We’re thrilled to welcome back Neil MacRae (Cosmic Jazz) on the next episode of the Analog Club, who previously joined us for our last one with an especially jazzy showing! Armed this time with a more energetic selection of wax, Neil takes us effortlessly on a journey through the sonic realms of hip-hop, jazz, disco and house. For the curious, be sure to read below the stories behind each track as we explore not just the musical minds responsible for them, but the significance and influence they had on the communities they found space in (Notes courtesy of Neil). Some of the artists featured here are also familiar faces in our crates (Herbie Hancock, Ron Trent, Tony Allen, Miles Davis, Roy Ayers), so be sure to check out their titles available in store or online!
- Contours – Balafon A from Contours (2020)
OK, so that first track sounds like it came from Bali – but actually, it’s from the northwest of England. There’s a guy called Seth Sutton who is a percussionist, producer, instrument builder and painter. This track uses the balafon – a wooden block instrument from west Africa, some gamelan instruments and his homemade percussion. All recorded in a local house in the area too. You might still be able to find a 12in EP or the cassette version on Bandcamp.
- Digable Planets – Appointment at the Fat Clinic from Reachin’ (1993)
Now this one might be more familiar – or at least the sample will be. It was also used by Massive Attack on their Blue Lines album – and the sample is from US saxophonist Tom Scott – Sneakin’ in the Back. Here’s the Massive Attack’s sampling of the same tune on their Blue Lines track. Digable Planets were not as well-known as some of their rap contemporaries from the 90s like A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul but they were all about the same idea – presenting a more positive-minded, jazz-influenced sound. Like their neighbours, they used jazz samples behind socially conscious beats to send out a message. This one has deep lyrics about the evolution of jazz, no less! Fact check: Digable Planets were three people – Ishmael Butler, Craig Irving and Mary Ann Vieira – a rap trio with a woman at their centre!
- Cantaloop – Flip Fantasia 12" single (1992)
Still in the 90s for the next tune. Flip Fantasia is from 1992 and a product of the British jazz rap group Us3 – Rahsaan Kelly (doing the rap) and with Geoff Wilkinson and Mel Simpson producing. This is basically a big, big sample from Herbie Hancock’s Canteloupe Island – check out the original. The intro, by the way, is almost as famous as the sample – it’s from an Art Blakey album and it features Pee Wee Marquette, the MC at the Birdland club where Blakey and his Jazz Messengers played. The live album was recently reissued in the Blue Note classic series in two volumes – get hold of them while they’re available!
- Manu Dibango – Abele Dance 12" single (1984)
Now we go deeper into dance mode with a track from 1984. The sound may remind you of the classic Soul Makossa (as stolen by Michael Jackson!) because it’s from the same guy, Manu Dibango. I personally think this track Abele Dance is even better than Soul Makossa – it’s deeper and heavier and was a big club hit in its day. Dibango was from Cameroon in Africa but – like many musicians from west and central Africa – he lived and worked in Paris for most of his life.
- Dele Sosimi – Too Much Information (Laolu remix) 12" single (2015)
Still staying with Africa but also the UK too as Dele Sosimi is from Hackney, London but he joined Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80 band when he was just 16 – what a crazy responsibility! He then became musical director for Fela’s son Femi in his band Positive Force. Dele is still based in the UK and has recorded some brilliant records with his own band. This 12" single remix is still available on Discogs – a mint one will cost you around 85SGD!
- Tony Allen – When One Road Close (dub version) EP (1984)
And we faded into a second bit of classic afrobeat from the man who invented it – Tony Allen from Nigeria. There used to be a great African record shop in London called Sterns in the 1980s and this is where I tracked down this great EP. Originally on the label Earthworks (which doesn’t exist anymore either!) but reissued recently. You can now get a download or the vinyl reissue from Bandcamp – the home of so much great music online! In 1979 Allen decided to leave the Africa 70 band and move to London. NEPA refers to the Nigerian Electric Power Authority, but NEPA is here represented as Never Expect Power Always – because the power would keep cutting out! On the B side are two versions – one regular and one more dubby – of the other track When One Road Close (Another One Go Open) and that’s what we played. This is tighter than any Fela album and it really did influence Tony Allen’s music from this point on.
- Willie Colon – Set Fire to Me (Jazzbo Latin version) 12" single (1986)
Ok – this is absolutely one of my favourite club tracks – it never fails! Much played in the 80s in those great New York clubs with DJs like Larry Levan and David Mancuso, I finally found my copy last year in a café in London which was selling of a DJ’s collection – it was very lucky to see it in the wild like that. This is classic Latin house and comes from Fania superstar Willie Colon – the trombonist you hear in the music. I actually don’t know who created this 12in version – it says it’s produced by Willie Colon but I think is actually from celebrated NY engineer Bob Blank who created what was called the ‘mutant disco’ scene – left field remixes from artists outside the mainstream. I’m talking about Kid Creole, James Chance and Lizzy Mercier Descloux. You can hear the complete Mambo Nassau album here on Youtube, or go straight to the best musician who came out of the mutant disco scene – Kid Creole and his Coconuts – here’s the remix of I’m a Wonderful Thing, Baby. Dig those basslines!
- Ron Trent – Sphere (feat. Jean Luc Ponty) from What Do the Stars Say To You (2022)
Is Ron Trent the godfather of Chicago House? Maybe. I’ve certainly long been a fan of his deep house sound but his new full length album is something of a departure. Guesting on this track is veteran jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty, following on from the long-awaited release of an amazing track called In the Fast Lane that appeared on a 1989 album called Storytelling. You can still download from Bandcamp – but the 12in single is probably long gone now. Listen on good headphones – amazing! If you’re not familiar with Ron Trent’s deep House sound then try this treat – this collection of Trent’s music will keep you going for over three hours! You might even still be able to buy the six disc set somewhere – whatever, this is the best house music you’ll ever hear. And listen to the name checks on the track Prescription: Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Larry Levan, Tito Puente, Marvin Gaye, J Dilla et al. Chill out!
- Miles Davis – Prelude from Agharta (1975)
Now – we need to introduce this track with some back story. Nearly 50 years ago, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and his new band rocked up at the Festival Hall in Osaka, Japan and played two all-out, no-holds-barred concerts in one day. Both were recorded by Columbia – known as Sony in Japan. The afternoon gig was released later in 1975 as the double-LP Agharta, with the evening set coming out a year later under the name Pangaea.
The album titles are both significant – Agharta was the name given to the mythological city located at the centre of the earth and Pangea the ancient landmass that existed before the five continents we know today existed. It’s appropriate – this is massively primitive music that exists in its own unique space. There had never been music like this before and no one has managed to make anything sound like this since. For many people this is not jazz – they can listen to Kind of Blue but they can’t take this! But for me, this is the Miles that sends a shiver down my spine. At the time of these recordings Davis was in a bad state: a few years before he had broken both his hips in a horrific crash in his Lamborghini Miura and was addicted to both painkilling drugs and cocaine. These were to be the last recordings he made before he retired – and he didn’t play his trumpet again for another five years. But what about the music itself? It sounds chaotic but actually it’s tightly structured by Miles Davis himself who gave silent movement cues to the band or signalled when he wanted a change with chords on his electric organ – those are the stabs of sound you hear before the rhythm picks up again. The music is driven by the drummer Al Foster and the young bass player Michael Henderson, who Davis literally stole (didn’t ask permission at all) from Stevie Wonder’s band. On sax is Sonny Fortune (who had played with McCoy Tyner), on percussion is Mtumé and on spaced out guitars are Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas.
The tune you’re hearing is called Prelude – and I played just the first half of it… It’s actually based on the opening guitar riff from the Sly Stone tune Sing a Simple Song – check it out! I just love this music and I hope you’ll get to like it to. For more – and this isn’t an official Columbia reissue but it is from the Tokyo 1975 concerts – try this amazing take on the tune Ife.
- Nils Petter Molvaer – Tløn from Khmer (1998)
So who might come close to that Miles Davis sound from the 1970s? Maybe this guy – Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. This is his best album, released in 1998 on the ECM label – but it’s not very much like many ECM albums! There’s ambient sounds here but also – as on this track – a driving breakbeat-approach with heavy bass too. Soaring above this is Molvaer’s trumpet – very Miles-like here with the Harmon mute on the end to give that wispy sound. The electronic effects here are from a guitarist called Eivind Aarset – another Norwegian – and his own albums are worth looking out for.
- Four Tet – Love Cry 12" single (2009)
This is English remixer and solo performer Kieran Hebden – better known as Four Tet – and he’s been releasing music for nearly 20 years. His first albums were a great mix of hip hop beats, electronica, folk and jazz. Recommended is Rounds from 2003. Like DJ Shadow and the Avalanches, Hebden used hundreds of sample on his records– all beautifully knitted together in his home studio. Love Cry is a single from his excellent 2010 album There Is Love In You – so simple, so powerful.
- Rick Holmes – Remember to Remember 12" single (1981)
And here’s where we end this dance-oriented set – chill out music from American radio DJ Rick Holmes and vibes hero Roy Ayers. It’s one of those roll call/name check records and, like Prescription, this one really works. Holmes was a Los Angeles DJ on KJLH FM (a station owned by Stevie Wonder!) but his very smooth voice was soon in demand on records too and he recorded three records with Cannonball Adderley, including the fantastic Soul of the Bible (1972). Only two 12" records were ever released on the Gold Mine label – and they got the label wrong on this one calling themselves Gold Mink Records…
That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the music everyone – let’s do it again soon!