July 19, 2016

Herbie Mann - Gagaku & Beyond, 1976

One of the most exciting examples of "jazz-world fusion" I've ever heard. A lesser-known recording from uber-prolific jazz-funk superstar flautist Herbie Mann, who in 1976 alone released a total of eight albums with Atlantic Records. This one, however, came out on the Atlantic subsidiary, Finnadar, and presumably received far less distribution.  

The work is an adventurous departure from the more commercially-viable grooves Mann was making at the time. In addition to traditional jazz instrumentation, it features an ensemble led by Minuro Muraoka, which consists of traditional Japanese instruments: the samisen, koto, riu teki, kakko, shoko, shakuhachi, taiko o-daiko, and the wa-daiko. The album opens with the haunting drone-chant of a quartet of Zen monks, no doubt an immediate shock to the casual 70's cool cat listener. The ambient, other-worldly sounds of gagaku (Japanese classical music performed in the imperial court) continue to dominate until a funky olive branch is finally extended in the coda and title track (below). Enjoy!

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