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.
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.
Tettehwho is interviewed hereis 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.
Harlem To Haarlem; The Stank; Leta’s Dance; Uhuru Sasa; Dr Follows Dance.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.