Boomkat Product Review:
Here's a real marvel harvested from the vaults... Philip Cohran made his name as a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra only to splinter off in the pursuit of a more spiritual jazz variant, amassing a band who would later go on to carve out quite a reputation for themselves - first as the Pharoahs and then as Earth, Wind & Fire. During their time together, Cohran and his Artistic Heritage Ensemble self-released this 1968 LP (pressed up in an edition of just 1000 copies), dedicated to the political and spiritual life of Malcolm X, a personal friend of Cohran's. To call this a concept album wouldn't be too wide of the mark, but cast aside the dusty old prog associations that might suggest. This album is shaped by a chronological narrative spanning Malcolm X's childhood right through to birth. Fittingly, 'Malcolm Little' is the most playful of the four pieces, featuring a flute solo that stands in for the young protagonist (it's all gone a bit Peter & The Wolf, hasn't it?) "[exploring] the world of Malcolm, as a little boy". Next comes 'Detroit Red', depicting a phase of escapism and hedonism, as evoked by a far more loosened up approach to rhythm, with plenty of soloing and a healthy helping of swing. The B-side is devoted to Malcolm's spiritual awakening and political activism, as represented in the piece 'Malcolm X' by repeating bass and percussion motifs while a vocal ensemble chants and polemicises, as if mirroring the absorption of ideologies. Finally, on 'El Hajj Malik El Shabazz' by wildly unhinging the rhythmic structure and incorporating Eastern instrumentation, Cohran and his ensemble launch into an ecstatic climax, only to resolve all this glorious chaos with beautifully abstract vocal melodies from Sister Ella Pearl Jackson who provides a final, tranquil lament to Malcolm's death. ESSENTIAL PURCHASE.