Sunday, April 29, 2012

StLJN Audio Archive: Black Artists Group - Ofamfa: Children of the Sun

For this week's Audio Archive post, we delve into the history of St. Louis' Black Artists Group and revisit Ofamfa: Children of the Sun, BAG's first-ever LP release issued in 1971 on their own Universal Justice imprint.

Preserved online thanks to the music sharing blog Nothing Is II, Ofamfa largely features the poetry of BAG co-founder Bruce "Ajulé" Rutlin with musical accompaniment from an ensemble of musicians including such now-familiar names as saxophonist Oliver Lake, drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw and trumpeter Floyd Leflore. It was recorded live in 1970 as the audio component of a performance featuring dancers Carolyn Zachary, Etta Jackson, Johadi, and Sandra Weaver.

So what does it sound like? Well, as the proprietor of Nothing Is put it:
"Depending on your state of mind, it is either brilliant next-level sound art, or an incomprehensible and bumbling train wreck. Or both. I always think to myself, I could just listen to the amp hum from an anonymous location in St. Louis some 35 years ago and be content."

One thing is for sure, there’s a good reason nobody else would release this. It makes John Coltrane sound like “Get on the Good Foot.” R-A-W. Even Arista avoided it when they raided the catalog to re-release “Under the Sun” and “Whisper of Dharma.” Hence, this is another entry in this blog’s catalog of un-loved recordings that still haven’t seen a proper digital release."
And indeed, Ofamfa seems never to have made it to CD, which, considering the relatively small quantities of LPs pressed for its original issue, makes it a genuine collector's item as well as a key document of the evolution of BAG.

The complete personnel for the album (pictured) includes Raju Áten (conga, small instruments), Oliver Lake (soprano sax, alto sax, flute, poems, small instruments), Floyd LeFlore (trumpet, small instruments), Ishac Rajab (trumpet), Arzinia Richardson (bass, small instruments), Vincent Terrell (cello), Charles "Bobo" Shaw (drums, small instruments), and Bruce "Ajulé" Rutlin (poet, arrangements, small instruments, drums).

The tracks are "Sweet Street Song," "Uu-Twee," "After Jeremiah's Wed," "Sounds of Scorpio," "Trane Songs," "Rent Man," "A Little Tom is a Dangerous Thing" and "Echos (O Susanna)."

You can download a copy of Ofamfa: Children of the Sun here.

The StLJN Audio Archive links only to recordings that are out-of-print or that never have been commercially available. The purpose of the Audio Archive is to encourage discussion, appreciation and knowledge of St. Louis jazz artists, and we urge you to support them (or their estates) by purchasing authorized recordings and merchandise and, whenever possible, attending live performances.

(Edited 4/30/12 to fix a typo.)

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