Album Review: Spiritual Jazz 14: Private (2023, Jazzman Records)


Where do the fans go when the FTPs and ICQ of yester-years have long since gone dark? Wherever do we find satisfaction now that Spotify supplies the pressure to an infinite variety of musical firehoses without the tiniest speck of care and regard for us on the other end, slaking (or I gather, just subsisting) like patients on feeding tubes? Well, if it is to be anything and everything, then I might as well insist it be more analog, more time-consuming, and more work. All of which I enjoy. Just as I do wasting your time in this intro paragraph.

Which brings me to the object of this review – Spiritual Jazz 14, the latest compilation of found-jazz recordings issued by the London-based outfit Jazzman Records, on this occasion my gurus. And because it is so much better to listen to a sound system than Bandcamp’s compression over shitty computer speakers, I now have the liner notes and anal bum cover to peruse (see above).

The theme of this compilation is private-pressings only, which means the artist/manager paid the record manufacturer to produce a short run of custom pressing, inadvertently leaving behind something that scratches my indie hipster esoterica in the right places 50 years later. I confess not to know what spiritual jazz is, really. Is it just generally inoffensive set-piece passages riffing about the eternal struggle of darkness and light in life, decorated with instrumental solos, and destined to be background of intellectual debates in Boston cafes? I don’t even know what jazz is, if that level of meta-ness does not compute.

But this is clearly brilliant listening. How do I review 14 different artists? Will I spare you the liner notes regurgitation? To me, listening to the album roughly recapitulates a day. It opens with pensive pieces that develop into surprises that were decent enough to never telegraph themselves, just like a morning withholding the rest of the day. The only vocal numbers in the collection follow, and Radam Schwartz and Mary Lou Williams deliver two crisp statements like true professionals. Then we wade into the after tea/coffee hours in which we examine the casual, shared DNA between Cullen Knight’s “A’keem” and Black is —-‘s “Variations.”

Don Menza’s “Spanish Boots” is the sumptuous dinner of the bunch – not only substantial, but clearly on-pointe and recognizably (rowdy big band) Jazz. The desserts that follow are lighter and more inquisitive. Andrew McPherson’s “Delilah” is a cover of Clifford Brown that is more centered around the opening theme than the 1954 original ever was. The atmosphere finally gets smoky and sleepy toward the end of the album. You get to see a vivid dream with Bobby Jackson’s “Desiree Song” and then you are ready to hit the wake up to another morning when Compass plays. Is this some naturally subconscious organization of a compilation or over-analysis on my part? While I’ve breezed through the numbers, nothing on here is filler. Perhaps because they were privately pressed, one can sense value and weight in the music, whether or not they were the same as that held by the musicians at the time.

Ever wonder how your favorite saying/sentence would morph in accent, enunciation, phrasing when you repeat it 256 times? It might give you discovery, introspection, appreciation, all-that-jazz. Or it might just be a waste of time.

Posted on by Gary in Albums