All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


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

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
The description "spiritual jazz" means different things to different people. It was first applied to the predominantly African American style platformed by the Strata-East and Muse labels in the early and mid 1970s. The tag was not introduced until a decade later, and a better one would have been "cultural jazz," despite the tautology—for although every Strata-East and Muse artist would, if asked, almost certainly have acknowledged the inspiration of John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme (Impulse, 1964), little of their output was spiritual in the traditional sense. It was earthbound, concerned primarily with human and political rights.

Since the millennium, "spiritual jazz" has taken on a parallel, more or less religious meaning, used to describe music that touches on transcendentalism and divinity. A further usage has latterly been adopted to describe inter-cultural jazz, though this has largely been to avoid using the description "world jazz," which has attracted ill-informed accusations of cultural appropriation.

But enough with the lexicology. For the Italian DJ, crate digger, and guitarist and occasional recording artist Nicola Conte, spiritual jazz means all of the above. On his spring 2018 album Spiritual Galaxy (MPS), Conte assembled a multi-national line-up to celebrate the Strata-East and Muse tradition. On Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds Of MPS, he explores the 1965-1975 catalogues of the German label MPS and its forerunner SABA, a total of over 500 albums. The majority of the tracks on the 82-minute CD (and double LP) feature European musicians in collaboration with traditional musicians from north Africa, south Asia and Latin America. Though some of the tracks have meditative ambiences, they are all basically "world jazz," and are eloquent ripostes to those commentators who bandy around charges of cultural appropriation.

Highlights are Philippine vocal group Third Wave's take on Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage;" the Indo-Jazz fusion of "Yaad," featuring sitar player Dewan Motihar, German trumpet player Manfred Schoof and French saxophonist Barney Wilen; Swiss pianist George Gruntz's "Djerbi," made with a group of Tunisian Berber musicians, American saxophonist Sahib Shihab and French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty; and American clarinetist Tony Scott's "Burungkaka Tua," made with Indonesian musicians.

Two other highlights—German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff's "Never Let It End," featuring his compatriot Heinz Sauer on tenor saxophone, and American tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and trombonist Slide Hampton's "A Day In Vienna"—have little or nothing to do with even the loosest definition of spiritual jazz, but are both stone magic. "Never Let It End" is a group improvisation with an Andalucian vibe, and "A Day In Vienna" is down the line hard-bop, about as spiritual as a gram of heroin.

Nicola Conte is an indefatigable crate digger and his finds are usually worth checking out. His series of Viagem compilations for London's Far Out label, collecting bizarrely wonderful bossa-nova singles made in Brazil in the 1960s, is a particular delight. And so is this trawl through the lesser-known backwaters of the MPS and SABA catalogues.

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


comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read For You CD/LP/Track Review
For You
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Espace Cardin 1977 CD/LP/Track Review
Espace Cardin 1977
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review
Song of No Regrets
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Ay  Que Boogaloo! CD/LP/Track Review
Ay Que Boogaloo!
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 12, 2018
Read When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions CD/LP/Track Review
When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Lake Geneva CD/LP/Track Review
Lake Geneva
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 11, 2018
Read "In Stride" CD/LP/Track Review In Stride
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 25, 2018
Read "Out of the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Out of the Blues
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: July 29, 2018
Read "Heliosonic Toneways Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Heliosonic Toneways Vol. 1
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 14, 2018
Read "My Muse" CD/LP/Track Review My Muse
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: October 28, 2018
Read "Lab 2018/The Rhythm Of The Road" CD/LP/Track Review Lab 2018/The Rhythm Of The Road
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 11, 2018
Read "The Window" CD/LP/Track Review The Window
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 21, 2018