02 March 2016: conscious messages; conscious jazz

I seem to have set a pattern  in recent weeks on CJ of mini themes within each programme. This week it took an informative and well-researched  BBC4 progrgil scott-heronamme on the Black Panthers to inspire a theme for the first part of the show.

The programme credits at the end  of the BBC 4 documentary had asgil scott-heron the first minute of a new day their backing track Winter in America by Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. It’s a tune that – confusingly – is not on the Winter in America album but instead on The First Minute of a New Day, released in 1975. Perhaps there has never been a better time to remind ourselves that a political winter in America is now very close. Scott-Heron sings:

And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain.                                                                                            Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain.                                                                                                  And I see the robins perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor.
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams,
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow.
And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America.

At his best, Gil Scott-Heron was a magnetic performer, especially with his Midnight Band. Watch him in the complete Robert Mugge film Black Wax from 1982. Thankfully, the film captures Scott-Heron at his best. As a reviewer commented – It is doubtful whether any musician has been better served by a film documentary. Brilliant. When Scott-Heron sings, he seems to be glowing with passion and sincerity.

This conscious opening to CJ deserved more of the same, so what better than Max Roach from his radical We Insist! Freedom Now Suite max roach we insistissued in 1960. The explicit civil rights theme runs right through this concept album: Roach was among the first artists to use jazz as a way of addressing these issues during the 1960s and, although the album was poorly received on its release, it is now regarded as a crucial album in the jazz discography. To end the sequence, I played in full the Archie Shepp/Jeanne Lee tune Blase that time constraints had forced me to truncate a few weeks ago.

Still on the conscious jazz theme we featured visionary Sun Ra sun ra sun songand the very first incarnation of his Arkestra. With the forthcoming appearance of the Sun Ra Arkestra led by the 90 year old Marshall Allen at The Open in Norwich as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival on 13 May 2016. Find details at this link:  http://www.nnfestival.org.uk/festival/contemporary_music/sun-ra-arkestra.

It was a great reason to play Sun Song, originally recorded in 1959 and released on the Delmark album of the same name. The track doesn’t feature Marshall Allen but longtime Ra stalwarts Pat Patrick, Richard Davis, Julian Priester and John Gilmore are all there in the mix.

There is a link to the full Norfolk & Norwich Festival programme among the links alongside the notes on this page.

From then on it was a mix-up from the classic Blue Note era of sheila simmenes darling its overWayne Shorter to the contemporary sounds of The Love Extra Orchestra from Norway with vocalist Sheila Simmenes, and on to the mix of Cuban roots  and jazz from Dayme Arocena and the jazz dance of James Williams. Finally, it was back to Poland to the improbably named Obama International recorded live, featuring pianist Dominik Wania with a contribution from British trumpet player Tom Arthurs.

  1. Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson – Winter in America from The First Minute of a New Day
  2. Max Roach – Freedom Day from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  3. Archie Shepp/Jeanne Lee – Blase from Black Fire! New Spirits
  4. Sun Ra – Sun Song from Sun Song
  5. Wayne Shorter – Dance Cadaverous from Speak No Evil
  6. Love Extra Orchestra – Darling, It’s Over from single
  7. Dayme Arocena – Don’t Unplug My Body from Nueva Era
  8. James Williams – Flying Colors from Kev Beadle’s Private Collection
  9. Obama International – Sleepwalker from Live in Minsk Mazowiecki

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

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