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Here's a pocketful of magic to feed your head, lest you forgot what the doormouse said. The none-too-subtly titled Joint Happening is a psilocybin-drenched shot of late 1960s astral jazz with the funk filtered out and replaced by post-rave "tribal" beats and an art-rock keyboards and guitar sensibility referencing bands like Gong and Can. It's the deepest chunk of street jazz I've heard for a while and a stone contender for 2007's Mutoid Album From Out Of Nowhere Award. It was made in San Franciscowhere else?Mushroom's home town. Sound quality suggests a live recording, but it's better than acceptable and conveys heaps of atmosphere.
Formed in 1996 by drummer Patrick O'Hearn Thomas, Mushroom's long (it is to be hoped) strange trip has so far included work with Gong's Daevid Allen, Soft Machine's Kevin Ayers and one-time Cream lyricist Peter Brown. Essentially a jam band with brains, fried though they may be, improvisation and interaction are key to Mushroom's aesthetic, and this collaboration with soul-brother trumpet legend Eddie Gale is the most overtly jazz-based album they've yet released.
On the scene in the mid-1960s in a sideman capacity, Gale played on Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966) and Larry Young's Of Peace And Love (Blue Note, 1966), along with some Sun Ra obscurities, before hitting his own more visceral stride with two fine albums at the end of the decade. Ghetto Music (Blue Note, 1968) and Black Rhythm Happening (Blue Note, 1969) were magnificent collisions of astral and soul jazzfree your ass and your mind will follow albums, made a heartbeat before George Clinton coined the term.
The centerpiece of Joint Happening is the eighteen-minute long "I Was Torn Down At The Dance Place - Shaved Head At The Organ." Gale's trumpet, played at first in a Harmon-muted "In A Silent Way"-like style, then open and with full throttle, solos and engages in dialogues with recent Mushroom recruit and multi-keyboardist Matt Henry Cunitz's acoustic piano, Dave Mihaly's marimba and Erik Pearson's guitar. Vaguely Congolese drum beats and a skeletal bass ostinato provide the anchor. It builds to an orgiastic crescendo before fading with a gentle coda around Cunitz's Yamaha Electone. The other six tracks follow a similar template, with variations in mood and groove. It's ace stuff, an absolutely total freaking blast, and while there's not much harmonic envelope-stretching going on, is in its own intuitive way compelling and adventurous.
Anyone wanting to check where Gale started out should try to hear Righteousness (Blue Note, 2006), a two-CD compilation of late 1960s/early 1970s street jazz which includes tracks from Black Rhythm Happening and Ghetto Music, along with trumpeter Donald Byrd's strutting funk masterpiece "The Emperor," organist Lonnie Smith's "Psychedelic Pi" and pianist Duke Pearson's "The Phantom," among other hard to find gems.
The jazz police will probably dismiss it, but Joint Happening is a boss sound of summer in my love shack.
Track Listing: Peace; I Don't Need To Fight To Prove I'm Right - I Don't Need To Be Forgiven; I Was Torn Down At The Dance Place - Shaved Head At The Organ; Border Crossing; Selling Oakland By The Pound; Our Love; The Spirit.
Personnel: Eddie Gale: trumpet; Patrick O'Hearn Thomas: drums, congas (1); Ned Doherty: bass; Matt Henry Cunitz: Mellotron, Rhodes Electric Piano, Clavinet, piano, Hammond C3, Minimoog, Yamaha Electone, Korg MS-10 synthesizer; Tim Plowman (1,2,4,6): guitar; David Brandt (1, 2, 4, 6): vibraphone, congas, djembe, percussion; Erik Pearson (3, 5, 7): guitar, flute, tenor saxophone; Dave Mihaly (3, 5, 7): marimba, percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.