New Music Releases: Sun Ra Arkestra, Mandrill, Omniversal Earkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra — Swirling 

Sun Ra left the planet a few decades ago, but his Arkestra has been going strong – really carrying the torch that the great one kept burning – and stepping out here in their first studio album in 20 years! The record is really something special – that core Sun Ra spirit, but taken in righteous territory that shows just how much the group has evolved in his absence – still with alto saxophonist Marshall Allen as the leader, but a combination of classic Arkestra members and younger musicians who have really helped continue that legacy of mentorship and spiritual exploration that was always the greater mission of the ensemble. The production is great – never too commercial, and handled brilliantly to capture the spirit of the group at their most expressive – with a lineup that also features Knoel Scott on alto, James Stewart on tenor and flute, Michael Ray and Cecil Brooks on trumpets, Vincent Chancey on French horn, Farid Barron on piano, Dave Hotep on guitar, Akatunde and Elso Nascimento on percussion, and Tara Middleton on vocals and violin. Titles include “Sea Of Darkness/Darkness”, “Swirling”, “Seductive Fantasy”, “Sunology”, “Door Of The Cosmos/Shy”, “Satellites Are Spinning/Lights On A Satellite”, “Infinity/I’ll Wait For You”, and “Angels & Demons At Play”. ~ Dusty Groove

Mandrill – Mandrill

A masterpiece of freeform funk from Mandrill – New York group at the start of the 70s, but one who work here with the best longform jamming styles of the Bay Area scene! The combo draw equal influence from jazz, funk, soul, and Latin – using all elements in a unique hybrid that’s all their own – and which really favors instrumental passages more than vocal moments on this debut album – with searing lead guitar from Omar Mesa, next to plenty of organ lines, flute, trumpet, and tenor – all carried with heavy bass and percussion, and peppered with lots of surprises along the way! The whole thing’s tremendous – a massively funky first statement from the group – with cuts that include the extended suite “Peace & Love”, plus other funky goodies like “Symphonic Revolution”, “Rollin’ On”, “Warning Blues”, and “Mandrill”. ~ Dusty Groove

Omniversal Earkestra – Le Mali 70

A fantastic project, and one whose sound is even better than we can sum up in words – as the core group features players from Berlin, inspired by older African sounds – turning to work from the 70s Mali scene, and teaming up with some of its musical giants – but all in a way that’s much more jazz-based than you might expect! The Earkestra clearly borrow a bit of their name from Sun Ra’s Arkestra – and they keep a strong jazz legacy intact as they use their horns not just for full charts alongside the rhythms, but also for breakout solos that are more jazz than the usual Afro Funk-styled charts – really adding a lot to the album’s guest work from legends who include Abdoulaye Diabate, Salif Keita, Sory Bamba, and Cheick Tidiane Seck. A really great record where the whole is even greater than the sum of its elements – something new and unique, with titles that include “Chie”, “Wale”, “Kulukutu”, “Apolo”, “Gambari”, and “Badiala Male”. ~ Dusty Groove

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Author: Jazz Chill

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