Pure Jazz Magazine is a semi annual magazine featuring in depth Jazz stories, interviews plus other information you may find interesting. Based in Brooklyn, USA for the world.
--Malcolm X. Malcolm X ‘s impact on the masses of young black students growing up during the 60’s is evident in WINTER IN AMERICA (1974), as an enduring example of his touch. “We call ourselves Midnight because Midnight is the first minute of a new day. Winter is a metaphor…” very poetic… In 1974, WINTER IN AMERICA was released on the Strata-East label, and became an “underground classic”. Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell founded Strata-East in 1971. The label released over 50 albums in the 1970s. We called it “spiritual Jazz” due to the melodies, and the fade in, fade out, repeat of the opener, “Peace Go with you, brother.” His journey continued with, Rivers of My Fathers, A Very Precious Time, Back Home, The Bottle, Song for Bobby Smith, Your Daddy Loves You, and, Peace, Go With You, Brother, all Jazz tunes embellishing sentiments of love, rebirth, reflections, and renewal in addition to the humor in the spoken word piece, the H20gate Blues. Gil’s collaborator, and arranger, Brian Jackson, was also on flute, and piano, Bob Adams on drums, and Danny Bowens, guitar. Heron’s impressive rendition of, “I Think I’ll Call It Morning,” and his duet with Victor Brown, on “Must Be Something We Can Do” always received standing ovations at the live shows. This was due to the collective improvisation of vocals, piano riffs, drums, and percussion creating something beautiful in their sound. It remains a favorite liberation song, complete with the sax’s highlight, and chorus. Page 46 - Pure Jazz Magazine “There must be something we can do. Must be something we can do… We didn’t come all this way, just to give up…” “A Toast to the People” features Sunni- Ali on horns, the late “Doc” Barnett Williams on percussion, vocals by Victor Brown, and remains a touching melodic Jazz tributes to the ancestors. “Rivers of My Father’s piano, and vocal solo by Gil can be compared to, “I’ve known Rivers” by Langston Hughes. Thematically, and incorporeal there’s a connection. Wilfred Cartey wrote in Whispers of a Continent, a chapter entitled, “Separation of Mother and Child”- a definitive theme in Gil’s life, and song when sent to live with his grandmother. Perhaps this is in his version of Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands”. These tunes are the most beloved. On “A Very Precious Time” when we listen to it, we are hearing a piano solo, and words describing a first love, as uplifting as spring. So on the flip side, it’s also a misnomer to think Gil made only ‘protest songs.’ He wrote about nature (Lovely Day), he wrote about first love in “A Very Precious Time” an old favorite. Speaking of other artists who incorporated Jazz into their writing, we know Langston Hughes was also an inspiration to this up, and coming Black troubadour. Langston was a MASTER POET, who Gil met when he was younger. Brother Langston was bilingual, and wrote operas, short stories, plays, as well as poetry with Jazz. Among the favorites, his “I’ve Know Rivers” if put to music would sound very much like, “Rivers of My Father.” The political mood of WINTER IN AMERICA, PIECES OF A MAN, FREE WILL, and later SPIRITS, were all reflected in the arrangements of the tunes in full Jazz mode, and solidified Gil as an artist ahead of his time, and a poet for, and of, the people. ESSEX, and WESTERN SUNRISE was written by Bilal Sunni-Ali, and featured his distinct solo sax. Essex stings with the memory of Mark Essex. “Let me see what life will bring, let me see a further thing, Let me see the kings of old r ecrown themselves…” The dramatic impact of a dying young Black Navy Officer, one is a smiling serviceman’s photo, the other of him sprawled atop a New Orleans’ Howard Johnson’s roof, surrounded by a group of men who tore a hail of bullets into his body. The question then, as is the question now…. was this necessary? “See Mark Essex smile…” wrote brother Sunni-Ali. You feel Coltrane’s vibe when Bilal plays. In both tunes, Sunni- Ali invokes the courage of John Coltrane. During the Midnight Band days, as now, Bilal Sunni-Ali is known as “The Spirit of the Midnight Band”. FELL TOGETHER is an up-tempo, Latin/ Jazz flavor mix on the level with 17 th Street, with congas, and bells, and the improvisations continue… Other songs touched by the genre include- LADY DAY, AND JOHN COLTRANE, HOME IS WHERE THE HATRED IS, I THINK I’LL CALL IT MORNING, A LOVELY DAY, and by popular club re-
quest… IS THAT JAZZ? Gil absorbed these political/social upheavals most of us witnessed during this time. Our powerful ancestors shaped him. Fellow artists and others inspired his vision, especially, drummer Max Roach. Back In the 1970’s program directors wouldn’t play Gil, or Amiri Baraka, and the Spirit House Movers, Wanda Robinson, Camille Yarborough, and Oscar Brown, Jr., unless you tuned in to a progressive Jazz radio station. The music of these artists could NOT be found on urban radio stations, popular during the day, but now, he’s EVERYWHERE, and all is not good. The song, New Beginnings opens with the melodic ‘humming’ by Brian as he opens the song. But it is the sound of the fender Rhodes, as it became the signature mark of Heron’s Jazz, along with the drums, percussion, bass, flute, piano solo, and musicians who played, and they all stood out. Between the sounds of Jazz (and blues), growing up in Tennessee, and after moving to the Chelsea neighborhood at 12, Gil was surrounded by the elements of Jazz in all its raw beauty, and pain. 95 SOUTH (ALL OF THE PLACES WE’VE BEEN), and the most popular, WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT shared the title with the John G. Fuller book of the same published in 1975 recount the story of the nightmare nuclear meltdown in Monroe, MI at the Fermi Atomic Plant nearby in 1966. Credits include Sunni- Ali on Saxophone, Joe Blocker, drums, Danny Bowens, bass, Reggie Brisbane, drums, Tony Duncansen, percussion, Mario Henderson, guitar, Fred Payne, guitar, Delbert Taylor, trumpet, Barnett Williams, percussion, and Larry Fallon, was the arranger. A revised WE ALMOST LOST DE- TROIT, also featured Ed Brady on guitar, and Larry McDonald on percussion, begins with the fluid flow of Brady’s instrument. It’s highly featured throughout the song, and at various points there’s a call, and response between the wordsmith, and the player. Brady’s soulful guitar riffs cascade higher as the urgency in the singer’s voice rises. He’s GENTLY breaking news of potential nuclear disaster, so close. Gil called out the facts, and Ed’s guitar answers with melodic ‘wa, wa’ sound call, and response. Give credit to Gil’s drummer, Tony Green who introduced both Ed Brady, and Robbie Gordon to him. Also, Larry McDonald’s percussion solo impressed with the ancient energy felt. Ed Brady’s style of playing, as well as Robbie Gordon, is reminiscent of the late Jimi Hendrix. © Copyright Fikisha Cumbo ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Their artistic input on these compositions continue to stand out on wax to millions as we ask this question… “How would we ever get over losing our minds?” ANGEL DUST came out with flute solos, and heavy horns, pacing evenly with the poem while the flute plays as a bird chirping for air. INNER CITY BLUES is another example of Gil’s Jazz interpretation of Marvin’s masterpiece. The screaming saxophone solo, here is Carl Cornwell on tenor, Ed Brady, guitar, Robbie Gordon, bass, Vernon James, composer, flute, sax (alto), sax (soprano), with his late brother, Denis Heron as Production Assistant; Clydene Jackson, and Lydene Jackson, vocals (background) and Malcolm Cecil, Producer. “Make me wannna holler, throw up both of my hands…” On BRIDGES, critics cited Heron’s coming into his own as a Jazz singer, and less on the poetry. 17 th Street, Trane, and group arrangements with “Must Be Something”, and “Home Is Where the Hatred is,” have been rerecorded, and musicians credited with their individual input. Even the song GUN, in comparison to the events of the 21 st century mass shootings, he demonstrated vision, and clairvoyance in the music. GUN, brought to you by the NRA. Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 47