Saturday, January 22, 2005

Gary Bartz - Harlem Bush Music (Milestone 1971, 2004)

As we start to pile up to an expected 20 inch snowfall, I have plenty of time to listen to music and watch videos that have been piling up. I downloaded this from Emusic a while back, and it's a re-issue of a very interesting album from alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, featuring vocalist Andy Bey. The album is a mix of R&B, social protest and burning Coltrane-influenced acoustic jazz.
Bartz had just recently completed a stint in Miles Davis' electric band, so he had learned a thing or two about taking chances with the music and that is reflected here. While socially conscious lyrics are the order of the day, there is still some burning saxophone especially on "The Warrior's Song" in which scalding group improvisations are broken up by snippits of spoken word.

Some of the finest songs that combine all of the adventurous aspects that the band was investigating were "Uruhu Sasa," an song of defiance for Bey's smooth but strong vocals and "Vietcong" an anthem of the times which still has relevance in today's political situation. This is a very interesting album; while not always completely successful, it was quite ahead of its time in some repects, prefacing the melding of rap and hip-hip with jazz in the late 80's. If you're a fan of jazzy R&B, this is well worth checking out.

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