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Various Artists: Nicola Conte presents Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

Chris M. Slawecki By

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A labor of love, Cosmic Forest was compiled by Italian musician, producer and DJ Nicola Conte to both revisit and present to a new audience Conte's favorite "spiritual jazz" recordings from MPS Records' 1965—'75 catalog. Eight of these thirteen pieces came from albums released as part of the MPS label's mid-1970s "Jazz Meets the World" series masterminded by jazz activist and label partner Joachim-Ernst Berendt.

Cosmic Forest can take you as deeply in or as far as you wish to go. Take a sunny stroll through "A Day in Vienna," for example, through its all-star date with saxophonist Dexter Gordon and trombonist Slide Hampton joining trumpeter Dizzy Reece in front of the intense rhythmic force of Kenny Drew (piano), Art Taylor (drums) and Niels Pederson (bass).

The Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet's "Never Let It End" consolidates melodies that trombonist Mangelsdorff picked up while touring throughout India, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, but on saxophone and trombone. The leader plays trombone with dexterity and dynamics associated more with trumpet players than trombonists, while his rhythm section sounds teleported into Germany from one of John Coltrane's spiritual Impulse! recordings with Pharoah Sanders.

George Gruntz'"Djerbi" features Eberhardt Weber, Sahib Shihab, and Jean-Luc Ponty among the sidemen for Swiss pianist Gruntz, plus a quartet of Bedouin musicians from North Africa, collectively exercising a traditional meditative dance from the island of Djerba that sounds more like a snakecharmer's hypnotic dance than a melody for meditation.

After that, Conte sets the controls of Cosmic Forest straight for the heart of the sun. A dense, vibrant live recording of "Timbales Calientes" by The MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass maintains a furious pace, with brass and woodwinds quickly jumping in and out of each other's riffs before the titular "hot timbales" jump into the fray. "Revelation" by Hannibal (American avant-garde trumpeter and composer Hannibal Marvin Peterson) and The Sunrise Orchestra emerges from the same deep rhythmic meeting place of Coltrane and Sanders and Africa and jazz, ripping with pulses and counter-rhythms while Peterson's trumpet majestically rises above the Orchestra's rhythm not softly but as a blazing morning sunrise.

"Burungkaka Tua," an Indonesian traditional from reedman Tony Scott's Jazz Meets the World album Djanger Bali with the Indonesian All-Stars, lingers in its moody piano introduction like a melancholy cloud; Scott sings its second half on flute, spiraling out a mystical Eastern sound that falls into your ears as genuinely as Yusef Lateef's seminal Eastern Sounds (Prestige, 1961).

A mashup of Eastern and Western music, composed and improvised, rendered in a unique instrumental sound, "Raga Jeeva Swara" by the Dave Pike Set with guitarist Volker Kriegel, ends your trip through this Cosmic Forest with a vision full of wonder and magic, twirling in the sitar's dervish dance and chiming like birdsong from the leader's vibes.

Track Listing: Maiden Voyage (The Third Wave); Evolution (Nathan Davis); A Day In Vienna (Dexter Gordon & Slide Hampton); Yaad (Motihar Trio / Irene Schweizer Trio); Djerbi (George Gruntz); Never Let It End (Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet); Shelda (Smoke); Soledad De Murcia (Michael Naura Quartet); Timbales Calientes (The MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass); El Babaku (El Babaku); Revelation (Hannibal Peterson & The Sunrise Orchestra); Burungkaka Tua (Tony Scott & The Indonesian All-Stars); Raga Jeeva Swara (Dave Pike Set).

Personnel: Bands led by Nathan Davis; Dexter Gordon & Slide Hampton; George Gruntz; Albert Mangelsdorff; Michael Naura; Hannibal Marvin Peterson; Tony Scott; Dave Pike. The Third Wave; Motihar Trio / Irene Schweizer; Smoke; The MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass; El Babaku.

Title: Nicola Conte presents Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MPS

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