Various: Cosmic Forest – The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

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This is a generous look at the modal jazz and exploratory “world-music” which formed a significant part of the territory Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s legendary MPS label mapped out around half a century ago. Ekkehart Fleischhammer supplies an informative sleeve-note, outlining the activities of Schwer (1927-2004) and his compatriot, Joachim-Ernst Berendt (1922-2000). Berendt was responsible for the Jazz Meets The World series from which several of the tracks are drawn, registering influences from, e.g., North Africa (“Djerbi”) and India (“Yaad”).

So far, so good. However, while the production values of Cosmic Forest include colour reproductions of the generative albums, (partial) personnel details are only to be gleaned from Fleischhammer’s essay.

The opening track, a young Philippine female vocal group’s take on Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage”, might suggest an album for the chill-room – as might the laid-back grooves of Shelda’s organ-led “Smoke” and the pop-raga flavours of the Dave Pike Set’s “Jeeva Swara”. However, there’s much muscle to enjoy. Hear the driving percussion of “Timbales Calientes”, with its fine solos by Herb Geller (f) and Palle Mikkelborg (t), and Billy Brook’s “El Babaku”; relish the fervent work of Hannibal Marvin Peterson (t) and Michael Cochrane (p) on “Revelation”, and the potent tenor solos from Nathan Davis (the stand-out “Evolution”), Dexter Gordon (“A Day in Vienna”) and Heinz Sauer (“Never Let It End”). The last, another stand-out piece, also features driving, probing work from Günter Lentz (b), Ralph Hübner (d) and leader Mangelsdorff (tb).

Eberhard Weber (b) played on some great albums for MPS and it’s good to have him here on both “Djembi” and the Michael Naura Quartet’s “Soledad de Murzia” – one of the most soulful tracks, together with “Yaad” by Dewan Motihar (v, sitar), Barney Wilen (ss) and Manfred Schoof (t), and Tony Scott and The Indonesian All Stars’ “Burungkaka Tua”, with its lovely impressionist introduction by Chinese pianist Bubi Chen. Strangely, Baden Powell is absent, but don’t let that prevent your investing in an album as enjoyable as it is educative.

Discography
(1) Maiden Voyage; (2) Evolution; (3) A Day In Vienna; (4) Yaad; (5) Djerbi; (6) Never Let It End; (7) Shelda; (8) Soledad De Murcia; (9) Timbales Calientes; (10) El Babaku; (11) Revelation; (12) Burungkaka Tua; (13) Raga Jeeva Swara ( 82. 03)
(1) The Third Wave; (2) Nathan Davis Group; (3) Dexter Gordon/Slide Hampton Group; (4) Matihar Trio; (5) George Gruntz Ensemble; (6) Albert Mangelsdorff Quartet; (7) Shelda; (8) Michael Naura Quartet; (9) MPS Rhythm Combination & Brass; (10) El Babaku; (11) Hannibal & The Sunrise Orchestra; (12) Tony Scott & The Indonesian All Stars; (13) Dave Pike Set
Villingen & various locations 1965-1975
MPS 0212256MS1 *** (*)