Various New Thing

Right away, the new Soul Jazz comp TKOs itself. As they quite rightly point out, the "New Thing” is more correctly applied to the energy music of free or collective improvisation of the ’60s and ’70s. Some of this music had grooves behind it, such as Joe McPhee and Luther Thomas, but usually these moments would be fleeting. New Thing appeals more to the fans of their Strata-East reissues. There is lots of funk bent out of shape by novel sounds and arrangements with a spacey looseness to them. Malauwi’s "Street Rap” is just that, a kaleidoscope of crowd noise over a fatback beat with massed horns in the background and The Art Ensemble’s "Funky AECO” may be the funkiest track ever released on ECM. Alice Coltrane’s version of "A Love Supreme” is almost an antithesis of the New Thing with its baroque strings, but after the spiritual noodlery of the first five minutes, it lays down a nasty groove. Amina Claudine Myers’ "Have Mercy Upon Us” is the penultimate track: 11 minutes of Keith Emerson-like organ over a tom-driven 6/8 groove. This is a great representation of the jazz sensibility for which Soul Jazz is famous, but as with all their jazz collections, their mandate to groove misrepresents the full spectrum of some of the artists compiled. As an introduction and a celebration of these great artists’ funkier moments, it’s well worth getting. (Soul Jazz)