Grachan Moncur III — New Africa (1969, BYG Actuel)
Sometimes you encounter a record and wonder, where the hell has this been my entire life? Mr. Grachan Moncur III’s 1969 release New Africa, on the incomparable BYG Actuel is one such release. The 18 minute title track first appears on the scene with a breezy 6/8 intro, two minutes in the band cuts its strut and a brief solo by Moncur, send the group down main, take a left, then hang a right. Now you’re cookin’. Hell of an ensemble on this one. Archie Shepp on tenor, Roscoe Mitchell, alto, Dave Burrell on the pianee, with Alan Silva and Andrew Cyrille rounding out the rhythm section. “Space Spy” is foreboding tune, Silva’s teasing upright and Cyrille’s heavy hats add to the tension. Rhythm section up to the challenge, no doubt. Channels hard Cold War, 1969 vibes. Before This Heat were waxing lyrical about the doomsday clock striking the midnight hour on Deceit, Moncur and co. were putting the bubblin’ cauldron to tape. “Exploration” is an aptly named Dolphy-esque tune. Burrell is doing Burrell, staccato, choppy licks flying all over the place. Raspy saxophoning to follow. Hard to tell if it’s Shepp or Mitchell, but one is inclined to settle on the former. Think nouvelle vague chase scene. Belmondo looks back at the camera, jump cut, car takes the corner fast, etc. The dust settles, and out comes “When.” Wow. Same cool swagger as the opener, pleasant, easy-going, Sunday morning shit. If when is a question, well then the answer is always. Moncur, Shepp Mitchell, Burrell, so goes the soloing. Archie Shepp plays something wicked on this one. Fantastic chord progression which — and pardon the hyperbole— makes for one of the most solid closing numbers out there. As with any BYG release, highly recommended.