Cairo Free Jazz Ensemble - Music For Angela Davis LP


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Label: Holidays

Single-sided LP (30 minutes long). One-time pressing. Edition of 500.

One of the legendary projects of 20th Century Egyptian jazz, the Cairo FreeJazz Ensemble was formed by Hartmut Geerken - who sadly left this planet on October 21st - as an avant-garde offshoot of The Cairo Jazz Band - the first jazz big band in the country - formed by Salah Ragab in 1968.

Sinfully under-documented, in 1970 the band issued Heliopolis, what has since become one of the rarest, most celebrated and sought-after artefacts of global jazz, thankfully reissued by Holidays last year. An entirely singular work of towering proportions - blending the sounds of big band spiritual jazz, the music of the Middle East, and the fire and energy of free jazz - other than this lone LP, the ensemble resurfaced in 1983 with In Egypt, an absolutely astounding collaborative album with The Sun Ra Arkestra, before disappearing from view.

Remarkably, after decades of silence - leading the world to believe that was all there was - Holidays Records has unearthed a never before released recording of Cairo Free Jazz Ensemble from 1971, comprising Hartmut Geerken's long form composition Music for Angela Davis, that encounters two full ensembles - conducted by Geerken himself and Hubertus Von Puttkamer respectively - joining forces to sculpt a singular effort of big band free jazz.

Recorded on December 4, 1971, at Nile Hall, Cairo, Music for Angela Davis clocks in at 24 minutes - rising and falling within a brilliant, structurally complex and fiery expression of call and response. It is collective improvisation in its most heightened and sophisticated form. As described by Geerken, "One of my attempts with the Cairo FreeJazz Ensemble was my time-related, but timeless composition 'Music for Angela Davis.' I divided the ensemble into two groups of roughly the same size, each with a conductor, and both groups played simultaneously, according to the different hand signals of the conductors, without one group reacting to or considering the other. The only two tone sequences consisted of the musicable notes of the name Angela Davis, i. e. a-g-e-a and d-a s. The composition was an attempt to get together in society through the medium of improvisation and a protest against the racial measurements of the American governments."

Truly astounding on creative terms and as historically important as it comes, Holidays has offered a true slab of music gold with Cairo Free Jazz Ensemble's Music for Angela Davis, leaving jaws on the floor, wondering where these recordings have been hiding for so many years. Issued as a single-sided LP in an edition of 500 copies, it's impossible to recommend enough.

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