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I've Known RI'vers and Other Bodies by Gary Bartz NTU Troop

G.B.: alto & soprano saxophones, vocals; Hubert Eaves: piano; Stafford James: bass; Howard King: drums.review: Looking back, were the early 1970s really all that bad? Sure, the country still had a major hangover from Nixon, Watergate and Vietnam, but All In The Family and M*A*S*H were on TV, fusion hadn’t yet become a parody of itself, and it was still possible for great music to be released on major labels, music that wouldn’t have a chance there these days. Take this gem, for instance - as a musically adventurous high school youth, I recall seeing some of this concert broadcast on PBS as part of a documentary about the annual Montreux Jazz Festival. Recorded there in '73, release as a two-record set and long out of print on vinyl, now squeezed onto one CD, Gary Bartz’s I’ve Known Rivers is back w/ new liner notes and snazzy digitally remastered sound. This release captures a time in jazz where there was great (albeit short-lived) confluence of styles and influences: the modal bebop sounds of Miles Davis and George Russell, the unfettered free sounds of John Coltrane (esp. A Love Supreme) and Pharaoh Sanders, the modern, socially aware R&B/funk of Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone, the still-distrusted Bitch-specter of fusion (encompassing rock, jazz, funk, world music, folk, etc.) and the growth of Afro-centric consciousness. Bartz’s alto and soprano work here is fiery (but not angry), deliciously tart, vocally inflected and exciting, a unique synthesis of the influences of Cannonball Adderley and early 60s Coltrane with a touch of (Lee) Konitz cool. Alas, he was no vocalist, and a few songs feature his good-natured but rather flat singing. His NTU Troop was a true band: unified, empathetic and versatile, a fierce crackling unit. Pianist Hubert Eaves plays in a forceful, McCoy Tyner-inspired style and the underrated bassist Stafford James employs a sinewy, buoyant, similarly forceful tone – both gents play the acoustic and electric versions of their instruments, and both at equally at home with hard swing and elastic funk. This disc features Bartz and his posse at a rare and exhilarating peak: jazz that’s uncompromising yet engaging and user-friendly. [PS- I saw Bartz live in NYC (w/ Pete Cosey's band) several months ago and he can still deliver the goods.]

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gary Bartz NTU Troop
  • CD Title: I've Known RI'vers and Other Bodies
  • Genre: Acid Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Reissue Original Release: 1973
  • Record Label: Fantasy
  • Musicians: G.B.: alto & soprano saxophones, vocals; Hubert Eaves: piano; Stafford James: bass; Howard King: drums.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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