Various Artists (Jazz)
Spiritual Jazz 4: Americans in Europe


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
April 6th, 2013 | 15 replies | 2,908 views


Release Date: 03/25/2013 | Tracklist


Jazzman Records’s Spiritual Jazz 4: Americans in Europe does exactly what a compilation of its kind should: it teaches. “The Call,” for example, is on its surface a beautiful and bouncy 12-bar jam featuring a delicious rhythmic motif by Jimmy Hopps. But it’s also the story of Sahib Shihab, the American saxophonist who converted to Islam in in the ‘40s and, fed up with racism in his home country, decided to move to Copenhagen after touring there with Quincy Jones in the late ‘50s. Such details could probably be gleaned from any sort of compilation, but here they seem especially pertinent. As a compilation that investigates the results of a mass jazz exodus to Europe, Spiritual Jazz 4’s context is inevitably wrapped up in the way it sounds. Even the quick opener, Pierre Cavalli’s “Studie Nr. 1 fr 12-saitige Gitarre,” sounds like the blues filtered through the oceanic climate of Cavalli’s native Zurich.

Not all tracks here reflect their European influence through mere regional factors. Albert Ayler’s stunning rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” sounds like a violent, Civil Rights Movement-era reaction to the hazy tones of that song, composed 30 years earlier. Ayler beautifully squeals and bawls through his saxophone, seeming to reject not only the violent and institutionalized discrimination of the country he has now left but also Gershwin and his attempts to reproduce, even rewrite, black culture and history through a white lens. This does not mean that Gershwin wasn’t a brilliant songwriter; he was, and Ayler certainly recognized this. But with his cover, one gets the sense of something--music, culture, language, feeling--being rightfully taken back. In escaping postwar America, jazz musicians like Ayler were able to circumvent the institutions that had kept them confined for so long.

Every single track here as a result feels invigoratingly unchained, if not always pleasurable. Sun Ra’s “Enlightenment” might be a little too out there for me; Ra’s knowingly eccentric invitation to his “space-world” deters me from engaging with him seriously. Even so, Spiritual Jazz is chock full of songs that genuinely feel enlightened, the peak of which might be Don Cherry & the New Eternal Rhythm Orchestra’s “Humus”. Apparently some sort of collaboration with the Polish avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki, the strikingly ambitious piece moves from macabre to gorgeously lethargic to pure and ecstatic. Exasperatingly “hip” a reference point though it may be, I think of Flying Lotus, also of Godlike status in his own music-world, drawing from the constellations and celestial bodies. And then Lee Konitz’s pretty, loopy “Five, Four and Three” comes on, and the Earth settles once again.

This seems to be the theme of Spiritual Jazz 4: immensely talented artists attaching and detaching themselves from the social, cultural, and aesthetic mores of their native country. That freedom radiates throughout this lovingly assembled compilation until its finale, Eric Dolphy’s 19-minute “Springtime”. The album, focused as it is on context and historical narrative, could probably have been a doctoral thesis instead of an album; as I said earlier, its ostensible goal is to teach you about these artists and how and why this music came about. Even so, this is also a compilation about the beautiful noise musicians can make when they are finally uninhibited by their culture and environment. Spiritual Jazz 4 is a history lesson, but when history lessons come packaged like this, I’ll be listening eagerly.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2013



14884 Comments


really late on this one oops; comp that came out last month. seriously listen to "humus" though

http://soundcloud.com/djfryer/sets/spiritual-jazz-4-americans-in



SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2013



4337 Comments


Great work, alex. I liked your take on it, very well written. I havent heard this myself though, but it sounds interesting.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 6th 2013



23637 Comments


I'm liking the variety you're bringing to the staff review section, Alex.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

greg84
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2013



7160 Comments


We're gonna review glitch pop and crabcore releases soon. So, beware...

Great review Alex.

Digging: Lord Mantis - Death Mask

Hep Kat
April 6th 2013



14006 Comments


roberstona i used to occasionally rip on you and such but now i see you are a posi force for the good of sputnik

Digging: Casanovas In Heat - Belvidere b/w Destiny St.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
April 6th 2013



10553 Comments


Agreed. Promoting you was a great choice, I'm always very pleased to read your reviews.

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 7th 2013



14884 Comments


did u all listen to humus yet

MrElmo
April 7th 2013



1950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome you showed me this, I've got lot of writing to do for today and such a compilation is perfect to give me company when working, Humus rules indeed.

Keyblade
April 7th 2013



13255 Comments


cool imma check this

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins

NeoSpaz
April 7th 2013



4505 Comments


keen to have a listen to this

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
April 7th 2013



3008 Comments


what the hell is glitch pop?

Digging: Todd Terje - It's Album Time

theacademy
April 7th 2013



27670 Comments


dear god this sounds like the worst thing imaginable

kitsch
April 7th 2013



5105 Comments


this is my one of my favorite jazz comps

http://continuo.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/various-rencontres-du-1er-type/

NeoSpaz
April 7th 2013



4505 Comments


ooh glitch nice

oltnabrick
June 23rd 2013



29282 Comments


this is very nice and i like it a lot

Digging: Future - Honest



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