Buying old records is more than a habit for Amir Abdullah. As one half of the duo Kon & Amir, he’s put his connoisseur selector’s stamp on acclaimed comps (BBE’s Off Track series) and mixes (the seminal On Track sample source bonanzas),while regularly DJ-ing parties both abroad and at home (being a longtime resident at NYC’s “I Love Vinyl” soiree). Amir’s new label, 180 Proof Records, finds him with a new habit: re-releasing the undiscovered soul, funk, and jazz grooves of years past. 180 Proof’s first release, Kenny Cox’s Clap! Clap! (The Joyful Noise), is a mesmerizing Latin-tinged electric jazz fusion gem from the archives of legendary ’70s Detroit label, Strata Records, and has already enjoyed spins from taste-makers like Gilles Peterson and Benjy B. With Clap! Clap!‘s release imminent, we asked Amir to share some of his other favorite sounds in the same vein, and run down a list of his 10 favorite jazz fusion albums.
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AMIR’S FAVORITE JAZZ FUSION ALBUMS & MORE
1. Michel Sardaby - Gail (Debs Disque International, 1975)
Amir Abdullah: Honestly, this definitely is my favorite jazz fusion record. I bought this record at A-1 Records back in 1998 and it will NEVER leave my collection. I am such a sucka for keys and Michel’s compositions are so spiritual. Moreover, the personnel on this record is formidable – Billy Hart (McCoy Tyner alumni) on drums and Richard Davis on bass. I go thru so many emotions listening to this album. My favorite tracks, “Welcome New Warmth” and “Gail,” are so soulful and other worldly that I still get chills!
2. Tribe - A Message from the Tribe (Tribe Records, 1973)
Amir Abdullah: What an incredibly spiritual album from this legendary Detroit Jazz label. Spearheaded by local jazz legends Phil Ranelin, Marcus Belgrave, and Wendell Harrison, Tribe like Strata was all about artists plotting their own destiny and controlling that destiny. In addition, both were very active in the local Detroit community either via food drives or early childhood education. This revolutionary spirit translated through their music. Songs such as “Angela’s Dilemma” speak to the troubling times affecting black communities such as Detroit around the country. I absolutely love the tone and vibe of the track “Wife” and “How Do We End All of This Madness.”
3. The Ensemble Al-Salaam - The Sojourner (Strata East, 1974)
Amir Abdullah: First, I must clear up some confusion regarding Strata Records, Inc. and Strata East Records. Although, they are closely related they are NOT the same label. Strata East was set up as the East Coast extension of Strata Records, but established as its own company and roster of artists.
I have so many memories associated with this record I inherited from my brother as kid. I think I was 12 when he just left the record with me and said, “This record is yours to learn from.” This is such a spiritually uplifting album that when I was a kid I would just dream and dream about life while listening to this record. I had even memorized the lyrics! My all-time favorite on this album is most definitely “Optimystical.” What an incredible song with such infectious vocals. Moreover, one cannot help but be brought to tears when listening to the incredibly moving and soulful moving track “Peace.”
4. Doug Carn ft. Jean Carn - Revelation (Black Jazz, 1973)
Amir Abdullah: I must admit I didn’t really get ‘put on’ to the label Black Jazz until the early ’90s, but I bought this record because I knew of Jean Carn. And for all the Nas fans out there you will appreciate knowing his father Ola Dara added vocals and played the trumpet and alto horn on the record.
Black Jazz, like Strata or Tribe, began as a label dedicated to the freedom of expression in music. This freedom allowed them to record some of the most soul stirring compositions. Furthermore, it was started and owned by the artists themselves.
I already knew of her for strong and powerful vocals but I never knew she started off in the jazz world and her vocals on the title track. “Revelation,” are a prime example! Another favorite of mine is the glorious “Power and Glory.”
5. Doug Lucas - Niara (Shady Brook, 1976)
Amir Abdullah: I love listening to this record when I am in a mellow mood because it so provides the perfect atmosphere for that. Doug Lucas, who played trumpet, left America and to play with several different European groups during his stay overseas. Always loved his soft tone of his playing – especially on tracks “Kinshasa Chant” and “One For You.”
6. Funk Factory – S/T (Atco Records, 1975)
Amir Abdullah: One of my favorite jazz Fusion artists is Michal Urbaniak. I mean I pretty much own almost every record he recorded or played on. This album is such a great example of jazz fusion! I love the personnel on this record – from Urusla Dudziak, Steve Gadd, etc. Like mamy people, I fell in love with the track “Rien Ne Va Plus” – which the Beastie Boys sampled on the track “Car Thief.” However, originally this track was released on the Polish group Novi Singers’ Rein Ne Va Plus album from 1973. Every time I see this LP (which is very rare) I pick it up!
7. Michael White's Magic Music Company - Go With the Flow (ABC, 1974)
Amir Abdullah: I gotta say I never really loved violinists, but Michael White is a definite exception! Man, this is such a great recording; full of seriously funky bass lines and drum breaks. Plus, the jacket artwork is priceless! The title track, “Go with the Flow,” starts off with such a crazy head nodding bass line and haunting vocals that serious hip-hop producers like a Lord Finesse or a K-Def would be super amped!
8. Compost - Life is Round (CBS, 1973)
Amir Abdullah: I remember when I was asked to ‘sub’ on the now legendary “Across 110th Street” radio show on WKCR back in 1997, I took a chance playing the track “Buzzard Feathers.” The show mostly was about funk and soul and I was going to drop a jazz fusion track. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. However, after it finished playing we got several on-air calls of people flipping out. First, people recognized the song as being sampled by Pete Rock and CL Smooth for “It’s Not Game.” Second, the sick bass line and drum break that start the song are face melting! This is such a great record from start to finish. Highly recommended!
9. Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet - Now, Jazz Ramwong (CBS, 1964)
Amir Abdullah: Now I know this is not a jazz fusion record, but it is certainly one of my favorite jazz records. In fact, it was Michael Rutten from Frankfurt, Germany who put me onto this incredible recording. The title track, “Now, Jazz Ramwong,” is a shining example of Albert’s powerful trombone chops. This is another record will permanently stay in collection forever. In fact, like the Funk Factory album whenever I see it (which isn’t often) I pick up!
10. Abdul Rahim Ibraham - Al-Rahman! Cry of the Florian Tropic Son (Tablighi, 1977)
Amir Abdullah: This last album by Abdul Rahim Ibraham – formerly Doug Carn – is a fantastic spiritual jazz record. Super rare record that doesn’t turn up that much but when you do see it I recommend grabbing it quickly! My track off this album is definitely “Tropic Son.”
BONUS: Kenny Cox - Clap! Clap! (The Joyful Noise) LP Sampler
An audio preview of 180 Proof’s inaugural release. Enjoy!
EXTRA BONUS: Strata Records Guided Tour - Scion iQ Project Museum
The virtual exhibit on Detroit’s legendary Strata Records curated by Amir Abdullah, along with Linh Truong and Josh Dunn, for Scion.