Jeanne Lee - Conspiracy
Jeanne Lee (1939-2000) was an African-American vocalist, poet, composer, improvisor, activist and educator, who, over the course of her 40 year career cut a singular path through the world forward thinking sound, performing with Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Gunter Hampel, Frank Lowe, William Parker, Andrew Cyrille, Anthony Braxton, Ran Blake, Billy Bang, Cecil Taylor, John Cage, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pauline Oliveros, Reggie Workman, and many others.
Lee began as a dancer, studying dance at Bard College , where she met the pianist and composer, Ran Blake, who encouraged her to pursue singing, and with whom she formed a duo, issuing The Newest Sound Around in 1962, an album of remarkable power, marked by a stunning use of white space and sound played against Lee’s incredibly versatile and deeply visceral voice. For many, it has long been regarded as one of the most noteworthy efforts of the jazz to emerge from that period.
In 1964 , Lee met the German vibraphonist Gunter Hampel, her future husband, sparking a long and fruitful collaboration between the two, ultimately helping to provoke an evolving and distinctive musical vocabulary - shifting toward abstraction, and repeated, modulated voice, crushing words, syllables, guttural sound , and breaths - that was to define the singular brilliance of her debut LP as a leader, Conspiracy, a towering accomplishment that remains one of the greatest one masterpieces in the entire canon of freely improvised jazz.
With Lee’s endlessly searching vocalizations backed by brilliantly delivered lines of bass, flute, sax, and drums by AACM luminary Steve McCall, the legendary Sam Rivers, and Gunter Hampel, as well as Marty Cook on trombone, Allan Praskin, Mark Whitecage, and Perry Robinson on Clarinets, and Jack Gregg on bass, few ensembles of the era collectively produced a record of such singularity and power. A howling force of subtlety and constraint - wound tight and unfurled - Conspiracy is quintessential free jazz / improvised music, driven by Lee’s unparalleled control and creative vision through the “original instrument”. In her own words - illuminating the beating heart below the sounds - «jazz is a music that combines so many opposites... you have to find that balance, then you have a guideline between freedom and discipline, between rhythm and melody, between body and spirit, between mind and instinct.»
A revelation of musical possibility from the first sounding to the last, and an immersive journey in sound, creativity, and cultural depth, this is a true masterpiece of the highest order, and unlike anything else. The highest achievement by one of the great unsung visionary vocalists of the 20th Century, Moved By Sounds beautifully produced, first ever fully authorized vinyl reissue of Jeanne Lee's Conspiracy is just about as historically important as reissues come, and possibly the best one to drop this year. Ten out of ten, and not to be missed.