February 24, 2016

Mtume - Rebirth Cycle (1974)


James Mtume was a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist who had a massive career that spanned from playing as a sideman for funky early 70s records put out by washed up hard bop artists, Miles Davis' go-to guy during his electric years, and of course his synth-funk/boogie group in the 80s. Mtume also released a couple of albums as a leader in the 70s, one is Alkebulan: Land of the Blacks, a noisy live free jazz epic from '71, and the other is this album, recorded three years later. Rebirth Cycle sports a much sleeker fusion element that shows Mtume took influence from the musicians he played with in the golden era of fusion such as Herbie Hancock, The Weather Report, Return To Forever, and there are even some Sun-Ra tendencies thrown in the mix. The first side of the album is a single lengthy avant-garde piece which evokes a spiritual mood (whatever that means to you, I don't know). The rest of the album follows in the same mode; the first song on the second side is a funky song, but Cabral is more in the vein of the first side, Body Sounds is a percussion interlude, and Umoja is a beautiful track that is everywhere in between. Rebirth Cycle gives off a pleasant vibe and most people will pick up on some spiritual messages. While this music is very comparable to his peers', the album does have some unique arrangements and an innovative use of vocalists. Like most free-jazz/fusion albums from the mid-70s it is indeed sprawling and not very focused, and while a closely directed piece probably wasn't Mtume's goal, I like to hear tighter organization in ideas--it comes down to personal taste. A slept on album from one of the most integral names in this style of jazz, check it out.

Sample

Rebirth Cycle