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Reviews: Bayeté, Sandra Rhodes and Sid Selvidge Arrive from Omnivore

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Bayete - Worlds Around the SunIf you’re looking for a record label to do your deep crate-digging for you, look no further than Omnivore Records. The musical archaeologists there have unearthed three all-but-unknown records from artists on the fringe. But these fresh and vital discoveries from Sid Selvidge, Sandra Rhodes and Todd Cochran a.k.a. Bayeté will likely leave you wondering, “How have I missed this music until now?”

Likely on the strength of his work on Bobby Hutcherson’s 1971 Blue Note LP Head On, composer-pianist Todd Cochran was signed to venerable jazz label Prestige. The very next year, he delivered Worlds Around the Sun, one-half of his shockingly small discography as a leader. Though very much of its time, the album took jazz fusion to another level with nods to John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and even Bill Evans. Producer-writer-performer Cochran’s fresh approach is evident from the very first track, “It Ain’t.” It doesn’t shy away from reinventing the bop idiom for 1972, and you might be snapping your fingers to Cochran’s piano. Hutcherson (playing vibes and marimba throughout the album) adds to the dreamy soundscape, with tightly blended horns and winds creating an alternate-universe cosmic MOR. Solos on bass (James Leary III) and drums (Thabo Vincar, alias Michael Carvin) show off the musicians’ improvisational virtuosity. We know that “It Ain’t” – but what is it? Whatever it is, it’s mesmerizing.

The hypnotic groove of “Bayeté (Between Man and God),” inspired by Herbie Hancock’s African explorations, builds from an almost tribal rhythm of Carvin’s drums. At twelve minutes, it’s by far the longest track on the LP, and one of the funkiest, with Cochran on Rhodes and piano. It also takes in slithering sax and lively trumpet, for a fusion-meets-free jazz free-for-all. Similarly spiritual is “Njeri (Belonging to a Warrior),” featuring Hutcherson’s shimmering vibes and Hadley Callman’s atmospheric flute, with Cochran on piano.

The most famous track on Worlds Around the Sun is doubtless “Free Angela,” thanks to Santana’s 1974 live recording preserved on his Lotus album. Inspired by controversial activist Angela Davis (also the subject of songs from The Rolling Stones and John Lennon and Yoko Ono) the tight and funky track with Cochran on clavinet takes on the shape of a mini-suite. The main theme, with its chanted refrain, melodically and stylistically shifts dramatically at about the three-and-a-half minute mark, and then once more before the song’s close.

After the jump: more on Worlds, plus Sandra Rhodes and Sid Selvidge! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 4, 2014 at 11:41