stanleycowell

Sonny Fortune ‘Long Before Our Mothers Cried’

‘Long Before Our Mothers Cried’ is a 1974 Strata East LP from sax master Sonny Fortune, who made plenty of great records, but none that cover quite as much ground as this one. The freedom of Strata East was empowering, and Fortune made the most of the opportunity, partnering with Strata East founder Stanley Cowell (piano) and unsung trumpet hero Charles Sullivan to form a formidable melodic core, inspired by a triple threat of percussion in Mario Muñoz, Angel Allende, and Richie Pablo Landrum. Keeping everybody in line (on occasion) are Wayne Dockery (bass) and Chip Lyle (drums). The opening title track unfolds over 15 minutes, tapping modal, spiritual and soul-jazz veins as the players find their collective and individual grooves. The four shorter tracks are a bit more straightforward than the title track, but no less deep. This isn’t an obvious record—it takes a few spins to sink in, but it’s a keeper. This was recorded right down the road at Miniot Studio in White Plains, NY. Mr. Fortune dedicated this to “the mothers that I’ve known in my life” so I’m going to do the same—Happy Mother’s Day! I‘d also like to take a moment to apologize to my own mom for my Frank Zappa phase, my King Crimson phase, all four sides of John Coltrane’s ‘Live in Seattle’, and if Instagram didn’t have a character limit, I’d go on. And on

Charles Tolliver/Music Inc. ‘Live at Slugs’

Today marks the 50th anniversary of this remarkable live set of exploratory modal/post-bop that Mr. Charles Tolliver himself has called out as a personal favorite. The audience at Slugs that night must have been pinned to their seats by the intensity of this Music Inc. quartet which also includes Stanley Cowell (piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Jimmy Hopps (drums). All give stellar performances. Fans of Woody Shaw’s work or ‘Live at the Lighthouse’-era Lee Morgan will *LOVE* this album, which never quite drifts into avant territory though it does peek through the fence to take a glance once in a while. Tracking down Strata East vinyl isn’t easy—original pressings are scarce, bootlegs sound pretty crummy, and unfortunately both volumes have yet to see a modern vinyl reissue, but hopefully an enterprising boutique label might step in? (Looking at you @purepleasurerecords !) However you *CAN* pick them up in (to be honest) much better sound quality as part of the Charles Tolliver ‘Mosaic Select 20’ triple CD, which combines both volumes of the Slugs LPs, the equally terrific (and difficult to find) ‘Live in Tokyo 73’ LP, and a third CD which combines additional tracks from BOTH Slugs and Tokyo which were left off the original LPs due to time constraints. Sound quality on that third CD is a bit thinner than the originally released material but not so much so to impair any listening enjoyment, and the unreleased material is KILLER. Hat tip to Tolliver’s vision in forming Strata East which took a lot of guts—Strata East aspired to establish a greater degree of artist independence in an industry rife with exploitation, institutionalized racism, and the prioritization of commercial potential over artistry. As stated on the back of Vol 1 “MUSIC INC was created out of the desire to assemble men able to see the necessity for the survival of a heritage and an Art in the hopes that the sacrifices and high level of communication between them will eventually reach every soul

Charles Tolliver’s Music Inc.

Full-contact jazz that challenges every big band cliché. Way beyond one giant swing-a-long, you’ve got a core quartet of Charles Tolliver (trumpet) Stanley Cowell (piano) Cecil McBee (bass) and Jimmy Hopps (drums) going toe-to-toe with a thirteen-piece brass section. The core four handle the majority of the solos while the big band summon a tsunami of sound, sometimes supporting and sometimes challenging the quartet in a battle of groove. Props to bassist Cecil McBee, who to my ears is the hero of the session, laying down sinewy, elastic bass lines that are a masterclass in soulful inspiration. This record sounds modern, fresh and HUGE. Music Inc. was recently reissued by @purepleasurerecords. The original was the debut release on Strata East, Tolliver/Cowell’s artist-oriented label of the 1970s. Brilliant stuff. The big band: Jimmy Heath, Clifford Jordan, Bobby Brown, Wilbur Brown (saxes); Richard Williams, Virgil Jones, Larry Greenwich, Danny Moore (trumpets); Garnett Brown, Curtis Fuller, John Gordon, Dick Griffin (trombones); Howard Johnson (tuba, baritone sax