Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 7 - D. Small's Jazz Odyssey

Look, when it comes to jazz, I know next to nothing, at least compared to the few strands of random trivia I've come to grasp about rock.

But after revisiting many of 1969's most highly regarded jazz works, one thing was clear about - 1969 jazz was as adventurous and exploratory as hell.

Included below is a three-hour mix of the year's jazz that struck me most, with a few short efforts from R&B artists who were in a jazzier frame of mind in 1969 thrown in to break up the crushing weight of the amazing 20-30 minute compositions from the likes of Miles Davis, Don Cherry, George Russell and Pharaoh Sanders.

And as the two sets' subtitles imply, Set 1 is the far more relaxed and soothing of the two.

Here's the Spotify link.

Set 1 (Carrie, The Functioning Agent)

1. Compared To What - Les McCann (8:43)
2. Shhh / Peaceful - Miles Davis (18:15)
3. There Was A Time - Dee Felice Trio (2:59)
4. Dindi - Wayne Shorter (9:36)
5. The Human Abstract - David Axelrod (5:35)
6. Eternal Rhythm, Pt. 1 - Don Cherry (17:49)
7. My Spiritual Indian - Eddie Palmieri (6:40)
8. Tryin' Times - Roberta Flack (5:08)

Set 2 (Carrie Off Her Meds)

9. Two For Two - John McLaughlin (3:43)
10. Mu - Sun Ra (4:28)
11. Blase - Archie Shepp (10:27)
12. Blind Willie - Sonny Sharrock (3:11)
13. Chromelodeon 1 - Harry Partch (2:29)
14. Frelon Brun - Miles Davis (5:37)
15. Bring It On Home To Me - Aretha Franklin (3:45)
16. Peace Piece - John McLaughlin (1:49)
17. Rock Out - Art Ensemble Of Chicago (8:36)
18. Electronic Sonata Events 8 - 14 - George Russell (26:34)
19. All The Way - James Brown (3:41)

20. Memphis Underground - Herbie Mann (7:09)
21. The Creator Has A Master Plan - Pharoah Sanders (32:47)

Meet the Jazz Odyssey Ensemble:

Les McCann: We're starting super easy on this mix, letting Les McCann and Eddie Harris's legendary Montreal Jazz Festival performance of Gene McDaniel's Compared To What (a song that had been recently popularized by Roberta Flack on her 1969 debut First Take) kick things off. 

Miles Davis: 1969 would see Miles Davis release two significant recordings, and usher in the beginning of his famed (and very controversial at the time) electric-fusion period. First 1969 release Filles De Kilimanjaro (Solid Recommend), a highly regarded transitional effort, was his last recording to feature his full iconic mid-60s quintet with saxophonist/principal composer Wayne Shorter, keyboardist Herbie Hancock, drummer Tony Williams, and bassist Ron Carter.  We're profiling shortest track, opener Frelon Brun, from this record.
But as solid as Filles was, second 1969 release In A Silent Way (Highest Recommend), was so much more. Davis's first full-blown foray into electric jazz, Davis retained most of the quintet, but also enlisted the help of keyboardists Chick Corea and Josef Zawinful (who wrote the title track), and British jazz guitar prodigy John McLaughlin.  Containing just two tracks, the fabulous title track and the even better Shhh / Peaceful included on this mix here, the album was met with significance resistance from traditional jazz circles, but in retrospect rates among Davis's most appealing and accessible listens, especially compared to the confrontational madness that would soon follow in albums such as Bitches Brew.

Dee Felice Trio: James Brown wasn't the only superstar on display on his 1969 big band standards cover album Gettin' Down To It (Solid Recommend.  So ably supported was he in the diversionary project, he included several of the Trio's instrumental tracks as well, of which the short, snappy There Was A Time included here is my personal favorite.

Wayne Shorter: More coming soon!

David Axelrod: Still fresh into solo career, studio/arranging wunderkind David Axelrod's 1969 sophomore release Songs Of Experience was the jazz/classical fusionist's second album in a row to to combine his baroque orchestrations with the influence of poet William Blake. The stunning The Human Abstract included here is the record's most enduring track. 

Don Cherry: More coming soon!

Eddie Palmieri: More coming soon!

Roberta Flack: More coming soon!

John McLaughlin: More coming soon!

Sun Ra: More coming soon!

Archie Shepp: More coming soon!

Sonny Sharrock: More coming soon!

Harry Partch: More coming soon!

Aretha Franklin: We've already heard one selection from Aretha Franklin's sole 1969 release, big band covers classic Soul '69 (Strong Recommend), on Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites. Now it's my turn to pick a favorite, with her swaggering, copa cabanna-styled Bring It On Home To Me, which to say the least, takes a very different approach to the material than Led Zeppelin's '69 cover of the same song, which closes our Vol 14 - Hinderburg's Rising.

Art Ensemble Of Chicago: More coming soon!

George Russell: Miles Davis's In A Silent Way and Pharoah Sanders Karma are without question my two favorite jazz releases of 1969, but right behind those two, and in some ways even more thrilling, is legendary jazz composer/arranger George Russell's Electronic Sonata: For Souls Loved By Nature (Strong Recommend). Performed and recorded live in Norway in 1969, the album presents a single composition in fourteen movements, but oh, do those movements vary, all the way from traditional African chants to blazing, Hendrix-influenced guitar excursions.  The wildest ride featured on this mix, we're highlighting side two of the original recording, which includes movements 8 -14.  This one is a blast.

James Brown: We've already touched on The Dee Felice Trio's contributions to James Brown's standards cover album Gettin' Down To It, now we hear from the Godfather himself.  Tough picking a fav here, with Sunny, That's Life, Chicago, and Time After Time all being standouts, but ultimately went with Brown's potent take on All The Way

Herbie Mann: While not always beloved by critics, flutist Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground (Solid Recommend) is one of the best selling albums in jazz history, a crazy accessible merger of jazz and soul. Most of its five songs are covers of classic soul staples (Chain Of Fools, an incendiary Hold On, I'm Comin'), but to represent, we're going with the record's one original composition, the utterly delightful title track

Pharoah Sanders: We close our 1969 Jazz Odyssey with one of my three favorite compositions on the entire mix, former Coltrane disciple and tenor saxophonist extraordinaire Pharoah Sander's 30 minute magnum opus The Creator Has A Master Plan from his gorgeous 1969 release Karma (Strong Recommend). Starting with a breathtaking, afro-pop infused melody before gradually evolving into overwhelming, unhinged cacophony, it just felt like it was the only track with which to logically end this mix.

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