Black Gold Weekly
The Herbie Mann Afro-Jazz Sextet
The Herbie Mann Afro-Jazz Sextet + 4 Trumpets – The Common Ground
The label world music often has a sour note for me, but on this marvelous record by Herbie Mann on Atlantic, the term fits very well – objectively and without resentment. Mr. Mann toured 17 African countries with his band prior to this recording, starting in Dakar, via countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Tunisia, soaking up all the influences, listening to an insane amount of native music and bringing back many instruments, for that matter, around 20 different African flutes.
Even touring as a very diverse jazz band composed of various nationality backgrounds, the biggest realization for the American musicians was that jazz often referencing African roots was rarely understood or considered acceptable on the African continent, especially south of the Sahara. Jazz then is so rooted as an American original musical form that the roots of other musical genres tend to be absorbed and fused as an exciting mix.
With Latin American elements, this was known at the time as Afro-Cuban Jazz, on this 1960 recording there are many trace elements that allow a form of Afro-Jazz to be heard: A ‘Near Eastern’ feeling, related to North Africa, children’s chants from Sierra Leone, the use of African cane flute and marimbas from Moçambique, borrowings from West African dances, lyrics in Swahili.
This is a remarkable recording, where you can feel the respect for other cultures, but at the same time also the pride in the very own cultural achievement called Jazz. Also noteworthy: the later Pulitzer, Tony Award and Grammy Award winner Maya Angelou contributes vocals. Listen and learn!