Sun Ra, Steve Reid, the Tribe sound, Art Ensemble of Chicago... names that need little introduction these days. But for quite a lot of us, this was the album that turned us on to all those wild and beautiful sounds that emerged in the early '70s. Back in the day, this was known as avant guard. I join those who prefer to just call it space jazz.
amg (thom jurek) sez:
Universal Sounds of America is one of the early compilations for Great Britain's Soul Jazz label that made a case for a separate imprint that later became Universal Sound. Artists like Pharoah Sanders, drummer Steve Reid and the Master Brotherhood, Byron Morris & Unity Ensemble, David Durrah, New Life Trio, Marcus Belgrave, and last but not least, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra all on the track listing for this set focus, one way or another, on "space being the place." Numerous cuts here employ the word "space" in their titles and one references it directly… While the focus here is on the diversity of, to borrow a term from the AEC, "Great Black Music Ancient to the Future," it is deeply rooted in '70s out jazz, with only Belgrave and Morris providing deeper, wider visions. Morris' nearly twelve-and-a-half minute "Kitty Bey" replies on modal jazz and Latin rhythms to get his killer track across. Likewise, Sanders uses an electric piano to position himself in space on the gorgeous "Astral Traveling," and Belgrave takes nearly ten with his "Space Odyssey," that reflects on funk, electronic abstraction and Detroit soul-jazz to get his rather elegant point across. The rest is all beautifully played and constructed, but the sheer diversity of the sequencing -- though intentionally constructed in this way -- can be a bit much. Still, there isn't anything here not to recommend.