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Bridge into the New Age

May 13, 2010 1 comment

Azar Lawrence – Bridge into the New Age (Prestige, 1974)

As you can tell by the cover, this is not your typical coffee shop jazz record. Azar Lawrence is best known for his work with McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis, but his records as a leader were just as powerful and innovative. Bridge into the New Age is the first of three records the sax player recorded for Prestige and I feel it’s his most dynamic and interesting to listen to as a whole. His other records get more recognition because of their inclination towards a jazz-dance feel, but this record shows a young player (he was 21 when this record was recorded) taking in the history of jazz and updating it into a time period focused on Afro-centrism, peace and love.

The first thing that I have to say about this record is that for the time period, it’s astounding to hear this much experimentation and musical abstraction without the use of ANY electric instruments, it is a completely organic acoustic jazz experience. Not to say this is a free jazz record, because it definitely is not – it’s a new-jazz record, a sound just as challenging and interesting at a time when people like Miles and Herbie began making jazz marketable by adding synthesizers and electric guitars. Instead of going electric, he looks towards his contemporaries Keith Jarrett (he was also in Miles’ band) and Carlos Garnett to achieve a sound which was rich and experimental but still acoustic.

There are a lot of great players on this record, firstly the amazing Jean Carn who is known for her immense breadth of work including records with Earth, Wind and Fire, Doug Carn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Norman Connors as well as her solo work on Philly International and Motown. Other stand-out musicians include Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, Ndugu and the legendary Mtume. An interesting note here is that Eddie Harris engineered these recording sessions which is pretty wild.

The sound on here is “new jazz” but the use of multiple percussionists keep the music earthy, and Azar’s solos are never too far-out, just wild enough to show you he’s playing from his heart. “Bridge,” “Warriors,” and “Forces” are all faster numbers that truly take you into a new age of jazz, while “Fatisha” and “Beautiful” are more contemplative spiritual jazz tracks. Overall a fantastic listen. For those interested, Azar is still playing and in fact released a new record last week with the late Rashied Ali on drums. I haven’t heard it yet, but  2009’s Prayer For My Ancestors was great and I’m sure the latest one wont disappoint.

Link is in the comments! Album photos by Eydie McConnell

Categories: 1974, jazz, US

Aprendar a Nadar

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Jards Macalé – Aprender a Nadar (Phillips, 1974)

Macalé is an interesting character in the Brazilian music scene of the late ’60s and ’70s. He was involved in the developing Tropicalia movement by writing music for such musicians as Gal Costa, but due to strict censorship by the military dictatorship at the time he was exiled before recording his first album. He returned to Brazil in ’72 and immediately became a big player of the art community in Rio, hanging out and collaborating with artists, poets and other musicians. Macalé was never really a part of the Tropicalia movement and as his music never was poppy or commercial enough, he always stayed under the radar of the fame.

Interdisciplinary cooperation was a major point of Macalé’s artistic philosophy and Aprendar a Nadar is his first major example of collaboration. The album is a concept album based on the “morbeza romantica,” which translates to the romantic morbid-beauty, a phrase developed by Macalé and poet Waly Salomão. The term meant to represent a sentiment of “ill health and beauty,” a state which represented the Rio artists of the ’70s as they struggled to be creative under the dictatorship. Unlike other artists, the Rio group refused to flee to Europe as ex-patriots, instead choosing to produce art that would get Salomão arrested and tortured and lead poet/journalist Torquato Neto to suicide.

The album itself is a piece of collaborative art in every sense, as the lyrics are put together by Macalé, Salomão, Neto as well as a few other poets and the music is a combination is a mixture of bossa nova, tropicalia, mambo, folk and jazz. The theme of “morbeza romantica” is fully present throughout the album as it is moody, sexy, dark, but just slightly off and uncomfortable. Macalé’s vocals are scotch-smooth, tinged with a bit of fire and irony, but trust me this cat can sing! Gotta love this record, it’s a bit haunting. If it doesn’t grab you on the first lesson, give it a second shot and listen to the way Macalé sings, the way the piano echos and how ironic the strings sound, maybe read some Baudelaire or Marquis de Sade or some Neto.

The following poem by Neto fully illustrates what Macalé and his group were attempting to achieve, it was used in 1982 as a song off Macalé’s album Os Últimos Dias de Paupéria:

Let’s Play That

when I was born
a crazy, very crazy angel
came to read my palm
it wasn’t a baroque angel
it was a crazy, crooked angel
with wings like a plane
and behold, this angel told me,
pressing my hand
with a clenched smile:
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
go on, pal, sing off key
in the happy people’s choir
let’s play that


1. Jards Anet A Vida
2.
Corações/No Meio do Mato/O Faquir da Dor/Rua Real Grandeza/Pam Pam Pam
3. Imagenes
4. Anjo Exterminado
5. Dona de Castelano
6. Mambo da Cantareira
7. E Dai…
8. Orora Analfabeta
9. Senhor Dos Sabados
10. Boneca Semiotica

For more information about Jards Macalé and his involvement in Rio counter-culture read this article by Marcelo Ballve that appeared in Waxpoetics over the summer. If anyone has links to Tropicalia poetry online, please let me know!

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Categories: 1974, brazil, tropicalia

Los Sueños de América

January 7, 2010 2 comments

Manduka/Los Jaivas – Los Sueños de América (Movieplay, 1974)

A great lazy day album by Brazilian folk singer Manduka and the Chilean psychedelic group Los Jaivas. There is not much information available in English about Manduka at all, but from what I gather he was a folk musician from Brazil who was born into a family of poets and writers. He lived the bohemian lifestyle as he traveled throughout Latin America playing with different groups and incorporating different influences into his music. According to one account he actually lived in a house with Pablo Neruda at one point – very interesting. On his travels in Argentina he joined up with Chilean psychedelic group Los Jaivas and their meeting resulted in this fantastic album.

Los Jaivas, originally from Chile, were ousted after the coup that overthrew Allende in ’73. A Pinochet dictatorship obviously could not handle the rocking political grooves of Los Jaivas so the group moved to Argentina then later relocated again to France. As the first recording since the groups exile, this album must be seen as a reaction to the unjust Pinochet regime. Simply enough in the title, “Los Sueños de América,” we find a sense of hope, and as the album has a drifting dream-like quality, we listen as Manduka and Los Jaivas explain the current state of a Latin America struggling for its identity and for hope in the future.

This record is beautiful, epic and very groovy. Manduka said that this album attempts to explain “the wisdom of the mountains, the intoxication of the sea and the hermetic jungle.” This geographic dialogue is heard through the extensive use of flute, chanting and percussion. A great record to sip coffee to as you start your day, or perfect for tucking you in at night. Favorite track on here is “Date Una Vuelta en el Aire,” absolutely beautiful.

1. Don Juan de la Suerte
2. La Centinela
3. Date Una Vuelta en el Aire
4. Tá Bom Tá Que Tá
5. Traguito de Ron
6. Los Sueños de América
7. Primero Encuentro Latino Americano de la Soledad

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Categories: 1974, brazil, chile, psych-folk