GARY BARTZ: LIBRA and ANOTHER EARTH !
Technical Note: all rips from here on are from a system now run entirely on “balanced mains”. If you are not familiar with the concept of balanced mains (120/120v instead of 240/0v) check it out. It is one of the biggest improvements you could make to the performance of your HI Fi)
Jimmy Owens (trumpet) Gary Bartz (alto) Albert Dailey (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) recorded May 31 and June 15, 1967, Plaza Sound Studios NYC, engineer Elvin Campbell.
Bartz 1967 debut as leader, Libra is a veritable potpourri of styles, some fairly straight ahead, some post bop, a hat tip to the avant-guard but nothing exceptionally advanced. Albert Dailey I didn’t know but has sparkling piano chops, Richard Davis marvellous walking bass descents from the upper register keeping the rhythm section in the foreground, with Billy Higgins flow of accents around the beat peppering the flow. A hugely likeable album. with a few signposts as to what was to follow.
Vinyl: Milestone MSP 9006 Second pressing (early ’70s) by Fantasy Records.
Sorry, not the original, I haven’t happened on one, but this is probably close enough. It’s still vintage vinyl. GARY BARTZ: SECOND HELPING!! Another Earth… main course, one whole side, 23 minutes, to share… Selection: Another Earth (long! 23 minutes! Pharoah Sanders!)
Normally I wouldn’t use up bandwith this way, 23 minutes at 320kbps MP3 is a monster, but it is the best piece of the album, some things take time, and I don’t have any other Pharoah Sanders posted up and this is the only on this track, and there is a good bit towards the end, so I didn’t want to fade it out at a crucial moment. (Not only that, I don’t actually know how to do a fade in Audacity)
Charles Tolliver (trumpet) Gary Bartz (alto saxophone) Pharoah Sanders (tenor saxophone) Stanley Cowell (piano) Reggie Workman (bass) Freddie Waits (drums) recorded NYC, June 19 & 25, 1968
Sanders at his most restrained, hoarse throaty bursts like a six-litre Ferrari engine revving up, perfect counterpoint to Bartz’s linear winding nasal melodic explorations. Everybody gets time here to stretch out, the perfect antidote to the three and a half minute single. Sofas are made for this.
Gatefold cover: hi-res readable 3600 x1800 px
Gatefolds are a delight. Not only do they have the appeal of arm-sized artwork, you have a double helping within of period black and white artist scene-setting, anchors the music to the event of its creation. Faces, music, hearing and seeing, but just enough without taking over from the music. No “video-vamp” as happens, where the images become the focus of attention and the music becomes the side-order. This is vinyl sound, pure and simple.
Vinyl: Cover – a beauty, laminated gatefold, who wouldn’t want this? Some of the early Joe Henderson like Tetragon had similarly hi-gloss laminated covers. They are of course impossible to photograph without picking up some lighting glare. Black gloss is impossible to shoot.
Milestone pressing plant unidentified – contract pressing from the reference “(MILESTONE”) and side B-1 a second master.
Cultural notes: view from a ’60s casual bystander
I missed spiritual jazz the first time around. I was busy doing other things, typical London British teenager at the time. No matter, it sounds better second time around (certainly better than on my student-budget Ferguson portable stereo record player) Bartz holds up well forty years later.
Themes of America in the late 60’s: spirituality and mysticism. Space, Infinity (very big Space) , Infinite Space (later for Nintendo), The Creator’s Masterplan, Star-signs of the Zodiac, a preoccupation with other-worldliness possibly reflecting a dissatisfaction with this world – anti-war, civil rights, and the high cost of getting high.
Spiritual jazz set out its travel plan, though the largely student audiences of 1969 had other destinations in mind: Planet Woodstock. Three weeks before Woodstock, on 21st July 1969, the first man walked on the moon. Actually walking on the moon may have been an overwhelming scientific achievement, but had little traction with those who had more ambitious plans in mind, like Infinity, an existential journey, not to be confused with a real one via Cape Canaveral.
Bartz kept McCoy Tyner company on a similar astral plane journeys, on his ’70’s titles Expansions, Cosmos and Extensions.. He rang up considerable mileage travelling the ’70s and 80’s through Afro- jazz soul funk fusion, NTU Troop, (Bantu for unity in all things, time and space. I can’t argue with that, though without getting political, there are some things I wouldn’t wish to be united with. Too picky?)
More recently Bartz has returned to his post-bop home territory, where he continues to record in a more lyrical and earthly direction, his latest release:Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Music Warrior (2012) Below, Bartz, still sporting his trademark afro full head of hair only a shade lighter, pictured here in concert in 2012 with McCoy Tyner, possibly Christian McBride on bass? Good that musicians like Bartz are still here, producing music with a direct line to the heritage of fifty years, but doing it today. Good also that the music they created nearly fifty years ago can be heard sounding as fresh as yesterday on vintage vinyl.