Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

319

Bennie Maupin: The Jewel in the Lotus

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Of the ECM titles that have remained unavailable on CD, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin's The Jewel in the Lotus (1974) has long been considered a holy grail for collectors in search of a vinyl copy, and a title that's been on many fans' wish lists for release on CD. Well, it's finally happened and it's been worth the wait. Those familiar will recognize it as still classic thirty years on; for those unfamiliar with its magic, it's time to get acquainted.



Fellow Headhunter Herbie Hancock—appearing here alongside another Headhunter member, percussionist Bill Summers—was pursuing more groove-centric music on Headhunters (Columbia, 1973) and Thrust (Columbia, 1974). Maupin's debut as a leader is more structurally open—closer in aesthetic to Hancock's Mwandishi group than Headhunters—and, with the exception of occasional electric piano, all-acoustic. It's also an album that ranges from near-pastoral beauty to fiery free play; proof that Maupin, Hancock and Summers' more rhythm-happy Headhunters was a choice, and by no means a definition of their artistic range—although those familiar with Hancock and Maupin will already know that.



With drummers Frederick Waits and Billy Hart—a Mwandishi alumnus—joining Summers, one might expect The Jewel in the Lotus to be both denser and more rhythmically charged. But while there are defined rhythms on tracks like 'Ensenada,' the percussionists are almost on their own as Maupin, Hancock and bassist Buster Williams (another Mwandishi connection) float above them, recalling early Weather Report tone poems like the late Joe Zawinul's 'Orange Lady.' Even when the playing becomes increasingly abstract and abstruse, as it does on 'Mappo' and 'Excursion'—both also featuring guest trumpeter Charles Sullivan—there's an expansive attention to atmosphere that makes even the greatest extreme strangely beautiful.



Maupin is best known for his unmistakable bass clarinet work—especially on albums like Miles Davis' seminal Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969). Here, while it's heard on the intense 'Excursion' and gorgeous rubato closer " is Past,' featuring some of Hancock's most resplendent playing of the set, it's only part of Maupin's greater array, with 'Ensinada' and, in particular, two multi-layered miniatures—'Past + Present = Future' and 'Winds of Change'—proving him equally compelling on flute.



Maupin's soprano saxophone meshes with Williams' arco bass and Hancock's electric piano on the lengthy intro to the nearly ten minute title track, creating a sound that's other-worldly yet still somehow grounded. As the tune takes on a clearer rhythm—although, with the open-ended playing of Hart, Waits and Summers it's more suggested than direct—Maupin and Hancock take their most delineated solos of a set that's largely defined by empathic ensemble interaction.



Maupin's writing is often marked by richly distinctive lyricism, but it's the ongoing interplay of this sextet/septet that makes the album so remarkable. Like the attention to space paid by the three percussionists, there's a gossamer-like ethereality to these extraordinarily multi-directional conversations, making The Jewel in the Lotus a masterpiece that, at long last, is back in print.


Track Listing: Ensenada; Mappo; Excursion; Past + Present = Future; The Jewel in the Lotus; Winds of Change; Song for Tracie Dixon Summers; Past is Past.

Personnel: Bennie Maupin: reeds, voice, glockenspiel; Herbie Hancock: piano, electric piano; Buster Williams: bass; Frederick Waits: drums and marimba (left channel); Billy Hart: drums (right channel); Bill Summers: percussion, water-filled garbage can; Charles Sullivan: trumpet (2, 3).

Title: The Jewel in the Lotus | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Celebrating William Parker at 65 CD/LP/Track Review Celebrating William Parker at 65
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Eternal Life CD/LP/Track Review Eternal Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 14, 2017
Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Think Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Think Ahead
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Billows Of Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Thick As Thieves" CD/LP/Track Review Thick As Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Gledalec" CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Rebel Portraiture" CD/LP/Track Review Rebel Portraiture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 12, 2017
Read "A Pouting Grimace" CD/LP/Track Review A Pouting Grimace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 15, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!