion. Black Paladins was the Jarman/Moye duo's most successful effort, and one of the most rewarding projects either was involved with outside of the Art Ensemble. A delicious recording. ~ Brian Olewnick

Oliver Lake - Prophet
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Following the release of his advanced live trio recording Zaki, alto saxophonist Oliver Lake recorded a relatively straight-ahead date, The Prophet, a tribute to Eric Dolphy. Released on the Black Saint label in 1980, The Prophet combines Lake's (and Dolphy's) ability to blur the line between post-bop and avant-garde jazz on three Dolphy compositions ("Hat and Beard," "Something Sweet, Something Tender," and "Prophet") with three Lake originals. This is not the only tribute to Dolphy that Lake would record; 16 years later he issued Tribute to Dolphy, also on Black Saint, with a different band. ~ Al Campbell

Muhal Richard Abrams - Rejoicing with the Light
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Muhal Richard Abrams blended vintage and progressive sensibilities on this outstanding 1984 session. It was a large band outing, and Abrams assembled many of the finest active improvisers. His orchestra did not include just saxophones and trumpets, but also French horns, bass clarinets, cello, guitar, vibes, and timpani. This assured Abrams a varied, rich sound with multiple options. He led the orchestra through pieces that were sometimes introspective and other times jubilant and swinging, but never simple or predictable. This session was a challenging, instructive, and entertaining lesson in modern big band writing, arranging and performing. ~ Ron Wynn

Amina Claudine Myers - Circle of Time
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In terms of depth, spirit, originality, and diversity, this is the recording that best brings those vibrant elements of Aminda Claudine Myers' musicianship to ultimate fruition. With bassist Don Pate and drummer Thurman Barker, Myers freely explores jazz, blues, and gospel-tinged creative music in her own inimitable way. All of these six pieces were written by Myers, each showcasing a different side of her joyous persona, making her music deep, listenable, tuneful, and emotional. This recording and Sings Bessie Smith are must-buy items for fans of this brilliant musician, and iconic signposts for where African-American expressionism can be directed. ~ Michael G. Nastos

Charles Gayle - Consecration
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On Consecration, a studio album, the Charles Gayle Quartet show that they can play just as wild and unrestrained as they do on the More Live album. But the tension of Gayle's great live albums (Repent, More Live) is missing from Consecration. Despite an audience-free environment, Gayle manages to produce some of his best "songs." "Rise Up" starts with fury and immediacy. "Redemption" shows the stamina Gayle has, blowing the horn when it seems that another sound from him cannot be possible. The combination of bassist Vattel Cherry and bassist/cellist William Parker give the songs added power. Once again, these performances are not easy to listen to, given their time-free chaos, but the emotional impact of the playing achieved here, like Gayle's other work, is unrivaled. ~ Brian Flota