From the spiritual to jazz fusion – 08/05/23

Here at Cosmic Jazz we have an annual outing for Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance and we have more three tunes featuring Whitaker. There’s also a rare Michael Garrick 7 inch, Latin Jazz from Anita O’Day and Tania Maria plus a tribute to Jah Shaka.

1. Garrick’s Fairground with Norma Winstone – Epiphany from 7 inch single

Derek has a copy of this incredibly rare 7 inch single with the sleeve signed by Michael Garrick. It was recorded in 1971 in the same session that produced the Mr. Smith’s Apocalypse album. It featured some of the major British artists of the time – Michael Garrick on piano, Norma Winstone on vocals, Don Rendell and Art Themen on saxes and reeds, Dave Green on double bass and Henry Lowther on trumpet and flugelhorn. The spiritual-sounding title followed from Michael Garrick’s Jazz Praises at St. Paul’s recorded in the Cathedral in 1968 – and of which Derek also has a signed copy after seeing Michael Garrick perform on the organ at Norwich Cathedral in 1972.  In using these religious themes Garrick said The intention is not simply to gee-up religious music, or, belatedly, to make jazz respectable: it is: on the contrary, to draw straightforwardly on the natural resources of all participants so that there may be some emotional and musical gain. Garrick is one of the great figures of modern British jazz – check out his wonderful album Black Marigolds (1966) and the jazz waltz Ursula, featuring Don Rendell on soprano sax.

2.  Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind & Spirit

The spiritual feel continues with what has become an annual tradition on Cosmic Jazz to play pianist Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance. It is a tune with a deeply religious sense of Black empowerment and Afrocentric spirituality, recorded in New York City on 15 January 1976 – Martin Luther King Day. There is jazz, there is soul, there is poetry, there is rap before rap was known widely. The record is essentially a jam featuring some top-level musicians – Woody Shaw on trumpet, Azar Lawrence on tenor and soprano sax, David Schnitter on tenor sax, Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums and Mtume and Earl Barrett on percussion  with further contributors providing singing and speaking voices. For many years it was a lost masterpiece until it was found and released by LuvN’ Haight for Ubiquity Recordings in California in 2002. An essential tune for us here on the show.

3.  Roy Ayers – He’s A Superstar from He’s Coming

The next three selections all contain a contribution from Harry Whitaker. The record output may have been limited under his own leadership, but Whitaker did work with several other artists including as musical director on Roberta Flack’s I Feel Like Making Love. He also spent four years with Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity and made an important contribution to the tune He’s A Superstar, a soul-jazz-fusion classic. The album He’s Coming – from which the tune is taken – was recorded in 1972 at no less than the Van Gelder Studio with the man himself as recording engineer. Whitaker plays electric piano, organ and also contributed vocals but it’s the superb co-arrangement with Roy Ayers that is so memorable. Other well-known names are involved in the project too, including Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums and percussion and Sonny Fortune on soprano saxophone and flute.

4.  Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes from Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse

Here is another example of Harry Whitaker as musical director/arranger as well as playing piano for Kansas City-born vocalist  Eugene McDaniels on his 1970 release Headless |Heroes of the Apocalypse. To quote McDaniels: Harry Whitaker did the arrangements and God loves him, I just really appreciate him so much because his sound is a sound that I really relate to. Its got that Miles-ian kind of quality. There were other quality musicians present at the session as well – Gary King on electric bass, Miroslav Vitous on acoustic bass, Alphonse Mouzon on drums and Richie Resnikoff on guitar. Lyrically, the album was a savage indictment of American society and touched a raw nerve in some. Indeed, President Richard Nixon’s deputy Spiro Agnew rang up Atlantic Records to complain! McDaniels was the writer of Compared to What – a hit for Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their album Swiss Movement recorded live at the Montreux Festival in 1969. The lyrics included the lines The president, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason. When released as a single, the song sold over a million copies and reached No. 35 on Billboard’sR&B chart. Here’s the grainy b/w footage from that very Montreux show.

5.  Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Old Devil Moon

The final selection to which Harry Whitaker made a contribution is a tune that Derek makes no apologies for having played more than once already on Cosmic Jazz. It is You’re Not In Love from the 1997 album Old Devil Moon by vocalist/composer Carmen Lundy. Quite simply, this is a gorgeous, luscious tune whose sound radiates deep warmth. Emotion comes out of every note and – despite the vitriol in the lyrics – there’s passion, determination and feeling in Lundy voice. You’re Not In Love is certainly up there with Black Renaissance as an essential Cosmic Jazz tune. On the back of the CD sleeve Harry Whitaker is credited with keyboards, while inside for the individual track listing he is credited with synthesiser. Does it matter? Also present are Billy Childs on piano, Victor Bailey on electric bass, Omar Hakim on drums, Mayra Casales on percussion and the great Randy Brecker on flugelhorn. Here at Cosmic Jazz think Carmen Lundy is one the most underrated jazz singers today: also an accomplished songwriter and exhibited artist, she usually surrounds herself with celebrated musicians too – Geri Allen, Robert Glasper, Phil Upchurch and others.  It’s worth checking out her recent releases on her own Afrasia label beginning with the excellent 2CD set Jazz and the New Songbook: Live from the Madrid (2005) – listen to In Love Again from the accompanying DVD.

6.  Anita O’Day – Peanut Vendor from Anita Sings the WinnersCafé Latino

Have you ever got a record out to play that you have not heard for some time and then discovered on it a tune that has gone unnoticed by you in the past? and to your delight you love it. This happened recently to Derek when he was searching through the Café Latino compilation and found Anita O’Day’s version – from her 1958 album Anita Sings the Winners – of Peanut Vendor or El manisero to give its original Spanish title. The original was written in 1930  by the Cuban Moises Simons, sold over a million copies in sheet music and has been recorded over 160 times – probably the most recorded tune ever. The first best-selling recording and the first Cuban million seller was made in New York in 1930 by Don Azpiazu and His Havana Casino Orchestra with Antonio Machin as the vocalist who you can see here. It was later  translated into English and that’s what you here on the show – sung with great relish and verve by Anita O’Day. She was a singer with an eventful – to put it mildly – life story. She performed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and appears in the remarkable 1960 film and recording of the event Jazz On A Summer’s Day.

7.  Tania Maria – Come With Me from Come With Me

Tania Maria’s1983 jazz-fusion recording Come With Me from her 1983 album of the same name for Concord Jazz is one of those understated classics. A tune you know, but a tune it may take you some time to realise just how good it is, or at least that has been Derek’s experience. Tania Maria is a Brazilian-born singer, composer, keyboard player and composer with a degree in law. She moved to France in 1974 where she gained international recognition before moving to New York where – from the early 1980s – she made an impact on the club and radio scene. Come With Me became a staple of  soul clubs and jazz dancers worldwide – thanks as much to John Pēna’s hypnotic bass line as Maria’s vocals. She has since made numerous albums and appeared at some of the most important jazz festivals around the world including Monterey, Montreux and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

8.  Jah Shaka Meets Fire House Crew – Dub For Everyone from Authentic Dubwise

We have a tradition at Cosmic Jazz of ending the show with a tune that somewhat stretches the boundaries of jazz, but which we feel is a tune that any jazz lover will enjoy and respect. This time it is from the late dub pioneer and sound system man Jah Shaka – also known as the Zulu Warrior – who died on 12 April 2023. He was born in Jamaica but came to South London in the 1950s. Derek has witnessed him at work and has memories of a slight man, totally immersed in what he is playing  and bouncing gently to the music in dimly-lit, even totally dark, settings. That music was something else. It was spiritual and intense with a bass that was very, very  heavy played on a system – certainly back in the early 1980s – which still used valves. Hearing Shaka was an experience. There was something special, something unique and something religious that set him apart from other sound systems.  The title of the tune Dub For Everyone summed up his approach: his music was a symbol of peace and at his dances everyone was invited. This Cosmic Jazz show began and ended with a spiritual feel, but for this last number to get the full effect, just turn up the  bass, let your speakers and anything around vibrate and become totally immersed in the sounds.

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