Friday, September 29, 2006

The Positive Force with Ade Olatunji

I love uncovering obscure gems by pure chance. While looking for some old out-of-print Strata East recordings on mp3 a while back, I found this cool album called Oracy (see image above) recorded in 1977 by a Detroit-area jazz combo. While digging on the tunes, I did a bit of researching and found out that it's also been reissued on cd (which of course means that if you download this and like it, please purchase a copy!). Dusty Groove's synopsis:
One of the most righteous soul jazz albums of the 70s -- a unique session of poetry, percussion, and jazz -- put together by the ultra-hip Positive Force! Not to be confused with the soul group of the same name, this combo was a spiritual jazz ensemble -- featuring poet Ade Olatunji reciting some of his works, plus additional percussion, piano, bass, and keyboards. The tracks unfold with a simple, easy-going approach that's really beautiful -- redemptive, hopeful, and free-thinking -- with a great vision for the future, and a keen ear to challenge the status quo. Titles include "The Afrikan In Winter", "Beautiful Flower", "Praise Song", "Guerilla Warfare", and "Poem For My Lady".
If you like purely instrumental jazz, this album's not for you. But if you can hang with some poetry - sometimes backed with standard jazz instrumentation, sometimes percussion - it's worth checking out. Ade Olatunji is a cat whose poetry would fit in well with Gil-Scott Heron and The Last Poets from the 1970s, covering many of the same topics, as well as getting into the interpersonal politics of romantic partnerships. "Poem for my Lady" is a piece I wish I had written for my lady. "The Weight Don't Make Things No Lighter" tackles the problem of men abandoning the women they impregnate. "Brothers" (Olatunji this time accompanied with bass) takes on the problems of urban violence and drug abuse with a uniquely personal twist. "Afrika Needs You" is a call to solidarity. "Praise Song" begins with a freeform skronkfest before settling into a mid-tempo groove that blends vocals, poetry, and instrumentals as the song progresses. The lone instrumental piece "Guerilla Warfare" starts off with the sounds of a war zone (gunfire, the sounds of aircraft overhead) and then segues into a tight funky soul-jazz jam that tears the roof off the sucka.

As far as I know, this was the only session these cats ever recorded. I don't know if any of Ade Olatunji's poetry ever appeared in print or was ever recorded except for that gig. If your recorded legacy is going to be one album, these cats did good. It captures the spirit of a particular time and place, and yet its spirit transcends its context, and musically and lyrically remains every bit as relevant today.

The website for the cd on Quadraphonic Records gives a brief description of the personnel.

The mp3 files appeared to have been ripped from an lp, so of course you'll hear the usual snap-crackle-pop that goes with the territory. Whoever did the work also kindly scanned the front and back covers of the lp, and I made sure to include those in the upload (same pix you see in this post, scrawled notes and all).

As I said, there is a recently reissued cd available, which of course I hope more folks will purchase - it's music that truly deserves to be heard.

Updated 10/20/2006

Download Oracy.