Sticking with things that could be loosely labelled Jazz (The Blow Monkeys described their music as “Glam Jazz” when they first started out), here are a few more releases, mainly reissues to be honest, that caught my ear.
One of the highlights from Phil Mison`s recent Hostal La Torre set was Ze Roberto`s Lotus 72D. Dating from 1973 it`s a piece of Jorge Ben-like Brazilian Pop that was snapped up by a hungry 90s London Jazz Dance scene and turned into a classic. After hearing Phil play it I coughed up for a copy of the “controversial” (OK`d by Roberto but not by Sony?) Japanese reissue, but Mr. Bongo are taking orders for their repro 45.
More Brazilian Jazz Dance classics can be found on Soul Jazz` latest compilation. The brilliant Brazil USA 70. No one could call this selection Pop. Since the album collects the work of Jazz musicians forced to leave a Brazil under military junta dictate and seek creative asylum in The States. Most of the sixteen tracks are well-known (they are classics), but that doesn’t mean they`re easy to find. Try forking out for a copy of Airto`s Samba De Flora. So while the comp is a perfect primer for all, it also provides aficionados with a chance to own pristine, legit vinyl pressings of tunes, such as Escravos De Jo.
Nearly half of the selections feature Airto, and / or his wife, Flora Purim. Airto followed Flora to America, and hooked up with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. Which lead to electric sessions with Miles Davis, and Miles alumni, such as Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. Evolving into work with more “mainstream” artists such as Joni Mitchell, Annette Peacock, and Paul Simon. In the process I guess helping to open doors for his fellow countrymen. Luiz Bonfa, Eumir Deodato, Joao Donato, Sergio Mendes, Milton Nascimento, Dom Um Romao, Moacir Santos, Sivuca, and Tamba 4. Recording for labels such as A&M, A&M spinout CTI, Blue Note, Blue Thumb, Dot, Milestone, Muse, Pablo, and Vanguard. Racing bass-lines. Big band arrangements. Cowbell crazy Batucada. Berimbau variations. Squeaking cuica. Astounding piano vamps. Airto making a tambourine sound like a full drum kit. Making a full drum kit sound like a carnival marching band. All of them shaping a Fusion, infused with Latin passion, that would find favour, add flavour to, London`s 80s and 90s dance floors.
For me its also the Brazilian cuts that make up the standouts on the third volume of Mr. Bongo`s Record Club series. My feeling is they’ve dug even deeper this time out. Most of the pieces contained are super rare, and have never been comp`d or reissued before. Out of twenty, eight are from Brazil. Dating between Cesar Roldão Vieira`s 1965 Bossa Nova, Zé Do Trem, and Os Flippers` 1983 cover of Marcos Valle`s Estrelar. J. B. De Carvalho E Seu Terreiro`s Fui À Umbanda is a quirky, downtempo percussion workout. Impacto Cinco`s upbeat, and sunny, Longe Daqui Aqui Mesmo has a hook reminiscent of Franco Godi`s Viva La Felicidad.
But it`s not all Brazil. There`s a piano Blues from Canada. Boogie from L.A. South African Bubblegum. Infectious Ghanan Highlife. Highly strung orchestral Funk. German Garage Rock. Guitar heavy, falsetto Soul. Spiraling reeds, and organ keys, adorn Lebanese Psyche. There`s a flute and choral oddity from Tokyo. Part Yamasaki. Part KPM.
Mr. Bongo have also reissued Minoru Muraoka`s Bamboo. The master Shakuhachi player`s 1970 LP, which gets props from the likes of DJ Shadow. The album consists largely of covers of standards, by artists such as The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Dave Brubeck, and Simon & Garfunkel. All of which are nice slices of Osamu Kitajima-like Exotica. However the centerpiece is the original, The Positive And The Negative. Ten minutes of downtempo Jazz-Funk that sounds like a template for Shadow`s releases on Mo`Wax. A meditation of traditional instruments – Koto, Shakuhachi, and Shamisen – set to a collage of Dave Axelrod-like breaks.
I first discovered this track on a Shibuya Dance Classics 45, compiled by Kaoru Inoue (where it`s paired with Singers Three`s version of Edu Lobo`s Upa Neguinho). Bamboo got a bespoke / expensive repress by France`s Superfly back in 2014, while The Positive And The Negative featured on Jazzman’s Spiritual Jazz Volume 8. But Bongo`s will now make the whole LP more widely available.
Not really a Jazz record per se, but it has definite moments, is Athens Of The North’s Primitive Substance. A collection of recordings made between 1987 and 2004 by Dennis Young. The man responsible for supplying legendary Post-Punk Funkers, Liquid Liquid, with their distinctive marimba tones. The nine cherry-picks on the record are deliberately varied. Taking in Fourth World ambience (Montezuma). Talking Heads-esque, Highlife-influenced, angular New Wave (Forgiveness). The Balearic Beat of Safari Western. The sleazy, Cosmic Pop of You Turn Me On. The title track, though, sounds like Miles, if he`d recorded for ECM. Or Don Cherry’s seminal Brown Rice (which coincidently just got a repress).