Born in Houston’s fourth ward, Bubbha Thomas attended Booker T. Washington Senior High School where he served as a captain of the school band’s drum section – under the direction of one Conrad O. Johnson, who later gained fame as leader of the aforementioned Kashmere High School Stage Band. He earned a scholarship to Wiley College where he became captain of the school’s band and founded his own jazz outfit, The Lightmen. Before graduating with a BA in music, Bubbha led his band to the Newport Jazz Festival and released a spiritual debut on Houston based Judnell Records (home of The Chocolate Glass, for anyone keeping score) entitled “Free As You Wanna Be.”
1971 saw the release of his second album, “Fancy Pants,” an album that first demonstrated that the young Bubbha understood the funk movement (with the song “Ashie”). After releasing a few more 45s on Judnell (including the incredible “Wench”), he formed his own imprint, Lightin’ Records, and pursued his recording dreams from there. In 1972, he released what many consider his masterpiece – “Energy Control Center – ” the album that contained the backbeat-grounded “Phantom” which Egon compiled on The “Funky 16 Corners” in 2001. In 1975, now recording under the name Bubbha Thomas and The Lightmen, he released his altogether funkiest album, “Country Fried Chicken.” Thomas continued releasing albums into the 1980s, and he records on the Lightin’ label to this day.
P.E. Hewitt’s self-released trilogy are some of the rarest damn-good late 60s and early 70s jazz albums you could ever hope to come across. That’s a subtle, but important distinction. There are many rare jazz albums in every imaginable subgenre – funk, free, fusion… – of the late 60s and early 70s. But there are few damn-good jazz albums. Jazz was a phoenix, then, rising from the ashes to become something different and beautiful. Hewitt, was a late-teenager, then. Already a composer, arranger, vibraphonist, pianist and pilot, he helmed a crack group of musicians and recorded a damn-good series of albums – without ever taking the time out to name his record company. His vision was so pure, so immediate, that the most obvious thought of any entrepreneur – a name for his fledgling enterprise – took a back seat to his incessant desire to create, and document, the ideas flowing through his head and into the able hands of his peers.
His three albums – pressed in a maximum run of one hundred pieces per album – recently surfaced after Bay Area collector Chris Veltri re-discovered an old find and sent music detectives on the hunt. You see, Hewitt’s Winter Winds album – his third – was so damn-good that neither a micro press nor forty years of silence could suppress its reemergence.
And now, as the winds blow in the direction of the authentic, the spiritual, the deep, the personal and the human once again in jazz music, Hewitt bestows upon us these three damn-good albums and we wonder – where were you our entire lives, P.E. Hewitt? Why did it take so long to discover the magical music you and your ensemble recorded? Why do we still feel lucky – privileged even – to have discovered it now?
Existing completely under the critical radar and largely ignored or unknown by music fans and critics alike, most of the musicians featured in this album won’t be familiar to even the most seasoned aficionado. Their records, frequently turned down by distributors and record stores, saw little attention when first released – and have seen even less since.
But in this era of musical apathy, where so many music junkies look to the past for their musical fix, we have re-discovered hidden, obscure and esoteric jazz musicians who looked to the four corners of the earth – and beyond – for inspiration.
With this anthology we evaluate “Spiritual Jazz” – Jazz created in the era after John Coltrane, a time which saw the evolution of an underground jazz that spoke about the reform of the soul, the reform of the spirit, and the reform of society: a music which was local and international at once, which was a personal journey and a political statement, and which was religious and secular in one non-contradictory breath.
The music on this album reflects the social and historical forces at work during the closedown of the ’60s dream; music made by close-knit collectives and individual visionaries, by prisoners and eccentrics, by mystics and political radicals. It includes music by acknowledged masters, and moments of brilliance by unsung figures known to us from just one or two recordings. There are songs from prison bands, Egyptian big bands, high school jazz ensembles, African musicians gigging with free jazz legends, and African American jazz heroes.
Spiritual Jazz: ‘Esoteric, modal and deep jazz from the undergound, 1968-77′ is the jazz music of America in the age of civil rights, brutal repression, political assassination and war; a music that would guarantee the survival of the spiritual dimension in a society that was angry and traumatized, but nevertheless had seen hope of better days to come.
Buy it here.
1. Can I Help You?
2. Love Fades
3. Mister President
4. Free Your Mind
5. We Have Love
6. Lord Help Me
7. Three Cheers for My Baby
8. Trouble Will Remain
9. We’ve Come a Long Way
NA5027 CD 2LP 2006
Original sessions produced by Amnesty.
Anthology produced by Egon
Buy it here.
401. The Universouls – New Generation
02. Pearly Queen – Quit Jive’in
03. James Knight & The Butlers – Save Me
04. Carrie Riley & The Fascinations – Super Cool
05. Oceanliners – Cutting Room (Hot Pants)
06. The Mighty Dogcatchers – It’s Gonna Be A Mess (Pt. II)
07. Bobby Williams & His Mar Kings – All The Time
08. Sam Baker – Do Right Man
09. Pearl Dowdell – Good Things
10. Delrays – Pure Funk (Pt. II)
11. Little Beaver – Everybody Has Some Dues To Pay (Pts. I & II)
12. Blowfly – Butterfly Theme
13. Willie Johnson – Lay It On Me
14. The Outlaw Gang – Funky Fast Bump
15. Luis Santi Y Su Conjunto – Los Feligreses
16. Coke – Na Na
17. Frankie Seay & The Soul Riders – Soul Food
18. The Third Guitar – Baby Don’t Cry
19. Weston Prim & Blacklash – Spider Web
20. The Montereys – Get Down
21. Vanessa Kendrick – 90% Of Me Is You
22. Lavell Kamma – Soft Soul (Previously Unreleased)
NA5029 / JMANCD014 CD* 2007
Researched & compiled by Gerald Short, Malcolm Catto & Angelo Angione.
* Released on Now-Again Records (CD only) for the U.S. and Canada, under exclusive license from Jazzman Records (UK).