Funky Cold Medina

Human Arts Ensemble
Under the Sun
Universal Justice : 1974

James Marshall, alto sax, flute; Lester Bowie, trumpet; Oliver Lake, tenor sax, alto sax, flute; Marty Ehrlich, alto sax, flute; Victor Reef, trombone; J.D. Parran, bass clarinet, soprano sax, flute, harmonica; Kwame Graham, electric piano; Vincent Terrell, cello; Butch Smith, bass; Charles Bobo Shaw, Jr., drums; Alan Suits, tambura; Abdallah Yakub, percussion; Abdallah Yakub, Carol Marshall, J.D. Parran, James Marshall, Marty Ehrlich, small instruments.

The Human Arts Ensemble — not exactly a household name.  An outgrowth of the Black Artists’ Group (BAG) in St.  Louis, it is nonetheless a supergroup featuring Lester Bowie and Oliver Lake, an extraordinary band that for years erased the lines between such modes as free and funk, trad and avant, east and west.

Their record Under the Sun, though released in multiple versions, is not terribly well known and serves as yet another example of how some of the rarest jazz albums are the very ones most likely to turn agnostics into full-fledged disciples. This non-stop track, side two of the original LP, aptly name-checks Sufism, as it’s nothing less than a full-on celebration — and a raucous one at that.

The textures are remarkable: eastern drones and bluesy psychedelic patterns woven seamlessly into the 21-minute track. It goes by in a flash — just give it a few minutes and you’ll find yourself carried away by Butch Smith’s chewy, elastic and irresistible bass-line. So put on your dancing shoes and join the carnival. There’s room for everyone under the sun.

Discussion4 Comments Category Human Arts Ensemble, Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake Tags , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to Funky Cold Medina

  1. Great record. Other than the two Universal Justice pressings (one numbered and one not) and the Arista-Freedom LP, what other issues are there for this music?

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to dig this and a few other BAG-related classics out of the shelves.

  2. Those are it, afaik, clifford. The Arista/Freedom version might’ve upped their profile some, but doesn’t seem to be one of the better known of that series, even.

  3. Right. Still trying to find an original Universal Justice pressing of “Whisper of Dharma” but it has yet to materialize.

    A wonder that these titles aren’t on CD, although I guess CDs are beside the point these days!

  4. Indeed. Weirdly, I’m staring to find situations where only the *LP* of a given (newish) release is in print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>