John Tchicai – Afrodisiaca

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Returning from his teamworks with Coltrane and Ayler in America, the Afro-Danish sax giant delivers a breathtaking showcase of collective improvisation with the Cadentia Nova Danica.
The term “afropean” has become fashionable in recent years to reflect the ethnic and cultural mix between Africans and Europeans in a globalized world. Time and again it is used by musicians who are part of the “world music”, another term which was created as a marketing tool some twenty years ago. Yet letting the commercial aspect aside, another view of “world music” already existed in the 1960s within jazz, and it wasn’t exclusively reserved to Afro-Americans. Sax player and composer John Tchicai certainly is the most prominent and striking example of an “Afropean” who was truly a world music avant-guardist of his time.
Being of Congolese and Danish origin, Tchicai became a leading figure in advancing free jazz as one of the very few musicians outside America. At a young age he experienced teamwork with Don Cherry and Archie Shepp, even took part in Coltrane’s recording of “Ascension” in New York. In 1966 he came back to Denmark to realise his vision of futuristic jazz in Europe. “Afrodisiaca” is a rare statement of his art not only being released on a Danish label thanks to the commitment of Joachim Ernst Berendt. It is the second recording with one of the most daring Scandinavian jazz collectives, the Cadentia Nova Danica. Comprising 25 musicians at that time – and Willem Breuker as their Dutch “guest star” – the CND delivers a breathtaking showcase of collective improvisation.
The title track covered the complete first side of the original LP. Written by Hugh Steinmetz, Tchicai’s co-leader on trumpet, it is true “world music” since the material of the whole piece is based on the scale of the balafon, the pan-African xylophone. Witness 22 minutes of surprises as the giant composition develops from the fanfare at the beginning, focussing on the different sections of the orchestra and exploring unusual sound effects like blowing close to the piano strings. Then the whole band gradually forces your ears into a monstrous final with all the 25 musicians raging in a tempest-like action. The second part of the recording presents various conceptions of free jazz: “Heavenly Love On A Planet” has the musicians improvising to a cyclic movement within the percussion section. Tchicai himself stimulates, i.e. “feeds” the intuition of his fellows in “Fodringsmontage”. And “This Is Heaven” even holds a romantic love poem in it, which the Cadentia plays bucolically, like a sort of marching band of an exotic village. Drawing the bow from Africa to India, “Lakshmi” reveals Tchicai’s study of Indian religion as it refers to the Hindu deity of happiness. Flute, ophicleïde and tabla add an exotic touch to the complex spirituality.
Recently Tchicai himself compared “Afrodisiaca” to Coltranes “Ascension” – listening to this work we can say that the parallel is not presumptuous at all.

26-piece-orchestra featuring:
JOHN TCHICAI – alto sax, soprano sax, leader
HUGH STEINMETZ – trumpet, leader
WILLEM BREUKER – tenor sax, bass clarinet
PIERRE DOERGE – guitar

Album produced by JOACHIM ERNST BERENDT / Recorded in 1969

(originally) SIDE A

1. AFRODISIACA 21:54
(originally) SIDE B
2. HEAVENLY LOVE ON A PLANET 4:30
3. FODRINGSMONTAGE 6:28
4. THIS IS HEAVEN 2:13
5. LAKSHMI 6:42