Music Reviews

Head Jazz

Various Artists

Label M

There are few compilations that capture an age, a brief moment in time, a spirit as well as this CD does. That magical time that I constantly find myself marveling at: the late ’60s/early ’70s. It was truly a majestic time in American music, when almost every genre was struck by the zeitgeist of innovation; and, for jazz, hard bop was giving way to two different directions: free-form and fusion.

Head Jazz captures jazz at this creative crossroads, somewhere macheteing a middle road. The music on this disc doesn’t abstract itself into the ether, and it avoids the milquetoast syrup of later “smooth jazz” fusion. No, the music here was carefully hand-picked to display both the free and the funk to show us how we got to where we are now in jazz (and, oddly enough, electronica).

The disc starts with Eddie Harris’ “Silver Cycles,” with its deep, dark melancholy reverbed loop and Harris’ wailing electric sax. There’s the optimistic funk fusion of David “Fathead” Newman’s cover, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”; Hubert Laws covers Coltrane’s “Equinox” perfectly, with its driving, heavy-stringed brood and playful, yet sober, flute weaving throughout its dark textures; there’s the tumbling, crashing joy of Zawinul’s “The Soul of a Village Part 2”; and Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Island Cry” is just plain fun, with Kirk playing three horns and Texidor playing the washboard and percussion.

Though some of the songs fall outside of the aforementioned timeframe, Head Jazz embodies the period perfectly. The music is (still) innovative and challenging, yet was chosen to please as opposed to alienate its audience. It’s also mixed with the deftness of a club DJ, with each song seamlessly melting into the next. Not quite as heady as advertised, this disc is a pleasure for jazz heads and is even accessible to many electronica fans out there.

Label M:

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