David Virelles is a young (31 years old), Cuban-Canadian pianist now based in Brooklyn; he’s made a distinct impression as a member of saxophonist Mark Turner’s quartet in recent years. (Have a listen to this 2011 set from the Village Vanguard, broadcast on NPR, and hear for yourself.) Virelles’s new ECM Records release Ḿbókò is a conceptually ambitious album, rigorous in its execution, drawing upon the Afro-Cuban abakuá ritual society. The line-up is unusual: Virelles on piano; two bassists, Thomas Morgan and Robert Hurst, often providing a kind of drone sound foundation; drummer Marcus Gilmore from the Turner quartet on the jazz kit; and Román Díaz on the four-part biankoméko percussion ensemble. Díaz is the key here; he’s an adept of the abakuá tradition. The biankoméko creates sacred sounds for its practitioners, whose chants and terminology are delivered in still-recognizable Yoruba from West Africa. This is deep-down Afro-Cuban music, to be sure, and aficionados of conventionally conceived Latin jazz will recognize much of what they hear. But the experience of listening to Ḿbókò is akin to climbing back down the Latin jazz family tree, back to a common African root, and back up to a different branch in that vast tree, barely visible from the branches better known to Latin jazz listeners. We’ll sample the intense and meditative sounds of this record all through December.
I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-70 anthologizes the surprisingly rich output of the short-lived Stone Flower record label, headed by Sly Stone. The album, released by Light In The Attic (the superb record label that brought us the Rodríguez compilation a couple years back), includes the five singles released on Stone Flower, from three artists signed by Sly: Joe Hicks, 6IX and Little Sister (led, in fact, by Sly’s little sister Vaetta Stewart). The album also gathers a number of unreleased Sly Stone numbers, many featuring the Rhythm King drum machine, which function as a set of sketches for the subsequent masterpiece There's A Riot Goin' On.
Last month our Miles Davis record was On the Corner (1972). Listening to it with you, I realized that here (and on 1970′s Jack Johnson) is Miles’s strong Sly Stone influence most audibly detectable. Given that we will be guided in part by Sly this month, I want to remain in this neighborhood of Miles’s discography. Accordingly, we will listen to a small sampling of the hours of music included on the six-CD box set The Complete On the Corner Sessions, released in 2007. I’ll focus on material released for the first time on that box set, and recorded within a year or so of the June 1972 sessions that were included on the tracklist for On the Corner. Nervous, dark, pensive funk — not unlike Sly’s music from I’m Just Like You.