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Buddy Terry: Awareness

Chris May By

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Strictly niche in 2018, and on the margins even during his early 1970s heyday, New Jersey's Buddy Terry was among the cohort of soul-jazz musicians who, inspired by the rise of the black consciousness movement in the late 1960s, elected to recalibrate and repurpose their music. The new aesthetic became known as freedom jazz (and, later, spritual jazz) and was often near indistinguishable from its blissed-out cousin, cosmic jazz. Both styles retained the grooves and emotional candour of soul jazz, and were fuelled by radical social and cultural agendas and, to varying degrees from artist to artist, by the counterculture's concurrent embrace of psychedelics.

In the late 1960s, Terry had released two fine soul-jazz discs, Electric Soul (1967) and Natural Soul (1968), both on Prestige. The mettlesome and lyrical Awareness was the first of three albums in his new style which he recorded for producer Bob Shand's Mainstream label between 1971 and 1973. It inhabits the wafer-thin interstice between freedom and cosmic jazz. This vinyl and CD release on WeWantSounds is the first time the album has been reissued in any format.

Like the careers of many of his peers, Terry's blossomed in the early and mid 1970s and then lost momentum. Billy Harper and Shamek Farrah are just two more of the outstanding East Coast saxophonists who released landmark freedom-jazz albums but did not stay on radar for long. Harper and Farrah's chef d'oeuvres, Capra Black (1973) and First Impressions (1974) respectively, were released on the Strata-East label founded by pianist Stanley Cowell and trumpeter Charles Tolliver in Brooklyn in 1971. Along with Mainstream, Impulse! and Muse, Strata-East was a key platform for the new music.

Cowell and Tolliver were not just supporters of the new jazz, like Mainstream's Shad, Impulse's Bob Thiele and Muse's Joe Fields, they were leading practitioners of it. Cowell is a key contributor to Awareness, playing acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes and composing two of the tracks, "Stealin' Gold" and "Abscretions." Other band members associated with Strata-East are bassist Buster Williams, trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and percussionist James Mtume, who composed "Kamili." Cowell and Williams were part of the Mtume-led Umoja Ensemble's Alkebu-Lan: Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East), released on Strata-East in 1972. Bridgewater was a featured soloist on drummer Billy Parker's Fourth World's Freedom Of Speech, released on the label in 1976.

Terry's two other Mainstream albums—Pure Dynamite (1972) and Lean On Him (1973)—were reissued by P-Vine in Japan in 2007. Both were made with substantially different line-ups, although Mtume is heard on Pure Dynamite and Bridgewater's wife, Dee Dee Bridgewater, appears on Lean On Him. That all three albums are more or less readily available again is cause for celebration.

Track Listing: Awareness (Suite: Omnipotence, Babylon, Unity, Umility); Kamili; Stealin’ Gold; Sodom & Gomorrah; Abscretions; Babylon (7” edit); Stealin’ Gold (7” edit).

Personnel: Buddy Terry: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, percussion; Cecil Bridgewater: trumpet, percussion; Stanley Cowell: piano, Fender Rhodes; Buster Williams: acoustic bass, electric bass; Victor Baskin: acoustic bass, electric bass, percussion; Mickey Roker: drums; Mtume: conga drums; Roland Prince: electric guitar.

Title: Awareness | Year Released: 1971 | Record Label: WEWANTSOUNDS


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