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Album Review

Gary Bartz & Maisha: Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions

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Gary Bartz & Maisha: Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions
This international spiritual-jazz jam promises much and delivers most of it. On the one hand, Gary Bartz, who is among the movement's American elder statesmen. On the other, Maisha, six young Londoners.

The backstory: The wedding planner who brought the parties together is the London DJ and founder of Brownswood Recordings, Gilles Peterson. Brownswood released Maisha's debut album, There Is A Place, in 2018. In summer 2019, Peterson staged the inaugural We Out Here festival (now scheduled to return in 2021), at which Maisha was Bartz' back-up band. So successful was the performance that Peterson brought everyone back together a few months later for a We Out Here-branded gig at London's Royal Festival Hall, as part of the annual EFG London Jazz Festival. (We Out Here began life as the title of a various-artists album, curated by Shabaka Hutchings, which Brownswood released in early 2018 and which featured Maisha among other rising London stars).

In the month before the EFG gig, Bartz and Maisha had been busy with a string of European dates during which they spent two days in a studio in the Netherlands, recording this album for direct-to-disc specialists Night Dreamer Records. The five-track set includes remakes of Bartz' "Uhuru Sasa" from Harlem Bush Music (Milestone, 1971) and "Doctor Follows Dance" from Follow, The Medicine Man (Prestige, 1973). The other three tunes were collectively written by Bartz and Maisha on the road.

In the two-and-a-bit years between making There Is A Place and this new album, Maisha went through a few personnel changes. Founder/drummer Jake Long is still on board as are guitarist Shirley Tetteh, bassist Twm Dylan and trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom. Saxophonist Nubya Garcia is not on the album, though she may return for future projects. Original keyboardist Amané Suganami has been replaced by Al Macsween and percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono by Tim Doyle.

Bartz is the featured soloist here, with Maisha in support role. But when the individual members take a turn in the spotlight they shine. MacSween is particularly enjoyable on opener "Leta's Dance." Tetteh also stands out; her solo on the funked-up "Dr Follows Dance" is a delight. Both players are adept at ringing Bartz' spiritual jazz and electric-era Miles Davis bells.

Tetteh—who is interviewed here—is a singular stylist who has the potential to become a major star and is long overdue her own album. She elevated several discs by other musicians during 2019. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, is not a role which she deserves.

Track Listing

Harlem To Haarlem; The Stank; Leta’s Dance; Uhuru Sasa; Dr Follows Dance.

Personnel

Gary Bartz: saxophone, alto; Jake Long: drums; Shirley Tetteh: guitar, electric; Al Macsween: piano; Twm Dylan: bass, electric; Axel Kaner-Lidstrom: trumpet; Tim Doyle: percussion.

Album information

Title: Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Night Dreamer


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