D:O’s Dating Tips for the Lovelorn


Mtume Umoja Ensemble
Alkebu-Lan – Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East)
Strata-East : 1972

Mtume, congas, tonette horn; Gary Bartz, alto and soprano sax; Carlos Garnett, tenor sax, flute; Leroy Jenkins, violin; Stanley Cowell, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Billy Hart, drums; Ndugu, drums; Andy Bey, Eddie Micheaux, and Joe Lee Wilson, vocals; Weusi Kuumba and Yusef Iman, spoken poetry.

Dear C,

We’ve got to talk about your new boyfriend. Something about that man just isn’t right and it’s up to friends to call out each other on this business. And we’re not just talking about the fact that he didn’t like that Mtume record. Though seriously, what was up with him clamping his hands over his ears and saying he’d outgrown screaming jungle music? We don’t care if he lived in Nigeria, that’s still fucked up. And to say it about Alkebu-Lan in specific, well, that should be classified in the DSM-IV as some kind of mental disorder.

You can’t tell us it didn’t bother you. After all, you’re the one who selected the album to soundtrack a perfectly pleasant brunch. We barely got through the early track “Baba Hengates” before he started carrying on about sloppy playing, ridiculous shouting, and unrefined musical concepts, imagining he was making some sort of point. Really, now. Personally, we’ve always considered that tune a genuine jazz epic, a propulsive widescreen musical panorama, like an Afrocentric Lawrence of Arabia — but on fast-forward!

The way Mtume combines spoken word, comping piano, percolating polyrhythms, surging horns, testifying backing vocals, and even the interjections from the audience at Brooklyn’s The East is totally immersive. It practically feels four-dimensional! And then there’s the heavy-hitting personnel listed on the back of the record. Just reciting those names is a sort of music all by itself.

The 18 minutes go by in a flash. Well, usually. When there’s not some fool carping at your record player every couple of minutes. It reminds us of McCoy Tyner’s “Sahara,” how the different movements fit together in ways that are equally elegant and visceral. But then we guess your new beau was too so-called sophisticated to appreciate the rawness. No doubt he even missed the nuances of Mtume’s rejection of the word jazz (“or some other irrelevant term”) on the album’s opening invocation.

Okay, so maybe we are just talking about the Mtume record. But do you really want to date someone with such terrible taste? Someone who can’t appreciate brilliant and soulful music? The guy is plainly lacking something fundamental. It reminds us of that John Waters quote: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!”

It sounds corny, but you can do better. And if you don’t believe us, just give this track another spin and hear the plain truth for yourself.

The boys from D:O


Category Mtume