Friday, February 24, 2006
Cecil McBee - Mutima
Strata East SES 7417
1. From Within
2. Voice Of The 7th Angel
3. Life Waves
2. A Feeling
3. Tulsa Black
CECIL McBEE; bass
JIMMY HOPPS; drums
ONAJE ALLEN GUMBS; acoustic and electric piano
LAWRENCE KILLIAN; conga
DEEDEE BRIDGEWATER; vocal
GEORGE ADAMS; tenor and soprano sax
CECIL McBEE Jr; electric bass
MICHAEL CARVIN; gong and misc. percussion
JABOLI BILLY HART; cymbals and misc. percussion
TEX ALLEN; trumpet & flugelhorn
ALLEN BRAUFMAN; alto sax
ART WEBB; flute
ALLEN NELSON; drums
The bass has always been an essential component of the jazz rhythm section, simultaneously holding down the groove while marking out the changes. Bassists of the hard-bop era often got little in the way of solo space (they were too important to be allowed to wander off by themselves) but throughout the 1960s and 70s, perhaps thanks to the gargantuan presence of Charles Mingus, they began to take a more prominent role. Several highly influential figures appeared, like Ron Carter and Dave Holland along with many others. Cecil McBee is perhaps less well-known, but equally talented, having played on seminal works by the likes of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.
This album finds him firmly placed as leader of an avant-garde group with a distinctly spiritual edge. Mutima is the key to the spirit and culture of black Africa, according to the sleevenote; McBee's compositions certainly evoke that spirit. The music is at times inspirational. The opening "From Within" is a bass solo with McBee playing two acoustic basses simultaneously. The idea of an 11-plus minute bass solo may terrify some, but this is riveting. Not only does he play the basses, but for a section he plays the feedback created by the amplification of both instruments. The sounds he creates are otherworldly and exciting, and not always easy to identify as being produced by an upright bass. "Life Waves" is an ensemble piece, but with McBee taking a prominent melodic role, and demonstrating enormous technical skill with some very fast lines.
The other standout track is "Mutima" itself, which is virtually indistinguishable from some of the work McBee undertook with Pharoah Sanders a few years earlier. Most Strata East recordings are pretty hard to come by, but thankfully this one has been made available as a reissue in recent years (although only on vinyl) so should be pretty easy to track down.