Sunday, May 09, 2021

Gary Bartz NTU Troop - Live In Bremen 1975 (Moosicus Records, 2021)

NTU Troop was one of alto saxophonist Gary Bartz prime groups of the early and mid 1970's, which he founded after playing in Miles Davis's early electric bands. The music here is melding soul and fusion with a strong jazz foundation, and Bartz also sings quite a bit throughout this concert, where he is accompanied by Curtis Robertson on bass and vocals, Charles Mims on piano and Howard King on drums. They have developed a unique sound at this point that sounds bigger than a quartet at times. There is a wide vein of Afrocentrism running through the music, beginning with the thirty minute long medley "Nation Time / Ju Ju Man" which allows the group to really stretch out on a groove and really allow it to wax and wane, allowing Bartz to sing or play lengthy gales of saxophone. The heart of "Rise / Celestial Blues / The Sounding Song / Incident / Uhura Sasa" is a harrowing description of racial discrimination that Bartz endured, anchoring a medley that shifts through themes in rapid succession. The group mines a deep gospel jazz groove on "I've Known Rivers" with appropriately declamatory vocals and some fine soloing from the leader. Bartz has a bright and nimble alto saxophone sound which weaves around the group in an inclusive fashion, with everyone locked in on a well established groove. He solos with the keyboards and the band framing him, performing in a affable manner, spooling out a lengthy feature that works very well as the band keeps a strong beat moving around him. "Sweet Tooth" is another nearly half hour long performance that nods to blues and rhythm and blues territory, and includes an explosive drum solo from Howard King. The final medley "Peace And Love / Sifa Zote" and encore "For The Love Of You" bring the music back down from the realm of ecstatic or spiritual jazz gradually moving into mid tempo and ballad performances for the conclusion. This is a generous two hour concert that was recorded Radio Bremen and this issue has excellent sound. Bartz and the band are locked in from the beginning leading to a fine release that never drags. Live in Bremen 1975 -

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