What To Buy: Experimental Jazz
A resurgence of interest in 60s and 70s reissues from the outer reaches of experimental jazz sees Chris Parkin don his multicoloured Afrofuturistic spacesuit to voyage into the lesser known…
One of 2017’s finest releases, reissue or otherwise, is Luaka Bop’s compilation of Alice Coltrane’s ashram recordings, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. As incredible as it is, though, it’s also something of an amuse-bouche before diving into other similarly minded jazz reissues of recent months.
With interest piqued by contemporary artists such as Kamasi Washington, Thundercat and Matthew Halsall, and the arrival of Germany’s ECM label on streaming services, vinyl hunters are hungry for free and spiritual jazz classics from the 60s and 70s.
Luaka Bop’s release isn’t the only 2017 reissue to feature Alice Coltrane. Up there with her ashram recordings
is Joe Henderson’s 1973 album, The Elements, on which Coltrane injects her world-music studies into the tenor saxophonist’s melodic improvisation. It’s one of Henderson’s finest (and most unusual) albums.
Superior Viaduct, meanwhile, have released Alice Coltrane’s album with her husband, and spiritual jazz progenitor, John. Cosmic Music is a flawed but beautifully contemplative album, with Alice piloting the two standout tracks recorded in the wake of her husband’s death in 1967.
The same label has also reissued Sun Ra Arkestra Featuring Pharoah Sanders And Black Harold – an album recorded in 1964, but not released until 1976, when Sanders was better known, and even then, only in a limited run. It’s an early, percussive pointer to the outer cosmos where both were heading, and has since become a jazz collector’s wet dream.
SUN RA ARKESTRA FEATURING PHAROAH SANDERS AND BLACK HAROLD IS AN EARLY POINTER TO THE OUTER COSMOS WHERE BOTH WERE HEADING, AND HAS SINCE BECOME A JAZZ COLLECTOR’S WET DREAM
Of course, Sun Ra’s music features heavily in the ‘jazz reissues’ racks every year. It was no different in 2017, with the second instalment of Strut Records’ Sun Ra Singles collection now out, alongside reissues of Discipline 27- 11, recorded during the same sessions as his classic Space Is The Place, and pivotal albums The Magic City, My Brother The Wind, Vol. 1 and Thunder Of The Gods.
Pharoah Sanders, who played with both Coltranes, Don Cherry and many others, has been less well represented by reissues. His groundbreaking albums for Impulse!, from 1966 to 74, are some of the best in that prestigious label’s back catalogue and yet most have remained out of print for decades. But this year, three albums by the
man named by Sun Ra, who Ornette Coleman called the best tenor player in the world, have been made available. Tauhid (1967), Jewels Of Thought (1969) and Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) (1970) are out now on Anthology Recordings, Mexican Summer’s reissue imprint. His soulful, squalling free jazz is infused with the mysticism of Ancient Egypt and the sounds and drones of Sufism and the East, expanding the spiritual journey begun by John Coltrane.
The never-ending path through this mind-blowingly abundant period will eventually deliver you from the classic albums to increasingly esoteric outposts, such as Dorothy Ashby’s Dorothy’s Harp (Music On Vinyl) and Ahmad Jamal’s The Awakening (Be With), both also reissued recently. Time to get started on your odyssey…