Thursday, June 07, 2012

Here's something worth blabbin' about: a rerelease of a deep, spiritual jazz rarity from, of all places, Atlanta, Georgia. I first heard a track from this on the radio a couple of months back when I was on a work-related car trip. The track in question hit me hard (it's posted below): I had to hear the back-announcement so I could get a handle on who it was. It sounded like it must've come from the early '70s, probably self-released and arriving at that moment in history when black self-empowerment saw a rise in excellent black-owned indies releasing all kinds of one-off, strange and unique releases in the jazz, soul & funks fields. You know the deal. The DJ made the announcement: it was the seven-piece outfit known as Azanyah, from their recently-reissued album, The One, put out by the UK imprint, Jazzman. Jazzman, as you may or may not know (or care), are the label responsible for my fave reissue of the year thus far, Spiritual Jazz 2: Esoteric, Modal and Deep Jazz From The European Underground 1960-1978 (I reviewed it here a few months back), so I knew I had to get my mitts on this one. And that I did. One of the oddest things about Azanyah is the fact that their sole self-released LP was recorded and issued in the year 1987. What the hell were you doing in 1987?? Listening to Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets?! Yeah, me too. But I sure as shit wasn't aware of this kinda noise. More than that, I never woulda thought that this kinda released was still being made at the time. The One sounds like it came out of a 1972 timewarp, and it's all the better for it. Led by Jamaican-born/London-raised bass player, Amaniji Azanyah, and featuring the instrumentation of bass/drum/sax/flute/congas/drums/vocals/guitar, they cut out a mean, lo-fi groove which is deeply indebted to the greats of the genre - Pharoah Sanders, John/Alice Coltrane & Don Cherry - and stuck it right in the midst of Reagan-era America. The religious bent is heavy, as you can tell by the title track, but heavy-duty God-bothering is required in this field of sound and that sits well w/ me. There's 6 long tracks here, two of 'em over 10 minutes, and there's not a dud in the lot. This is not ecstatic free jazz burning a fire in your soul, it's deep modal sounds w/ plenty of layers to peel and the perfect late-night listen. The liner notes tell the fascinating story of the band, a group trying to etch out their own scene in a world which didn't give a shit at the time and in a community which was beholden to all things hip-hop, and their tenacity is your reward. They pressed up 500 copies of the original LP and you'd probably live on pasta for a month to pay for it. Take the cheaper option and get the LP/CD reissue before Jazzman decides to take it off the market, too (a practice they seem to be frustratingly fond of). If you want to hear an '80s disc totally out of its time and you dig the '60s/'70s gods Azanyah were obviously bowing down to, then The One is your ticket. One of 2012's best discoveries.

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