Saturday, September 26, 2020

NTU the Music: Gary Bartz 80

It may not be the most high-profile milestone muso birthday today, but it gets the nod based on seniority alone. Apologies to Bryan Ferry in advance.

The man celebrating this milestone day also happens to be, arguably, the greatest and most accomplished living alto saxophonist on Earth.

He's been at it since the mid-1960s and has experienced precisely zero dropoff in the quality and range of his music as he has aged.

I was introduced to his stuff at the start of the 1990s, just as the big Soul Jazz revival was jumping off.

Back at the end of the 1960s, he had made a few tremendous solo records when he got the call to join the band of Miles Davis.

I've heard him tell the story of how when he got that call, at first he thought he was being pranked and it took a few minutes to acknowledge that it was really Miles on the other end of the phone.

Eventually he got out on the road with that band, participating in some of the most blazing and formative electric Miles LPs like Live-Evil.

At the same time, he was making some of the most lasting and mesmerizing records of the time, with his own band he christened NTU Troop.

Between sets at the old Yoshi's on Claremont about 20 years ago, he explained to me what the concept of NTU is all about, and how it stems from the Bantu language as a modality of animation for other words and constructs in that language.
Somewhat akin to the -ing suffix in English but more far-reaching, in that it kind of sets things into motion.
Maybe the best thing about him is that even as he turns an age most of us are either dead or retired, he still plays and records and makes music that seems so fresh, exploratory and present.

He is the big 8-0 today, and to properly commemorate the occasion we have a fantastic and highly representative hourlong set taped off of Canadian radio in the mid-1990s, which finds out hero and his stellar quartet burning down the legendary Edmonton jazz venue The Yardbird Suite using only their instruments.

Gary Bartz Quartet
Yardbird Suite
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
likely 3.16.1996
01 FM intro/Gary Bartz talks
02 The Song Of Loving Kindness
03 J Seas
04 Interlude (Concerto de Aranjuez)
05 Gangsta Jazz
06 Interlude
07 When Your Lover Has Gone
08 Interlude
09 Holiday For Strings
10 Interlude (After the Rain)
11 And He Called Himself a Messenger incl. FM outro

Total time: 57:26 

Gary Bartz - alto & soprano saxophones
George Colligan - piano
James King - bass
Greg Bandy - drums 

master HiFi VHS capture of the complete CBOF-FM broadcast
341 MB FLAC/September 2020 archive link

I shall return in 48 hours to end the September to remember with a tribute to a fallen superstar, who left us not long ago.

Today is the day to pay homage to Gary Bartz, born this day in 1940 and thankfully still doing what he does at the highest level!--J.

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