Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Melvin Jackson - Funky Skull (Limelight, 1969; Dusty Groove 2007)

When the great independent music store Dusty Groove found out that one of their favorite albums had gone out of print, they didn't pout, they organized a label to reissue it themselves. Jackson had been playing bass in saxophonist Eddie Harris's jazz-funk band and for this occasion he put together a meeting of funk heavyweights and members of the AACM, like trumpeter Lester Bowie and saxophonist and flautist Roscoe Mitchell. What results is an interesting mix of time-locked funk and timeless jazz, all anchored by Jackson's massive bass which is run through a wall of effects and amplifiers to produce science fiction sounds that Sun Ra would be proud of. The music consists of funky jams and spacey interludes with some vocals bubbling up from the mix. "Funky Skull" and "Cold Duck Time" both use deeply distorted bass and backbeat heavy drums to keep the pace moving forward along with some riffing horns adding spice. "Bold and Black" struts a powerful groove and includes vocals singing lyrics of racial pride and civil rights. Moaning background vocals also turn up on the atmospheric "Dance of the Dervish" with a trumpet fanfare and trippy multi tracked bass giving the music an eerie feel. "Silver Cycles" ends the album on a spacey note as well with flute and distorted bass odd elastic feel to the proceedings. "Say What" is a fascinating highlight, with bass, mellow horns and organ giving way to a startling avant-garde tenor saxophone solo which positively jumps out of speakers. This is an interesting snapshot of a time and place where inside and outside music could exist in harmony. Fans of the funky "kozmigroove" side of jazz will find a kindred spirit in Melvin Jackson.

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