Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble-THE ZULU 45s COLLECTION 3x7-inch disc set (Jazzman Records England)

I forget the exact reason as to why I snatched this particular item up...personally I think it was because of cornet player and bandleader Phil Cohran's one-time association with Sun Ra. That would seem the most obv. one, yet perhaps Cohran's co-founding of the AACM struck a receptive chord, or maybe the presence of whacked-out guitarist in his own right and eventual Miles Davis member Pete Cosey in Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble was the catalyst that made me dish out a good $15 for these spinners. Most likely it was because I was looking for a fresh new sound to immerse myself in for the first time in a few weeks and this seemed like a better chance to take'n on yet another one of those GARAGE BAND RETREADS CONSTANTLY BEING REISSUED OVER THE PAST THIRTY YEARS VOLUME 100 samplers I've been foolish enough to dump way too much moolah on!

Cosey ain't on this reissue of rare 7-inch sides that were pressed up on the small Zulu label (though he does pop up on the ON THE BEACH CD which was not reissued on the Jazzman label), but that doesn't mean this li'l treasure's not worth the rather easy-enough effort to snatch up! Y'see, these six sides contain some pretty hot funk-unto-jazz that reminds me of early Sun Ra taking a detour to Saturn via Africa while getting into more'n a few moves that I'm sure everybody from Funkadelic to a lotta those those post-no wave New York artistes would eventually call their own. And if that don't get you scurrying for your credit card...

If you like the nice and cheap-looking self-produced single look akin to those old Moxie EPs that were coming out like mad back in the late-seventies you'll certainly go for these three late-sixties vintage platters that never did get far beyond the Chicago city limits. They even come housed in a nice picture sleeve with liner notes 'n everything which should appeal to (I hope) a lot more than your pathetic collector snob attitude! However, unlike the Moxie produce of yore these records are pressed up on something other than retread floormats and sound pretty good so you don't have to worry about pulling one of these platters outta the sleeve and finding it caked with all sorts of alien crud and corruption!

On these single sides Cohran and band dabble in everything from jazz-tinged r&b to avant and even some gospel settings sounding pretty hotcha, especially when they get into their hot funk/soul groove that goes to remind you about yet another dimension of the energetic underside of black music in the days before disco proved that black people could be just as boring as white ones. It's no surprise that a few of the original Arkestra men appear in the Ensemble, though in no way could I imagine Sun Ra leading his group through anything with the hotcha early-seventies commercial potential of a song like "Loud Mouth" or even the black power rousers that like the best avant garde jazz took the past eighty years of black music and jumped over the wall yelling and hooting it up all the way into infinity.! Well, maybe Ra coulda (after all, some of those recordings with Yochannon do tred the boundaries between r&b and orbit music), but I'll leave that to the serious Ra chroniclers who know a whole lot more than could ever be stored inside my ape-like beanie.

True the Afrocentric ideals here might just sour a lotta people who actually have been to Africa and found that the legend sure superseded the reality, but the traipses through late-fifties-styled new thing to hot funk to even some gospel vocalizing done with the Spencer Family is bound to give your nervous system a nice flushing out. And for those looking for a new listening experience there always is Cohran's Frankiphone, an electrified thumb piano that sounds like a cross between a vibraphone and an electric piano which gives the proceedings that special 1962-esque sense of futurism just as much as Ra's clavioline did on those early/mid-sixties sides. Considering how the future Ra and many others sang about (meaning "today") has turned out to be not as Jetsons as we may have liked maybe we actually were living in the future when it was the past, or in other words Devo was RIGHT!

Is this set inspiring enough to me to the point where I will eventually seek even more Cohran platters out? Certainly, and I probably will start with the ones featuring Cosey (an under-rated player in his own right) that I'm sure live up to the promise if not the hype. Until then Forced Exposure has this as well as a few other Cohran reissues via the Mississippi record label you might want to lend ear to, and if you too find yourself tapping toe and humming merrily to the deep groove of it all don't say I didn't warn ya.


howardx said...

So glad i found you, been a fan for a long time, loved the zine! blog looks good.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Chris, have you seen Phil Cohran on "Chic-a-go-go?" (I'm tired; I almost wrote "Have You Seen Your Mother Standing in the Shadows?")

I saw Pete Cosey play once, at the Knitting Factory when it was on Houston. I think he was playing with Power Tools, in place of Bill Frisell, but don't quote me on it.

I once read that Cleveland is windier than the Windy City. I don't know about that, but: