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Strata: 4 New Releases

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You hear James Brown singing about it on the radio these past few weeks and guitarist Ron English couldn't agree more - it's "Payback" time for Detroit jazz musicians and the commtmity that's (more or less) supported them over the past ten years. Ron was explaining that Strata Records' new release is the "payback to the jazz faithful." Indeed, wlien you consider that each of the four discs comprising this release represents some substantial dues paid over the checkered course of the Detroit artist community's efforts to control all the aspects of the creation, production, and distribution of their art, you'H probably conclude that it was faith and (hen some that made these living artifacts a reality. As described elsewhere, Detroit musicians were scrambling in the mid-Sixties, when they could work at all. John Coitrane and the Miles Davis groups were profoundly altering the whole idiom. It was a transition period and, as Kenn Cox says in his liner notes, "perhaps no other ensemble in the Detroit arca manifested this spirit of transition more than the George BohanonRonnie Fields Quintet'. Ron English has called them the "cream ot' mid-Sixties black musie in Detroit". Bert Myrick, Live n ' WelL Strata SRI 102-74, is ie document that preserves the astonishing power and beauty of this group of dedicated musicians who had to créate ín a virtual vacuüm. The album was recorded live (Strata strongly endorses live recordings in an attempt to capture on wax the spontaneity peculiar to "in person" performances) at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor on April 4, 1965, with George Bohanon. trombone; Ronnie Fields, tenor sax; Kenn Cox. piano; Will Austin, bass; and Bert Myrick, drums. "Sevenths" leads off the album with a crisp boppish line, then Bohanon lashes into his solo. He plays with an extreme clarity of attack, unusual for trombonists, and with great imagination. Myrick and Austin egg him on, kicking up the tempo until he finalty drops out leaving Bert to tumble freewheeling into his thing, hands and feet dazzling you with dense textures or, alternately, slowing things down and floating out generous slices of space to you like that goat-footed balloon vendor of yore. And, as at the end of every solo and every tune, the enthusiastic audience of 400-500 roars its appreciation at the tune close. Cox opens "Scorpio's Child", his own composition, with rather Eastern-sounding pianistics that lead to a theme reminiscent of much of what the Coltrane unit was up toat the time. Indeed". 'Trane's influence was unavoidabie, and Kenny sounds a lot like McCoy both on his beautiful, searching solo and comping throughout the date. Ausiin takes his only extended solo of the date on this track and is fleet, mekxiic and nearly conversationai as Myrick contributes his pungent percussion comments. "Paramour" is loose and lovely and features Fields on his own composition. He has a big, lush tone and plays with strength if a little iess adventurously than the rest of the group. Cox shines once more with his pensive but swinging solo contribution. 'The Latin Bit" is a nod in the direction of the Bossa-Nova craze that was raging then and is distinguished by Myricks tangy cymbal work, Bohanon's drive, and the whole evercookin rhytiim section. Tragically, this was far from an elabórate recording session, only two mikes were used and consequently ihe sound quality teaves something to be desired. However, a great, happy feeling pervades the valuable music here and it's tiueenought the Detroit scène of the day wiil remain Live 'n ' Well through this release. Sphere's album, mide Otirselves, Strata SRI 103-74, is the result of the afore-mentioned "Synergy Series" fifth or sixth concert, recorded on June 28, 1970 at the Art Institute. Sphere was Larry Nozero, tenor and soprano saxophones; Eddie Nuccilli, trumpet and flugelhorn; Keith Vreeland, electric piano; John Dana, bass; and Jimrrty Peluso, drums. The ensemble work here is reminiscent of the Blakey aggregations and is infused throughout with a quiet fire. On the title ctit and others, Nozero moves us with a sound sornetimes like Wayne Shorter's, somethnes like John Klemmer's, always strong. "Lonely Giri" is melancholy and pretty. There's some gracefui, empathettc communication between Nozero and Vreeland and on this, his own, composition Vreeland 's piano is a cascade of individual notes like pearls througli liquid Prell. The rhythm section is very tïgjhtt and swinging throughout. At the time of this recording, Sphere had no place to work. People left the Art Instituteshaking their heads in pleased disbelief. Four years later, this music can still do it to you. ïry it and see. On Location, Strata SRI 1001-73, the Contemporary Jazz Quintet swells to a sextet at times and features the labors of a total of nine musicians over the course of the album, including Ron Brooks, basses; Kenn Cox, pianos; Charles Eubanks, electric piano, Ron English, guitax; Leon Henderson, saxophones; Charles Mooie, trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion; Bud Spangier and Danny Spencer, drums and percussion; and Phil Mendeison, balanced modulator. Each of the five cuts is from a different live performance recorded during a span of 2% years, from June 1970 to November 1972, and each, at least as concerns the ensemble playing, reflects, to a greater or lesser degree, the influence of Miles Davis' new? directions beginning wih his "In A Sílent "Bang!" begins kind of floatïng but comes more together and gets to really smokin'. It was recorded ín Ann Arbor at the Alke ColtraneLeón Thomas concert at Hill Auditorium in Mareh 1972, and. is evidence, as those there wil! attest, that the CJQ played the strongest set heard that evening. "Tao"' is watery, acoustic, shifting. It features pretty guitarpiano interplay, gongs, bells, percussion waslies and slaps. It builds slowly, gets very juicy, and ends with a reflective basstrumpet close. On "Nguzo Saba ( Struggle)" the group gets hot. Spencer is a particular joy and Cox, Henderson, and Mooie all solo masterfully. "Location", íinaíly, isn't easy listening. It demands serious atteniion but will repay the listener time and again with its depth and beauty. Maulawi, Strata SRI 104-74, is funky music from Chicago. lts what's happenin' today yet manages to break away from industry formulae governing the assernbly-line "hits" we're fed on the radio, and reaches us wherè we live. It features the soprano saxophone of Maulawi Nururdin and drum amaigamations that'H have you banging your head against the wall. "Street Rap" is the cut 1 like the most -- it's the whole damn street corner trashtaiking and a soundtrack like the JB's doin' it to death just under the surface. Funky, funny, and sexy, you'd love to hear this oozing out your car radio. "Root in 74 Plus" also has its merite, especialjy the wordless vocalizing with the hom Unes contributed by joyce Major and DianeCunningham. mm