PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Harlem Bush Music - Uhuru

Stepping out on his own with the NTU Troop, saxophonist Gary Bartz delivered an empowering declarative opening statement of purpose with 1971’s Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru.


Gary Bartz NTU Troop

Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru

Label: Milestone
US Release Date: 2017-07-28
UK Release Date: 2017-07-28
Amazon
iTunes

Originally released in 1971, Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru marked the first recorded studio appearance (the year before they’d released the live Home!) of saxophonist Gary Bartz’s newly christened NTU Troop. Here Bartz was able to parlay his newly-acquired, open-minded approach to the possibilities of jazz from having spent time in Miles Davis’ revolutionary fusion groups into his own unique take on the form. Moving away from straight-ahead jazz, Bartz and the NTU Troop borrowed elements from the mainstream -- and underground -- popular music to create a sound at once both jazz and socially-conscious R&B. The latter comes in the form of vocalist Andy Bey’s contributions to the album.

Having been previously paired with Harlem Bush Music – Taifa as simply Harlem Bush Music, this vinyl reissue returns the music to its original context, allowing for modern listeners to consume the music as it was originally intended. And while nearly anything from Bartz (with or without the NTU Troop) is well worth seeking out, it’s nice to have this early ‘70s gem back in its proper format and sequencing.

Opening with a stately, measured piano and drum figure, “Blue (A Folk Tale)” quickly sets the tone as Bey’s somewhat clipped vocal phrasing intones, “B-L-U-E / I’m blue as I can be / Can you get as blue, blue as me? / Won’t you join us and then you will see / What it means to be blue with me.” Taking the color analogy to the next, more socially aware level, he practically moans, “B-L-A-C-K / I’m black, and I’m blue / I’m not blue because I’m black / I’m blue ‘cause I’m me.” It’s a brief glimmer of the structurally recognizable before the track breaks down to little more than Bartz wailing alto interspersed with assorted yips and yelps. Open-ended and free, it allows Bartz to show off his full range unfettered and within the more than 18-minute track's first few minutes.

Just over five minutes in, “Blue (A Folk Tale)” breaks into a sauntering, Latin-tinged R&B groove, Bey returning and restating his original couplets and taking on the Leon Thomas role to Bartz’s Pharoah Sanders. It is here they establish the sound that will become their calling card throughout the remainder of the album: an ostensibly jazz-indebted approach steeped in funk rhythms and R&B vocalizing. A steady, head-nodding groove, “Blue (A Folk Tale)” is a fine example of righteous spiritual jazz with plenty of fiery playing from Bartz. The closing moments tighten up just that much more, settling into a taut funk groove.

“Uhuru Sasa” lives and dies on Harold White’s wickedly funky drumming, his approach shuffling between “Funky Drummer”-style grooving and straight ahead jazz fills. Bey again returns with a powerful vocal performance, this time with lyrics strongly opposing the then still raging war in Vietnam (sample lyric: “Hell no / I won’t fight your battles no more”). Not quite as powerful an anti-war anthem as may have been intended, the music underscoring Bey’s words is gloriously funky and spirited, each player giving it their all in a manner just this side of free. As momentum builds, Bartz’s horn skitters and skips atop White and Ron Carter’s rock solid rhythm section, threatening to go off the rails while remaining firmly in control.

Somewhat surprisingly given the preceding track’s approach to the similar subject matter, “Vietcong” is a straight-ahead hard-bop number propelled by Nat Bettis’ percolating percussion. This dichotomy makes the underlining message -- one that skews strongly pro-Vietcong -- all the more impactful as Bey’s lyrics stand in sharp contrast to the cool feel put forth by the instrumentalists. Where before it was Bartz whose playing pushed the music into free territory and functioned as an incendiary device, here it is Bey taking the reins and pushing the words out with a force that dominates the simmering accompaniment.

The rest of the album is made up of R&B-tinged soul jazz made all the more so with Bey’s emotionally-charged vocals cutting through the mix. In all, Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru is an early triumph for Bartz as he began making a name for himself on his terms, separate from some of his more well-known former employers. These recordings offer a crucial piece of the puzzle for the years immediately following the release of Bitches Brew and the slow crawl towards insipid jazz-rock that fusion would soon become. Harlem Bush Music – Uhuru offers an excellent musical fusion in the truest sense of the word and is a welcome reissue in the seemingly endless line of reissues cropping up in the wake of vinyl’s mainstream resurgence.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.