Bennie Maupin - The Jewel In The Lotus
Recorded in March 1974, this album comes about six months after Priester's album, and in a few tracks resembles a minimalist version of some the textures explored there. Don't be looking out for the funk here - this is a more spiritual, atmospheric affair, with cascades of chord clusters from various instruments, and sparse percussion - "beds" of heavily structured sound over which the players minimally improvise. It's not "free jazz" - even on the raw soundscape of "Excursion", there's still an impeccable structure to control the dynamic flow. It's the perfect setting for Bennie Maupin to get into the subtle ranges of his high register reeds.
Whereas other "Bitches Brew" veterans tended to either emulate Miles Davis or run screaming into a more controlled jazz-funk, Maupin's lesson, compositionally, seems to have been to extract some order from the chaos, perhaps somewhat like Teo Macero ...
Maupin was the only player from Hancock's Mwandishi band to continue on to the Headhunters, and here he utilises players from both bands. A year after the phenomenally successful, electrified "Head Hunters" album, Herbie Hancock's tweaking the inbuilt delays on his fender rhodes to add to Maupin's soundscapes on the title track. Some of the textures in Maupin's songs are so subtle that the white machine noise coming out from the rhodes' phaser itself becomes a texture. Hancock also seems to be enjoying the opportunity to explore percussive dynamics once again on his acoustic piano - listen to his playing around Maupin's multitracked winds in "Past Is Past".
Bill Summers - the man who blew into beer bottles at the start of "Watermelon Man" on "Head Hunters" - is very at home as he mixes bells, cymbals and even garbage cans with Maupin's glockenspiel and Frederick Watts' marimba. Drummer Billy Hart and bassist Buster Williams return from the Mwandishi band, and guest Charles Sullivan supplies gentle muted trumpet to "Mappo" and some crazy squeals to the general chaos of "Excursion".
This is an album that gets better with repeated listens - I listened through a few times today when ripping and converting, not having heard it for several years, and once again I'm really taken with the colours that this group of people create together.
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