...don't ask if there will ever be a Volume 2. We don't know yet. What we do know is that if we ever come across a similar tour de force as Don McCaslin's composition,Praise Poems, then there will certainly be one...
These were the final words of the sales notes for Praise Poems Volume 1 - which we proudly released earlier this year. And indeed, since then, we have discovered a tune which led us to continue to curate this series of obscure, soulful, jazzy and spiritual sounds from back in the day.
The song to which we refer to is Abraham Battat's jazz-samba masterpiece, Fly Away. Fly Away is a righteous combination of sonorous jazz guitar, crackling drums and warm acoustic piano. Floating through the tones as if in a private concert for you in your very living room, it is an earnest, honest vocal performance bringing a rainbow message of freedom and liberty to the world. This is the standard by which we judged the entirety of this compilation.
Though they may be known in some circles, selections by Richard Martian, Larry Covin, and The Gingerbread Express are in the same category of pure beauty. Of course, good luck finding a copy of Larry Covin's Masquerade or the Portis Brothers' Summer Love. The single hit you receive while doing an online search is the exact same copy from which we took the master. To find a needle in a haystack is a cakewalk compared to turning up a copy of some of these gems to be found here.
Rarity is important, quality is more important, and whether a song has been compiled yet is of the highest consideration. In this case, all but one of them have yet to be compiled elsewhere. By and large, this compilation highlights a unique historical context in the development and splintering of the streams of funk, soul and jazz. There are plenty of true funk elements. There is a spectrum of electronic synth experiments. There is rich post-post-bop instrumentalism, and at least one instance of wah wah flute! And of course, and perhaps most importantly, there is a pervasive message of the attainment of freedom, whether it be through non-attachment, space travel, social action, spirituality, or musical genre blending.
The Praise Poems series is an attempt at a faithful snapshot of this revolutionary music before it began its inevitable backslide into the bourgeois excesses of the jazz-fusion genre. Call it proto-fusion; exemplified in performances like the cosmic bossa-odyssey of Third Stream, the jazz-pre-fusion of Seeds of Fulfillment, modal-tribal and chant explorations by Bobby Boyd Congress, the cinematic audiophilia of Belgium's Soul Scratchers, the electro-acoustic blend of folk, percussion, and jazz by John Finnigan and Maureen Finlon, or the undeniable funky theatricality ofLarry Dismond that would make Galt Macdermot proud.
All of them are finally getting the attention they deserve.
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