Dusted Reviews

V/A - New Thing!

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: New Thing!

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: May. 25, 2005

Soul Jazz records has earned plenty of accolades for all the things they do right on their many theme-oriented compilations - savvy selection, attractive visual presentation and punchy mastering. But they are hardly infallible. If you, like the wardens in “The Prisoner,” thirst for information, the label’s liner notes often seem a little lightweight. The notes on those Studio One “Dynamite” sets, for example, read like press releases. And there’s something revisionist, or at least incongruous, about the way they’ll juxtapose sounds from different time periods, such as a '60s ska track and an '80s dancehall number, with little regard for how well they actually go together sonically or historically.

These faults come to the fore on New Thing! That phrase conjures pretty specific associations; second-generation free jazz in general, and the John Coltrane and Archie Shepp split LP, New Thing At Newport, in particular. While that era gets some time on this double CD, it has to share space with music that really ought to be on a couple other comps, one of which has a name like “Soul Jazz Presents The Jazz-Funk Greats.” “We are using it in a broader and more inclusive sense, which seems to better encapsulate the spirit in which the term was coined,” asserts annotator Patrick Coupar. So if you’re not down with Travis Briggs’ disco-new age hybrid, or Steve Davis’s bad French crooning, dude, you just don’t have The Spirit!


Trapped inside this conceptually misbegotten mix tape is a pretty fine collection that makes some interesting observations about music recorded by open-minded African-American jazz musicians between the '50s and the '80s. The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Funky AECO” and Eddie Gale’s “Black Rhythm Happening” show how connected the avant-garde was to popular music styles, but the former tune was recorded in 1984 for ECM, by which point the New Thing was Old News. East New York Ensemble’s “Little Sunflower” and Sun Ra’s “Angels And Demons At Play” illustrate the avant-garde’s attraction to exoticism. But according to my copy of the album that the latter tune came from, it was recorded in late 1960 - not quite New Thing vintage. And how come Coupar didn’t check his record? He says it was first released “in the late 1950s” on page 10, then dates the track to 1956 on page 23. Given Soul Jazz’s current cachet amongst record buyers, they have a responsibility to get their facts straight; the people are counting on you, don’t let ‘em down!

Turn a blind eye to the sloppiness and there’s plenty to appreciate on this set. Val Wilmer’s photographs are as compelling as ever, and the music is even more so. Especially when Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe wax pan-ethnic and wiggy on “Duo Exchange (Pt. 2),” when Alice Coltrane spins the cosmic wheel and hits the jackpot on a string-heavy version of “A Love Supreme,” and when Amina Claudine Myers makes Saturday night and Sunday morning hold hands on “Have Mercy On Us.” While flawed, there’s no denying New Thing’s essential listenability.

By Bill Meyer

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Soul Jazz

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.