Lloyd McNeill: Asha (Universal Sounds/Southbound)

 |   |  2 min read

Lloyd McNeill: As a Matter of Fact
Lloyd McNeill: Asha (Universal Sounds/Southbound)

Jazz flautist Lloyd McNeill lived the kind of life only possible in his era: he counted among his friends in the Sixties and Seventies Pablo Picasso (when they both lived in the south of France, McNeill also being a painter), jazz musicians such as Cecil McBee and Ron Carter, singer Nina Simone and many in the Civil Rights movement.

He spent time as a Navy reservist, was well-traveled (West Africa and Brazil), played in a band with expat Ethiopian saxophonist Mulatu Astatke, studied under Eric Dolphy, became a university professor . . .

One of those annoyingly gifted, inter-disciplinary types – poet, painter, photographer, composer, performer, writer, you name it – he also founded his Asha music label in 1969 on which he recorded his often groovy, spiritually cool and hot swinging funky jazz.

That said, you'd be forgiven for not ever having heard a note: the reissued Asha by the Lloyd McNeill Quartet originally only had a pressing run of 1000.

Once you take out copies for friends I suspect damn few even appeared in the stores of his hometown of Washington DC, let alone in a bin near you.

Listened to at this distance – 40 years on – the album evokes that era when swinging flute was a frontline instrument (for Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Herbie Mann and others) and the jazz contract hadn't been yet extended into jazz-rock fusion.

Here the quintet – which includes hot pianist Gene Rush, and bassist Steve Novosel who went on to play alongside Rahsaan Roland Kirk, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins and other jazz giants – looks to Thelonious Monk (on As a Matter of Fact) and Latin influences, as much as swirling post-bop.mac

And the closer is a 10 minute evocation of Warmth of a Sunny Day. It is certainly that as McNeill's breezy flute weaves and skitters like a leaf in the wind.

But he also ploughs deep into a groove for Dig Where Dat's At, a 3.30 slice of the kind of jazz-pop which could appear as the theme to a particularly switched-on arts programme on television. The title track is a very cool (emotionally and metaphorically) piece which owes a little to the soaring quality of Indian flute music.

What isn't here – and no one says it has to be – is some sense of the turbulent political era in which this album appeared: 1969 was an explosive one for black Americans and yet McNeill's music doesn't touch on it.

Perhaps at the time he was offering music as a balm.

In that he might not have succeeded at the time, but he does now.

Asha is not a lost classic, but it is certainly an album that deserved wider currency than his small indie label could offer.

That it has finally been given that is excellent news indeed.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Head Up)

Because we could safely assume few aggrieved Justin Bieber followers will ever come to Elsewhere, it is safe to write about this hitherto little-known jazz singer-composer-bassist who won the... > Read more

Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (Light in the Attic)

Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (Light in the Attic)

Originally released in 1967 -- the Beatles' Norwegian Wood which used sitar was on Rubber Soul, released late '65, and folk guitarist Davy Graham employed Indian tunings prior to that -- this album... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACO PASTORIUS: High times and low notes

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACO PASTORIUS: High times and low notes

For a jazz musician, Jaco Pastorius died in pretty creditable rock n’ roll style: drugs, delusions, alcohol and itinerancy. And beaten to a pulp by a nightclub manager who didn’t... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Tono

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Tono

Anthonie Tonnon -- aka Tono -- is behind and out from of the highly regarded, wryly observational band Tono and the Finance Company. Originally from Dunedin and a )possibly temporary) Auckland... > Read more