HAR-YOU Percussion Group: Sounds of Youth (2009)
The 1964 events that led to the creation of the HAR-YOU project and the formation of the HAR-YOU Percussion Group out of the Harlem Youth Act were the stuff of legend: consider, for instance, the fortuitous meeting of extraordinarily talented bassist and Charles Mingus student Julien Euell, in his incarnation as Executive Director of the Arts & Culture Division of the HAR-YOU Act, and Musical Director Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders in 1965. The mandate was to create a music outreach program. Altruism and city funding aside, the result was equally legendary. Here preserved on this recording, Sounds Of The Ghetto, is a classic manifesto.
The band is not, strictly speaking, a percussion group, but more a large Afro-Cuban ensemble, brought together by "Montego Joe," a percussionist who taught the group and was also its music director. There is an earnestness and authenticity that is absent from many recordings of that era. In fact, this recording will rank with Alan Douglas' Last Poets recording This Is Madness (Metrotone, 1971), albeit using a different, instrumental idiomatic formatAfro-Cuban to be exact. Tracks such as "Feed Me Good" and "Barretts Bag" only serve to provide a tantalizing taste of the rhythmic excursion that follows. The real stuff comes shortly thereafter; in the energetic bursts of polyrhythmic invention on "Ngoma" and "Oua-Train" are the iconic musical excursions of a generation that first discovered its Afrocentricity, but with guileless transparency and ingenuity.
The instrumentalism is dazzling. Saxophonist Nelson Sanamiago (on "Oua-Train") and bassist John Moody are memorable for their ideas and virtuosity. The percussionists themselvesMyles Mathews, Billy King, Sam Turner, Gordon Jones and Joseph Jimenez, are exquisite on "Ngoma" and "Welcome To The Party". It may have been an act of government to create the HAR-YOU Project, but it was certainly an inspired act of determination and belief that enabled Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders to bring this project to ESP-Disk and Bernard Stollman, who would release it in 1967. Now the record appears once again from the ESP Archives, and it sounds as fresh and musically relevant as the day it was produced.
Track Listing: Feed Me Good; Barretts Bag; Ngoma; Oua-Train; Welcome To The Party; Santa Cruz; Tico; HAR-YOU Theme; Montego Joe's HAR-YOU Postscript.
Personnel: Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders: leader; Nick Kirksey: piano; Ray Allen: flute; Nelson Sanamiago: alto saxophone; Dennis Taitt: guitar; Joffre Marchand, Stafford Osborne: trumpets; John Moody: bass; Myles Matthews: timbales, bongos; Billy King: congas; Gordon 'Spider' Jones: timbales; Antonio Santa Cruz: cowbell, vocals; Sam Turner: timbales, congas; David 'Mousie' Edmead: piano (2); Joseph Jimenez: claves (2, 7).