Album of The Day: Mtume Umoja Ensemble – Alkebu-Lan: Land of the Blacks (Live at the East)

Deep, Afrocentric, Spiritual Jazz spread across two LPs, on one of the greatest labels for such, Strata East. Recorded in 1971, as Mtume had just begun his four year stint with Miles Davis, Alkebu-Lan features some of the giants of the era, including Gary Bartz, Stanley Cowell, Leroy Jenkins, Ndugu, Buster Williams and Andy Bey. The album is a cohesive document of that era’s style, bringing together poetry and chants, percussive tribalism, free form blowouts, cosmic electric piano and modal grooves, so successfully that the pedigree of those involved need not be questioned. The vibe is similar to a smaller (though we’re still talking thirteen players, collectively), less space oriented, Sun Ra Arkestra performance.

While I’ve heard much of the Strata East catalog, this LP escaped my notice until recently. I gotta say, this is near the top of the Strata East heap. It’s got pretty much everything I look for in this type of album, and for fans of such, is obviously highly recommended, although an original will set you back at least two bills. {By the way, who has the rights to Strata East, and when are we going to see some legit reissues, and unheard treasures from the vaults?!). Also, unlike many other artists in the Free Jazz medium, Mtume managed to parlay his talents to the Top 40 with his solo released, Notorious B.I.G. sampled, Juicy Fruit, and as producer and writer of Stephanie Mills, Never Knew Love Like This Before.