[8 December 2009]
Spiritual jazz was perhaps the ideological opposite of the self-destructive motions of free jazz. Rather than obliterate the self, it sought to link in body and spirit with others. Spiritual Jazz, which holds the surname Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz From the Underground 1968-1977, stresses this globalism and represents it not only through Westerners looking outward, but outsiders looking in. Artists like Sengalese percussionist Mor Thiam, Egyptian military bandleader Salah Ragab, and South African Ndikho Xaba (whose group the Natives refers to the Americans in the band, flipping the Orientalist perspective on its head) found themselves more than willing to bridge cultural barriers by adapting a shared sonic language.
As a result of a DIY aesthetic, the musicians who made this incredible music seem nearly as interesting as the tunes themselves. The folkloric liner notes themselves are worth the price of the CD to learn about which artists met after one of them escaped from prison or which one played for Richard Nixon. With the odds against them, it’s frankly inspirational that we’re still listening to them today. It’s like they had some force, beyond archival and excavational ones, ushering them into the modern world. You could call it God or simply the power of some seriously groovy music. Perhaps they’re even the same thing. Either way, it’s us who are blessed for this music’s continued presence. Spiritual jazz isn’t for everyone, but this collection is the perfect fit for anyone who fancies the genre.