Friday, 6 November 2020

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad ‎– Jazz Is Dead 001 (2020)

Genre: Jazz, Latin, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Jazz Is Dead

1.   Hey Lover
2.   Distant Mode
3.   Nancy Wilson
4.   Conexão
5.   Deep Down
6.   Apocalíptico
7.   Não Saia Da Praça
8.   Jazz Is Dead

Bass – Alex Malheiros
Drums – Ivan Conti
Keyboards – Kiko Continentino
Keyboards – João Donato
Producer, Written By – Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad both have impressive resumes as purveyors of modern soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Younge, a bassist, keyboardist, composer, and producer, has scored films such Black Dynamite and collaborated with artists ranging from Philly soul legends the Delfonics to Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah. Meanwhile, Muhammad was a member of A Tribe Called Quest and has worked on various projects outside that group. Together, Younge and Muhammad formed the Midnight Hour, a versatile band that brought a modern edge to retro soul and jazz sounds.

Younge and Muhammad's partnership ultimately led to Jazz Is Dead, a highly collaborative project in which jazz veterans performed with the Midnight Hour at Los Angeles jazz clubs through 2019. During that time, Younge and Muhammad were also bringing their live collaborators into the studio to record new music. According to the duo, much of this music will be released on albums in 2020. To whet musical appetites, Jazz Is Dead 001, a veritable Whitman's Sampler of pieces recorded with Younge and Muhammad's recent collaborators, has been released.

001 opens with "Hey Lover", on which the Jazz Is Dead collective is joined by legendary vibraphone player and music producer Roy Ayers. With its smooth sound and soulful vocals, "Hey Lover" invokes the spirit of RAMP, a visionary soul band whose 1977 album, Come Into Knowledge, is a cult classic that has been sampled by Erykah Badu, PM Dawn, and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.

Only one of the eight pieces on 001 is more than four minutes long. That's unusual for a jazz album, in which musicians are often allowed to stretch out for minutes on end. But the shorter lengths of these pieces work well, given that 001 is intended to be a taste of things to come.

The lone long track on 001, "Apocalíptico", is a nine-minute long jam featuring the current incarnation of Azymuth, a Brazilian jazz-funk trio originally formed in 1971. The fruitful fusion of jazz and Brazilian music is also represented on 001 by a seductive vocal number, "Não Saia Da Praça", which features singer-songwriter and producer Marcos Valle; and "Conexão", a mildly psychedelic collaboration with bossa nova pianist João Donato.

Other jazz veterans who appear on the album include saxophonist Gary Bartz, keyboardist/flutist/vocalist Brian Jackson, and keyboard player Doug Carn. Each track showcases highlighted artists, but a feeling of real collaboration prevails so that that album does not feel like a collection of tracks in which the star power of the guests overwhelms the overall feel.

The album ends with "Jazz is Dead", featuring the Midnight Hour, including vocalists who sing what could be the statement of purpose for the entire Jazz Is Dead project. "Music is playing for all of us / Music is saying we've got to love." Jazz is Dead is clearly a labor of love for all parties involved. While the purpose of 001 might be to pave the way for upcoming Jazz is Dead releases, the album exists nicely as a standalone example of where modern jazz has been, and where it could be going.
Rich Wilhelm / popMATTERS

Yusef Lateef ‎– Jazz Mood (1957)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Savoy Records, Go! Bop!

A1.   Metaphor
A2.   Yusef's Mood
A3.   The Beginning
B1.   Morning
B2.   Blues In Space

Piano – Hugh Lawson
Bass, Percussion – Ernie Farrow
Drums – Louis Hayes
Percussion – Doug Watkins
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Woodwind, Scraper – Yusef Lateef
Trombone, Tambourine, Finger Cymbals – Curtis Fuller

First time in decades reissued on vinyl! 1957 was a year when jazz music faced another renewal from the already traditional bebop style towards more progressive territories with mystical melodies and more playful structures. Free jazz was already in sight but nobody could name it yet. The post bop movement and modal jazz came up and somewhere in between lies this record by cult saxophonist Yusef Lateef who had already released quite a few records by the time "Jazz Mood" came to birth. Some more adventurous and mystical melodies go hand in hand with relaxed and groovy classic bebop excursions from the schoolbook of modern jazz after 1950. But there is a certain dynamic coming with the music. Something that shows you the hunger for progression and the craving for new ground to explore. So you will find well familiar melody lines here played by a saxophone that is always close to break out of the standards. And the interplay of all instruments is just fantastic, right on the spot, tight and still free in certain moments. Yusef Lateef and his band paint pictures and tear your mind open to blow magic into your soul. There are passages here and there that go beyond the standard phrases and deprive you of your breath due to the passionate and lusty performance. All in all "Jazz Mood" is a melodic album and creates a dim and thought provoking atmosphere. Another killer true jazz album from the 1950s before the great freak-out began, still easy to consume for mainstream listeners but also inspiring enough for the hipsters.