Sunday, January 07, 2007

Various Artists - Righteousness (Blue Note UK, 2006)

In the late 1960's after Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion retired, Blue Note Records became part of the Liberty Music Group and began to probe some of the funk and soul elements that were popular at the time. This collection explores some of the music of that period where rhythm and blues, black power and expanding consciousness met jazz. In retrospect, this really wasn't a radical shift. Soul had always been a hallmark of Blue Note's core music of hard bop and organ groups, and the music presented here just heats that up a notch. Lonnie Smith's "Psychedelic Pi" and Donald Byrd's "Slow Drag" continue this dimension most directly, mining a deep groove and riding it over lengthy performances. The civil rights movement had a huge impact on music as it did on society as a whole, and it pervades this entire collection, most notably on Bobby Hutcherson's "Black Heroes" and trumpeter Eddie Gale's "Black Rhythm Happening." Vocalists play a larger role as well, like Andy Bey singing on Horace Silver's "Peace" and the bizarre "Acid, Pot or Pills." Andrew Hill even hooks up with a string quartet and vocal choir for his selections. This is a very interesting collection of music that was in it's own way experimental, not in the free way of John Coltrane or Cecil Taylor, but in expending the soul roots of Blue Note's history and unknowingly paving the way for DJ's to come.

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