Best known as the organist with jazz collective Snarky Puppy, Bobby Sparks II released a particularly grand solo debut with ‘Schizophrenia: The Yang Project’ in 2018. A lengthy two disc affair, the album took in elements of jazz, funk, pop, soul and rap to create a listen that was varied, but eventually uncovered a selection of tracks that – depending on where you dropped the needle – could appeal to heavy jazz fusionists, lovers of Herbie Hancock’s dance oriented 90s releases, those on a nostalgia trip with an old Arrested Development album, or even a few Prince fans.
Back in those pre-internet years, it was often difficult to hear really rare albums. There were a whole world of psych, jazz rock and proto-hard rock LPs that were regularly mentioned in Record Collector magazine that seemed shrouded in mystery. Often issued on the Philips, Deram, Major Minor and Vertigo labels, discs by Head Machine, Elias Hulk, The Open Mind and Second Hand – all now available on CD – were almost the vinyl collector’s equivalent of the Holy Grail.
Another such disc, the one and only album by Affinity, was another highly praised gem from the dawn of the 70s that, at one time, seemed destined to languish in the hazy, distant past. In the mid 90s, a decent vinyl pressing could fetch £40-£50; hardly an impulse purchase, should you stumble across one. A CD repressing from Repertoire Records in 1993 finally meant the album became accessible to an audience who missed the band during their brief lifetime, but a lack of UK release meant this disc was almost as elusive. It wasn’t until 2002 that the Affinity LP was given a long overdue CD release on home turf, but that eagerly awaited edition on Angel Air Records was sourced from under par materials.
Along with Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan was one of the jazz musicians from the sixties who could often be relied upon for a strong melodic root. His albums ‘The Sidewinder’ and ‘The Rumproller’ are considered classics for a reason, and even when digging a little further into his work, ‘Candy’ (1957) and ‘Lee-Way’ (1960) are just as chock-full of great and accessible material. Miles Davis might get most of the credit when it comes to classic jazz trumpeters, but most of Morgan’s albums are just as rich. The bulk of his studio work is terrific, very much something jazz novices should gravitate towards after exhausting the usual routes.
In September 2020, Greek musician James Basdanis released his ‘Diddycoy’ EP. The short release was a welcome piece of jazz fusion that also took in elements of rock and funk to give it occasional prog leanings. [You can read a full review here.]
For this Bandcamp Friday, James has a gift for a lucky few. He’s shared a few download codes for a free copy.
A rattle; a cranking sound that suggests revving; muted guitar sounds set against an ominous quiet… At the outset of this EP from fusion musician James Basdanis, things start so disjointedly they give no obvious clue as to where the music will go. After a little more gearing up, Basdanis turns out a few jazzy guitar notes in a melody that strongly suggests a Mediterranean slant, but this isn’t obviously something a world music buff might gravitate towards. Nor is it especially “jazz” in the most traditional sense, but certainly takes in elements of both. Hearing it for the first time, the slow, unfolding melody suggests something from the Frank Gambale back-cat mangled with glee by a Les Claypool project.