Friday, April 13, 2007

Let's get a Spiritual change !

It has been said that we have been in the age of Aquarius since the 70’s but the spirituality of which there has been much talk of so far has been from the music, especially from that period! This opening has served me as a spring board because this month I want to tell you about ‘Spiritual Jazz’ and ‘Cosmic Jazz’… One of the first to take spiritualism forward in jazz was definitely John Coltrane, this started with “A Love Supreme” in the 60’s. One of his saxophone players, Pharoah Sanders, dug deeper into the argument up until the 70’s and over, together with pianist Lonnie Smith and the poet Leon Thomas. Many others, amongst whom the wife of Coltrane Alice and another great pianist Lonnie Liston Smith with the Cosmic Echoes, took part in this movement of universal pacifist inspiration. Those mentioned are surely the most significant exponents of Cosmic Jazz, we must also underline that many of them were clearly inspired by religion from the Middle East and the Hindu philosophy (which can also be seen in the titles of some of the songs) and the principal themes still remained peace and spirituality. The most frequent theme, in fact, regarded peace of mind or subjects about general peace that also included the Gods. Very often they cited African populations as the centre of the world as well as all those populations who were sacrificed in those lands! “The Creator Has A Masterplan” by Leon Thomas and “Prince Of Peace Hum Allah Hum Allah” by Pharoah Sanders, Thomas and Lonnie Smith, are the clearest manifestations of this Jazz that was later retaken by some greats during the beginning of the nineties such as the Galliano Project who made it more danceable and famous! I will open a small section now by saying that the theme of that period ‘Peace, Love, Unity, Respect, etc..’ was the basis of the Acid Jazz philosophy and even I done some gigs to try and gain support and back up for Amnesty International… for me, however, it has still remained the same! The characteristic of this Cosmic Jazz is, in particular, that of the so called jazz musicians, the use of very open sounds with African percussion up front, poetic verses that involuntarily created the bases of rap, piano solos or hypnotic Rhodes and riffs of astral saxes. All this lasted up until the 80’s and the song “Upper Egypt” by Sanders demonstrates such! Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes came very close to cosmic funky-jazz by using a highly effected Fender Rhodes with Wah Wah and Echoes and funky grooves to create a sound that to say the least is very astral! “Expansions” is their better known song, that which has the bassline intro which was also taken by the Dream Warriors (a noted Hip Hop group from the 90’s) to put together their hit “Talkin’ All That Jazz”. Now though let’s go back to the end of the sixties, a period when Alice Coltrane made an album on Impulse that, for me, remains a masterpiece of Cosmic Jazz with Hindu flavours: “Journey In Sachananda”, a record that is a true and proper journey into the most astral India where Indian drums, accompanied by the typical Tabla percussion, make up the base for the hypnotic harp of Alice and sax of Sanders… a true interior trip that all of us should make! After this introduction to the theme, as is usual I will now go through my archives to suggest some pieces of vinyl that are necessary when going on such a trip! Starting with Pharoah Sanders I will point out “Village Of The Pharoahs”, “Elevation” and “Summun Bukmun Umyun” whilst for the discography of Lonnie Liston Smith head straight for “Vision Of A New World”, “Expansions” and “Cosmic Funk”. I will also tell you about a lovely album by Alice Coltrane that has been inspired by the sound of John (Coltrane): we are talking about “Ptah, The El Daoud”. The cosmic poetry of Leon Thomas finds its maximum expression in “Spirits Known And Unknown”, “New Vocal Frontiers”, “The Leon Thomas Album” and “Full Circle” on the Flying Dutchman label. To finish off I cannot leave out an album that for me remains a masterpiece of modern Jazz, a record that is and will remain always on a superior level, “In Pursuit Of The 13th Note” by Galliano that came out on Talkin Loud in 1991. Many artists, however, have tinted cosmically their records and amongst these I will mention names such as Bob James, Gabor Zsabor, Pat Martino, Roy Ayers, Cannonball Adderley, Last Poets, Jalal and many others. Time to close again, as always but even more than ever, we need peace all over the land!

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