Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Malcolm X Memorial (A Tribute in Music)

Ever since his time with Sun Ra's Arkestra during the late fifties and early sixties, Phil Cohran has been one of the leading artists when it's comes to the overall exploration of spiritualism and artistic expressionism in jazz. After Sun Ra moved east in 1961, Cohran stayed in Chicago and helped establish the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), a non-profit musician based organization that featured, at the time, some of jazz music's most creative artists including Art Ensemble of Chicago, Jack DeJohnette, Anthony Braxton, Chico Freeman, Muhal Richard Abrams and many others. During this same time, Cohran and his group, The Artistic Heritage Ensemble, released a number of landmark recordings on his own Zulu Records including On The Beach (1967), The Spanish Suite (1968), Armageddon (1968), a number of limited 45 singles, as well as one of my favorite spiritual jazz recordings titled The Malcolm X Memorial (A Tribute in Music) in 1968.

As the record's title suggests, The Malcolm X Memorial album is a conceptual tribute piece for the late Malcolm X. Each piece of the 4-song tribute suite focuses on a different period of Malcolm's life, with titles that include "Malcolm Little", "Detroit Red", "Malcolm X", and "El Hajj Malik El Shabazz". The recording has an overall spiritual, yet righteous groove that tends to build from one track to the next, featuring a heavy dose of exotic percussion and horn passages. The original release of the record was was put out by Cohran himself, and was limited to only 1,000 copies. The record has recently been made more available with the help of Mississippi Records, who released a reissued version of the album a few years ago. In all, this brilliant tribute is arguably one of Philip Cohran's greatest recorded works as both a musician and a band leader.

Philip Cohran & TAH Ensemble - Malcolm X

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