In the early ’70s, jazz got spacey, Afro-spiritual, and overwhelmingly weird. From Sun Ra to Alice Coltrane to Pharoah Sanders to Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, artists began incorporating synths, African percussion, flutes, chanting, tablas, mbiras, and all manner of other exotic instruments into album-side—-long pieces with titles often in Swahili or Hindi.
DJ King Britt has compiled 11 relatively concise and lesser-known examples of this decade-long musical left turn and sequenced them (without mixing) into a trance-inducing yet thrilling glimpse of the way things used to be. Herbie Hancock’s disc-opening “Kawaida” features a recitation of the principles of Kwanzaa over synths and flute; trumpeter Eddie Henderson, a member of Hancock’s pre-Headhunters band Mwandishi, blows hot ‘n’ funky on the shimmering, rattletrap “Scorpio-Libra”; and Don Cherry’s “Moving Pictures for the Ear” mixes North Africaninfluenced percussion with chanted vocals. (In fact, chanting or other vocalizations adorn seven of the disc’s 11 tracks.)
Elsewhere, Mtume, the percussionist in Miles Davis’s mid-’70s Afro-funk-metal band, offers the sizzling “Yebo,” while trombonist Grachan Moncur III’s “Space Spy,” from his 1969 BYG album New Africa, is one of the most organic and least baroque pieces here. Other, weirder tracks by Flora Purim, Brother Ah, Michal Urbaniak (siring a cello-led skronk-funk workout reminiscent of Miles’s On the Corner), and Detroit-based trombonist and Tribe Records co-founder Phil Ranelin’s ensemble are also featured. Doug & Jean Carne close out the disc, adding vocals to John Coltrane’s “Naima,” transforming the track—and, for a short while, jazz as a whole—into an astral-traveling meditation.