Various artists | Spiritual Jazz: Esoteric, Modal, and Deep Jazz from the Underground, 1968-1977

Jazzman (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  April 21, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars


Apple-pie Mormon missionaries the Millers travel through Iran to spread the gospel of Joseph Smith among Muslims and Zoroastrians, and their kid discovers the glorious sound of the santur, the ancient Persian string instrument that can soundtrack both prayer and the unsimulated sex scene between Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg in Performance.

Fast-forward to 1968 Salt Like City, where Lloyd Miller releases a daft-looking LP called Oriental Jazz on a tiny label. Fast-forward again to the current era of archæological crate digging and behold the santur jazz fusion gem that is "Gol-e Gandam," lovingly culled from that rare LP and set among other jewels of what the liner notes describe as "micro-scenes and local collectives, and a proliferation of tiny labels and hand-distributed records."

Think of Spiritual Jazz as the equivalent of what the Numero Group are doing for obscure soul, but aimed at the musical heirs of John Coltrane and Sun Ra, jazz seekers with one eye on the spirit and another pointed toward Africa and Asia. The compilers find common ground in such disparate acts as teenage prodigy P. E. Hewitt's "Bada Que Bash" (Latin dance music from the Afrofuturists' Saturn), Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam (recorded in Missouri! with Lester Bowie on trumpet!), and the Cairo Jazz Band — an unlikely collaboration of local musicians, German diplomats into weird jazz, and the Egyptian Army.
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