Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

May 16, 2020

upcoming Bill Shute reviews for Ugly Things #54

I’ll have four pieces in the new issue of UGLY THINGS, #54, down from my usual number as there have not been a lot of new releases in recent months—-I’d guess the review section of the mag will be a bit shorter and there will be a higher percentage of feature stories in the magazine. And with the passing of Pretty Things main-man PHIL MAY yesterday, I’m sure a piece on this great man (and inspiration for the magazine itself!) will be a cornerstone of issue #54.

Anyway, here are the four albums (two of them multi-disc sets) you can expect from me in the next issue:

serge UT

SERGE GAINSBOURG, “En Studio Avec Serge Gainsbourg” (Mercury, France, 3-cd box), 30 years of fascinating out-takes and obscurities from the master, also including his compositions performed by others, his productions, his film soundtracks, etc.

Template 114 6Panel Wallet with Large Thumb Notches

THE GEMTONES, “Complete Recordings” (Super Oldies, 2-cd set), 52 songs from the early-to-mid 60’s by this wonderful rock-and-roll combo from New Brunswick, Canada, who were also popular in Quebec. Their sound will appeal to fans of, say, The Astronauts or the upper-Midwest bands who recorded on labels like Soma or Cuca.

london american UT

THE LONDON-AMERICAN LABEL, YEAR BY YEAR: 1967 (Ace UK) London-American was the UK outlet for release of American recordings from independent labels who were not part of an international conglomerate that would have its own UK branch, so many of the great rock and roll records from Swan, Jamie, Challenge and the like would come out in the UK on London-American. Surprisingly, they were still at it in 1967, and this mid-blowing assemblage of material from artists as diverse as The Critters, Guy Mitchell, Fantastic Johnny C, The Association, The Knickerbockers, pre-Monkees Micky Dolenz, pre-Atlantic Wilson Pickett, Roy Orbison, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Charlie Rich, Mel Tillis, and The Fallen Angels will certainly be the most diverse compilation of the year. A unique spin on 1967!

spiritual jazz 11 UT

SPIRITUAL JAZZ 11: STEEPLECHASE RECORDS (Jazzman UK),  I reviewed Volume 10 of this wonderful series, dedicated to Prestige Records, here on the KSE blog (just do a search for it), and I’ll probably review Volume 9, a 2-cd set devoted to Blue Note, later this summer, but Volume 11 was so good and such a surprise that I wanted my review to reach a wider audience, and UT editor Mike Stax kindly allowed me to review it there, where it will reach many more readers than something posted here would. The Danish STEEPLECHASE label is perhaps best-known for its association with Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker (the Chet Baker-Paul Bley duo album on Steeplechase is probably one of my 10 favorite albums of all time), but they gave an outlet to all kinds of American jazz creative-spirits at a time when many other labels weren’t interested, and many of those artists had a foot (or both feet) in the kind of “esoteric, modal and deep jazz” this series is out to document….also, label head Nils Winther, who should get some kind of lifetime achievement award for his amazing commitment to jazz over a 50 year period, ALWAYS gave the artists free rein, welcoming those passion projects the artists had been itching to do for years, but never had the outlet for. Artists include Mary Lou Williams, Billy Gault, Sam Jones, Rene McLean, Jim McNeely, Johnny Dyani with John Tchicai & Dudu Pukwana, Ken McIntyre, Khan Jamal, Michael Carvin, and Jackie McLean.


UGLY THINGS is now in its 37th year under the visionary leadership of editor-publisher MIKE STAX, and I’m proud to say I’ve been onboard as a writer since the early days of the magazine (issue 2 perhaps? if not, somewhere around then). I faded out for some periods as life got in the way, but I would come back again, and now I’ve been there without fail for the last decade or so. Pretty much everyone reading this will know and probably already love UGLY THINGS, but in case it’s new or unfamiliar to you, go to the website and order an issue or two (it’s entirely a print magazine–no online version–although there are usually a few tidbits put online as a sample–presently my review of the biography of BILL HALEY by Bill Haley, Jr. is available on the front page for your reading pleasure:

Bill Shute review of the book CRAZY MAN CRAZY: THE BILL HALEY STORY

January 30, 2020


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  • 1. Ahmed Abdul-Malik – Song Of Delilah
  • 2. Roy Haynes – Dorian
  • 3. Latin Jazz Quintet – Rip A Dip
  • 4. Roy Haynes – Modette
  • 5. Walt Dickerson – Death & Taxes
  • 6. Yusef Lateef – Love Theme From Spartacus
  • 7. Moondog – Organ Rounds
  • 8. Ahmed Abdul-Malik – Summertime
  • 9. Mal Waldron – Warm Canto
  • 10. Idris Muhammad – Peace
  • 11. Gary Bartz – I’ve Known Rivers


I haven’t taken the plunge with any of Jazzman’s previous 9 volumes of “Spiritual Jazz”—-they’ve been on my “wait for the price to go down on these” list—-but as a fan of Prestige Records since my boyhood days of finding Prestige LP’s at used record stores in the early 70’s, I had to grab this one immediately, and I’m glad I did. Now I’m going to more aggressively search for the previous volumes….

Most of us probably associate the term SPIRITUAL JAZZ with labels such as Black Jazz or Strata East, and it’s a relatively broad term, which could refer to overtly spiritual music in the vein of Alice Coltrane, to more primal works such as those of Pharaoh Sanders, to anything with an Afro-Centric or Eastern vibe. The Art Ensemble of Chicago could be called by the term, and even some of the grungy, small-label funk 45’s from the 68-73 period (the kind of thing collected on old “Soul Patrol” albums….after all, some of those had the subtitle “the undisputed Black Mind Power”) could be put into that arena, although not “jazz” by the usual standard. In hindsight, that was a significant movement, allowing the 60’s-inspired cultural exploration of African roots and the Black aesthetic to flower in new and exciting ways that were often rooted in community activism, multi-cultural education, etc. (although we tend to think of Afro-centric things as Spiritual Jazz, the Jazzman series wisely includes volumes from European and Japanese artists too, showing the movement can take root and inspire people anywhere, and also, if something like PAUL HORN IN INDIA can’t be included as Spiritual Jazz, what can?).

Prestige certainly released a number of albums in that vein, and tracks from two of them end this album, one by drummer IDRIS MUHAMMAD, and one by saxophonist GARY BARTZ’s NTU TROOP (I remember both of those artists getting a good amount of airplay when I was involved in jazz radio in the mid-to-late 70’s). However, what makes this album quite special and unique is that the other 8 tracks are all earlier material, mostly from the 1950’s. In a way, it could be called ROOTS OF SPIRITUAL JAZZ, and the way it surveys “exotic” tracks from the 1950’s, moves into the early 60’s with MAL WALDRON (always a man who followed his own unique aesthetic that did not fit into any established category), and then fully blossoms in the early 70’s with MUHAMMAD and BARTZ truly shows the evolution of this kind of “deep” jazz.

Before I start dropping the term “modal” around, perhaps I should provide a link to a short tutorial about the modal approach:


Basically, this collection goes back to the 1950’s and looks at artists such as Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Yusef Lateef who were early exponents of Middle Eastern/African/Islamic elements in jazz (and at the time, I’d imagine people would have viewed this kind of jazz as a cousin to Exotica) as well as folks like drummer Roy Haynes (always ahead of the curve) or vibist Walt Dickerson or pianist-composer Mal Waldron who anticipate modal jazz, throw in a few left-field entries that foreshadow later movements in jazz, and wind up in the early 70’s with what most of us would think of as “Spiritual Jazz.” It’s a wonderful trip full of not-too-common tracks from Prestige, and I highly recommend this volume….in fact, come payday, I think I’ll be picking up a few of the other volumes in this series.

I also have to compliment the wonderfully insightful liner notes of Francis Gooding (Jazzman Records has always set a high standard for the depth and diversity of their compilations as well as first-rate documentation/notes). As someone who prefers Prestige Records to Blue Note (not that I don’t love Blue Note), I appreciate Gooding making that case better than I could. Prestige was a low-budget, spontaneous, jam-oriented label, and in that was its uniqueness and greatness. When I started the KSE label, Prestige’s Bob Weinstock was a hero and model to me (although I do not have his skills in options trading and investments….if only I did!).

If this review makes the album sound at all appealing to you, then you should probably find a copy ASAP. It has a wonderful flow, the sound quality is sparkling, and notes are informative and get you making valuable connections, and any collection that champions PRESTIGE RECORDS is something I want to get behind.

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