* Small Repress available* After enjoying roughly half a century at the center of popular culture - despite its continued, towering cultural importance - by the 1970s jazz had fallen onto hard times. Its audiences drifted away, heeding the call of less demanding idioms like rock, soul, and funk. As a result, the activities of many of this music’s most important voices - often at the height of their powers - could only find a home for their efforts on private or small, independently run imprints. Among the most important of these was Black Saint / Soul Note, an Italian ‘double’ label based in Milan, that would offer shelter to artists like Anthony Braxton, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, David Murray, Roscoe Mitchell, Billy Harper, Muhal Richard Abrams, Frank Lowe, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, Sun Ra, and a near countless number of others. In an effort to remedy the sinfully under-recognized contributions of Black Saint / Soul Note, the Rome based imprint, Hyperjazz Records, has taken a deep dive into their expansive catalogs and come up with “Hyperituals Vol. 1 - Soul Note”, a double LP compilation gathering a body of insane, heavily groove-oriented gems by Billy Bang, Hamiet Bluiett, Beaver Harris, Paul Motian, Tony Scott, George Russell, Andrew Cyrill, Max Roach, Nanà Vasconcelos, and others. The first of a series dedicated to the pair (this to Soul Note, a forthcoming to Black Saint) curated by Khalab (Raffaele Costantino) and beautifully produced with liner notes by Enrico Bettinello, not only is it an astoundingly infectious body of creative music, but it takes significant leaps toward bettering our perception of history and the tenant and scope of each of the artists that it contains.
Its name nodding to Charles Mingus’ seminal LP, “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady”, Black Saint was founded in 1975 by the Italian duo of Giacomo Pelliciotti and Giacomo Battistella. Launching with a stunning LP by the Billy Harper Quintet (also titled “Black Saint”), the imprint joined a small handful of independent labels - Freedom, Palm, Kharma, America, Sun, Delmark, etc. - devoted to supporting the avant-garde artists, the majority of whom where African American working in the field of improvised music and jazz during the wilderness years of the 1970s and '80s, when few found support at home in the United States. Arguably more than any other, Black Saint went the furthest, showing an unparalleled dedication to these sounds - particularly to those associated with the AACM - issuing hundreds of records over the coming decades. In 1979, intent upon brooding their support, they founded the sister label, Soul Note, dedicated to works by artists who occupied a slightly more mainstream creative territory. A few years later, starting in 1984, the imprint found immense critical success, winning he prestigious DownBeat Jazz Award for Best Label for six years running. It is this catalog specifically, often lingering in the shadow if its slightly older sibling, toward which Hyperjazz has cast its gaze across the four sides of “Hyperituals Vol. 1”.
While briefly tracing back into late 1970s and foreword into the 1990s, “Hyperituals Vol. 1” is primarily a deep dive into some of the most remarkable jazz produced across the length of the 1980s, a period often regarded as having been dominated by regressive and often explicitly conservative realizations of the art form. “Hyperituals” tells a very different tale, with its curator, Khalab (Hyperjazz founder Raffaele Costantino) gathering 13 tracks of pure gold from the Soul Note’s catalog, many of which have never seen a vinyl release.
In addition to the startling quality of its sounds, “Hyperituals Vol. 1” gains distinction through the historical implications illuminated by its careful curation. While jazz certainly deployed advanced forms of creative innovation within the realms of popular music across the '70s - notably the electrified, funk laden excursions of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Donald Byrd - the compilation highlights an almost entirely overlooked trajectory of the music that spanned the '80s and '90s, falling somewhere between more mainstream tastes, and the advanced forms of creative thinking that defined free and spiritual jazz.
Lunching with the tricking, African inspired rhythms of Adam Rudolph’s “The Earth Spins Faster Than Words”, the comp takes us into the incredible context sculpted by the Soul Note catalog, moving across realms of magical ritual lyricism delivered by Billy Bang’s “The Nagual Julian”, the otherworldliness of Nanà Vasconcelos & Antonello Salis’ “Ondas (Na Ólos De Petronila)”, the irresistible percussive webs woven by “Spirits Return”, Andrew Cyrille's tribute to Art Blakey, the latin tinged excursions of Tony Scott and George Russell, and driving fire sparked by Hamiet Bluiett and Max Roach - amongst so much more - it’s a truly thrilling journey that defies all expectations, not the least of which being the diversity of activities happening during the period that the album spans.
Most potently, while accessible and often funky, “Hyperituals Vol. 1” - covering a period often overshadowed by the conservative banalities of artists like Wynton Marsalis - unearths a movement in jazz that endeavored to regain the popular imagination, while refusing to sacrifice an incredibly ambitious sense of creative drive. Khalab's selection illustrates not only a dystopian and Afrocentric sensibility, but moments of astounding brilliance and emotional ecstasy.
Available as a stunningly produced double LP coming ina gatefold sleeve with liner notes by Enrico Bettinello, it’s an absolute revelation that endeavors to change everything we think we know. Easily one of the best and historically important compilations we’ve encountered in a good long time.