Dave Schnitter & Gary Bartz Ntu Troop
The genius of what Dave Schnitter does with his quartet on Sketch is combine the mainstream straight-ahead sensibility of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (of which Schnitter was a longtime member) with the pianoless, fractured, multi-note lines of convergence and retreat that Ornette Coleman brought to jazz in the late '50s and early '60s. On the standards "All or Nothing at All," "For All We Know," and "You Don't Know What Love Is," the band's approach is of the former, as Schnitter's tenor blowing is confident and relaxed, James Zollar's trumpet solos are beautifully expressive and Thomas Bramerie on bass and Jimmy Madison on drums percolate the rhythm. On Schnitter's own compositions, "Dili Dali," "Flirtation with Faust," and especially the title track, Schnitter and Zollar run in a parallel direction that occasionally threatens suddenly to become perpendicular, the players trading tense solos before settling on the same course. What both of these conceptions require is complete sympathy between the two horns and Schnitter and Zollar have it, with Zollar injecting plunger-muted trumpet into the proceedings, expanding the musical possibilities.
Gary Bartz Ntu Troop
Harlem Bush Music
Bartz got his start with Blakey as well, but by 1970 he was under the influence of a different inspirational sensibility, the one that spawned the transcendent Afro-centric humanity of the Pharoah Sanders groups of the late '60s (of which Bartz was also a member) and may have begun when Coltrane chanted "a love supreme." Ntu Troop is lean, with two percussionists, bass and Bartz' fantastic alto. But what gives Harlem Bush Music its distinctive flavor are the vocals of Andy Bey, who holds his own as an instrument in the Troop, using his baritone to full effect on what are, at best, slightly dated lyrics. Not the eternal sentiments: equality, pride, honor, joy. It's the language that's of its time. Yet above all, this material receives the deepest commitment of the musicians and if you're down with the political Blacknuss of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and the Afro-funk of Miles, Sly and James Brown and crave adventurous music, I urge you to get into Bartz' super cool Harlem Bush Music. It'll make you feel like there's something worth believing in.
Tracks: 1. Dili Dali (6:55); 2. Sketch (6:20); 3. For All We Know (9:18); 4. Sooner or Later (6:00); 5. All or Nothing at All (7:13); 6. Flirtation With Faust (5:49); 7. You Don't Know What Love Is (8:02); 8. Sputnik (6:01).
Personnel: Thomas Bramerie: Bass; Jimmy Madison: Drums; David Schnitter: Tenor Sax; James Zollar: Trumpet.
Harlem Bush Music
Tracks: 1. Rise (5:28); 2. People Dance (10:35); 3. Drinking Song (5:17); 4. Taifa (4:21); 5. Parted (2:04); 6. The Warriors' Song (6:09); 7. Blue (A Folk Tale) (18:05); 8. Uhuru Sasa (6:48); 9. Vietcong (5:16); 10. Celestial Blues (7:34); 11. The Planets (5:08).
Personnel: Gary Bartz: Piano, Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Vocals, Narrator; Nat Bettis: Percussion; Andy Bey: Vocals; Joony Booth: Bass, Electric Bass; Harold White: Drums.