While it's often a mixed bag when a 20-year-old musician who believes anything and everything is possible gets absolute freedom in a recording studio, in Todd Cochran's case, his faith was a truth. A child prodigy, by age 19 he had arranged and played piano on Bobby Hutcherson's 1971 Blue Note date Head On; he also composed most of it. As a result, Cochran, who had by this time changed his name to Bayeté, scored his own record deal with Prestige in 1972. Accompanied by Hutcherson,Hadley Caliman, Oscar Brashear, James Leary III, Michael Carvin, Wayne Wallace, and more, he composed, produced, and arranged this set of six wide-ranging tunes. The jazz world flipped: Worlds Around the Sun topped Downbeat's year-end list; number two was Miles Davis' On the Corner. In retrospect, there was great reason for the enthusiasm. The array of textures, dynamics, and musical shapes here are dazzling; yet diverse as they are, they create a seamless, unified whole where the musical horizon not only comes into view, it's integrated. Check the opener "It Ain't" that touches on everything from bop to modal jazz to 20th century classical music -- and the composer's piano solo cooks. Likewise, "Njeri (Belonging to a Warrior)" is an Eastern-tinged spiritual jazz tune with fine inside vibes from Hutcherson and flute from Caliman. The 12-minute "Bayeté" is initially driven by Carvin's drums, layers of percussion and the composer's Rhodes. It is reminiscent of Joe Chambers' "The Almoravid," but was released a year earlier. It gradually transforms itself into a galloping modal tune with taut, free-thinking soloing by various members of the group. In addition to sophisticated jazz, there is driving jazz-funk here too, most notably in "Free Angela (Thoughts...And All I've Got to Say)." WithCarvin's stop-and-go breaks and Leary's popping electric bassline atop a group percussion orgy and chant, Bayeté's wah-wah clavinet resembles an electric guitar. (Perhaps that's why Santana delivered an instrumental jam version of the live Lotus in 1973.) The tune's last third gives way to a sweet, electric soul groove turning it on its head. "I'm On It" is another stomping jazz-funker with chanted vocals, clipped syncopated clavinet, Rhodes, vibes, and a thudding bass vamp. Caliman shifts it all with an outside yet bluesy tenor solo to carry it out. Closer "Eurus (The Southeast Wind)" is an impressionistic ballad with stellar pizzicato from Leary, Hutcherson's spacious vibes, and elegant flute from Caliman. Worlds Around the Sun is indeed a masterpiece that sounds every bit as convincing in the 21st century as it did upon release. AMG.
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