Cecil McBee Sextet – Music From The Source – Enja Records ENJA 3019 (1977)/Pure Pleasure Records (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 43:67 ****1/2:
A great vinyl upgrade from Pure Pleasure Records shines a light on spiritual jazz from the 70’s.
(Chico Freeman – tenor saxophone, flute; Joe Gordon – trumpet, flugelhorn; Dennis Moorman – piano; Cecil McBee – double bass; Steve McCall – drums; Don Moye – conga)
Double bassist and Oklahoma native Cecil McBee has enjoyed a brilliant career as a sideman and occasional band leader. He has played with Dinah Wahington, Paul Winter, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard and Charles Lloyd. Many of the groups he has played with have recorded and performed his compositions. He is a regular member of Saxophone Summit and The Cookers. As with other jazz artists, McBee is actively involved with teaching, most notably as a Distinguished Professor Of Improvisation at The New England Conservatory in Boston. Additionally, he has taught master classes at Harvard University.
Pure Pleasure Records has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of Cecil McBee’s 1977 release with Enja Records, Music From The Source. This artistic sextet interact with complex and moody textures in a live set, featuring extended jams (only three songs on the album) to create deep spiritual jazz. There are many exotic motifs expressed on the lone Side A track, “Agnez”. After an ethereal opening with a nimble McBee double bass solo, the group picks up steam at the 3:44 mark with Moorman and the rhythm section in the pocket. Chico Freeman’s passionate tenor play helps to articulate the hard-edged Afro-Cuban polyrhythms. Freeman pushes the tonal boundaries and the musical intensity increases. Don Moye shines on conga adding texture and flexible timing on his lengthy solo. Both Freeman and trumpeter Joe Gordon display innate chemistry. Pianist Dennis Moorman uses the bass notes to bring the song to a hushed close. His quiet elegance opens “God Spirit”. Utilizing sparse phrasing and notation, there is an eventual uplifting shift with arpeggios and flowing resonance. Then Gordon injects delicate, melodic horn runs that mesh well. His play complements the airy dynamics of the track. McBee’s double bass solo is compelling and enhances the atmospheric modality.
In what feels like bebop, the finale (“First Song In The Day”) showcases a tighter arrangement. Freeman’s crisp inflection and fluid runs permeate the energetic performance with hard-driving drum work from Steve McCall. There are occasional piercing tones that add to the freneticism and color. Gordon slides in on trumpet with equal ferocity and punctuated accents. McBee, Moorman, McCall and Moye combine for an unrelenting tempo. They also integrate smoother exchanges. Moorman delivers a soulful piano with spirited chording and exuberance. The final solo goes to McBee as he combines speed and lyrical finesse on bass. The sextet finishes with palpable free jazz aesthetics.
Pure Pleasure Records continues its stellar tradition of re-mastering obscure jazz label releases to 180-gram vinyl. This overall mix is vibrant and cleaner with most ambient live “noise” eliminated. The stereo separation is excellent.
Side A: Agnez
Side B: God Spirit; First Song In The Day.