Date Palms' 5 spiritual jazz gems

Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons

Date Palms

Photo by Vicky Fong

“By 1971, electric instrumentation, synthesizers, rock and funk grooves and Eastern musical and spiritual sensibilities were permeating the jazz landscape heavily”. -Amazon Greg C.

We are not a spiritual jazz band, not even close. But, we are influenced by these classic 70’s albums in some way, albeit loosely. The unique combination of instruments were not part of the “straight ahead” jazz canon, but a unique experiment began in the Aquarian risings of the 70’s. These albums show, taking traditional jazz instrumentation and throwing in Fender Rhodes or electric piano with tanpura or sitar or an Arp 2600, could achieve something transcendental. — Gregg Kowalsky

Alice Coltrane, Journey to Satchidananda (1970)

Whoa! This was the first spiritual jazz record I heard that used the tanpura as a rhythmic component instead of a backing drone heard in Classical Indian Ragas. So, we tried that out on “Psalm 7” from our first LP Of Psalms, and that technique has been part of our repertoire ever since.

Don Cherry, Brown Rice (1975)

This album kills. Our bassist Ben introduced this record to me in 2004, and haven’t found another LP that I can listen to over and over and over again through the years. It features Don Cherry at his best; mixing Eastern instrumentation with his trumpet. It’s a flawless record that contains cyclical bass patterns, which was something we wanted to use as the foundation of Date Palms tracks. To, me this is up there with Bitches Brew as the best psychedelic jazz records of the 70s.

Donald Byrd, Electric Byrd (1970)

Every great jazz musician that was prolific in the 60s and 70s has at least one psych or spiritual jazz record in their catalog, and the recently deceased Donald Byrd is no exception. This is his “Electric” album; his version of what Miles Davis was doing in the 70s, but with Byrd’s own, unique style.

Yusef Lateef, Meditations

Analog synths and Reeds, what? Yes, and the cover art! We’ve been told many times that Date Palms uses strange or non-traditional instrumentation. This LP proves that using strange instrumentation can yield amazing results. This record is definitely a gem and those interested in going deep need to check this out.

Les McCann, Invitation to Openness (1972)

What? I found out about this album a year ago or so, and it has been the best find by far. I wasn’t familiar with Les McCann, keyboardist, but I was sold within the opening 10 seconds of thick Fender Rhodes lines of the 26 min. improvised “The Lovers,” which has lots of Rhodes and heady jams; electric guitar, and yes, this is Les McCann’s one “out there” LPs. More people need to know about this album, which also features Yusef Lateef.

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