BLUE MITCHELL: ‘Bantu Village’ (Soul Brother)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • BLUE MITCHELL: ‘Bantu Village’ (Soul Brother)

Miami trumpeter Richard ‘Blue’ Mitchell made his name as a sideman in the celebrated late 1950s bands of Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver playing a blues-infused form of bebop known as hard bop. He cut some LPs under his own name for Orrin Keepnews’ Riverside label at the end of that same decade and then inked a deal with Blue Note in 1963 (while still playing with Silver), where he started making albums with a pronounced soul-jazz flavour. Now reissued for the first time (and the inaugural release in a proposed series of Blue Note reissues from Soul Brother) is Mitchell’s Blue Note swansong from 1969, ‘Bantu Village.’ Though an overlooked gem in Mitchell’s Blue Note canon as far as jazz buffs are concerned, the Afro-centric-themed LP has not been ignored by groove robbers in the hip-hop community, who’ve enthusiastically sampled sections from album’s funky number, ‘Flat Backing’ (its plunderers have included Akinyele featuring Kool G Rap – for the rather dubiously-titled track ‘Break A Bitch Neck’ – and fellow rappers Del and Lucien, the latter a Gallic rapper from Paris). But that’s not the killer cut on this album – rather, at least to my ears, the oddly-titled ‘Na Ta Ka’ is the obvious standout (apparently it used to be popular on London’s jazz dance scene of the 1980s). The opening cut, ‘H.N.I.C.’ is a good one too, sounding like it was inspired by The Isley Brothers’ funky jam, ‘It’s Your Thing.’ In terms of its personnel, ‘Bantu Village’ finds Mitchell surrounded by some first rate players, including Crusader Wilton Felder on bass, drummer Paul Humphrey and pianist Monk Higgins (who also penned much of the material). Mitchell is in fine fettle, trumpet-wise, blowing some bright, virile horn passages on the uptempo tracks and sounding more introspective, tender and lyrical on the down tempo material (such as the plaintive closer, ‘Bush Girl’). Full marks to Soul Brother for making this little gem available again.