Idris Muhammad – Black Rhythm Revolution! – Jazz Dispensary

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Idris Muhammad – Black Rhythm Revolution! – Prestige / VMP / Jazz Dispensary #CR00353 – 1971 – 180 gm blue swirl vinyl  ****1/2

(Idris Muhammad – drums; Virgil Jones – trumpet; Clarence Thomas – tenor and soprano sax; Harold Mabern – electric piano; Melvin Sparks – electric guitar; Jimmy Lewis – fender bass; Buddy Caldwell – congas)

It is a real treat to experience the debut album of the master drummer, Idris Muhammad, once again. When it was released in 1971, Black Rhythm Revolution!, Idris was already well known in the R & B world, both as a session drummer, and as a musical director for Jerry Butler, and then Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. In the mid 60s, Muhammad crossed over into jazz, where he remained for the rest of his career. His forte remained firmly as a highly rhythmic drummer, whether it be in acid/ soul jazz, or exploring African beats with Pharoah Sanders, Randy Weston, or Ahmad Jamal.

Idris was born Leo Morris, and was raised in New Orleans, where its musical stew inspired him to turn professional as a young teen. He converted to Islam in the 1960s, and took the name, Idris Muhammad.

Spending extended time with Lou Donaldson (12 albums), his reputation as a soulful drummer, carried him in good stead, where his stick work and poly rhythms fit right in with the emerging “acid” jazz genre that became the rage. It centered around electric guitar, fender bass, tenor sax, and often times, Hammond B3 organ.

Idris Muhammad Black Rhythm Revolution Blue VinylThe boutique labels, Vinyl Me Please (VMP) and Jazz Dispensary, subsidiaries of Concord Records, are releasing some of the best music of that period on gorgeous swirl 180 gm vinyl in limited editions. Limited to 1000 copies, foil stamped and numbered, they are collectors’ items, and worth their premium price for hard core fans of under the radar artists, who are now being rediscovered by a new fan base. Idris certainly fits into that demographic, as he has been sampled by rappers for years for his funky breaks. He’s the real deal…

The grooves Idris brought in 1971 were addictive, and have aged well today. On this album, he mixes both hits of the day (“Express Yourself,” and James Brown’s hit, “Super Bad”), as well as two modal tracks on Side B, “Wander” and “By the Sea.” which branch out from soul jazz to encompass fusion, African beat, and a taste of electronic jazz. The one constant throughout is Idris’ mastery of syncopation, and a steady driving beat. The tracks were arranged by saxophonist, Clarence Thomas, who also hailed from New Orleans. Solos are provided primarily to Thomas, and ace guitarist, Melvin Sparks, which fit right into the genre of the day for soul/acid jazz releases.

“Express Yourself,” made into a hit by the Watts103rd Band, is given a righteous run with the horns swinging off the theme. Snapping your fingers right along is almost a necessity. Muhammad’s skills are on full display on “Soulful Drums,” while “Super Bad” is chock full of funky treats.

“Wander,” written by Idris for his daughter, features tuned tom-tom drums, in a modal arrangement, that gives the horns some space, and at eleven minutes, room for everyone to stretch out. The closer, “By the Red Sea,” brings an African vibe complete with ceremonial log drums from New Guinea, as well as Thomas’ soprano sax, which channels Pharoah Sanders. (Idris played with Sanders on six albums in his career.)

This release will please fans of acid jazz, as well as those who want to add to their collection of vintage funk albums, from a drummer who is recognized to be a master of his craft. The blue swirl vinyl and superb remastered acoustics just sweeten the pot…

Tracklist:
Side A:
Express Yourself (5:30)
Soulful Drums (4:35)
Super Bad (5:25)

Side B:
Wander (11:05)
By the Red Sea (8:55)

—Jeff Krow

For more information, please visit Vinyl Me Please website:

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