REVIEW: Various Artists – Spiritual Jazz 2: Europe

Following on from 2008’s first incarnation of Jazzman Records‘ compilation, Spiritual Jazz, comes a second excursion into the rarely defined sub-genre, entitled; Spiritual Jazz 2: Europe. As the name purports, this compilation focusses on spiritual jazz music from Europe. Specifically it focusses on music created between 1960 and 1978, all under the tagline of being; Esoteric, modal and deep jazz from the European undergound.

Out right now on CD, 2xLP and digital download, Spiritual Jazz 2 contains eleven absolutely exquisite tracks. The 2xLP is particularly delightful as it is presented in a beautiful gatefold sleeve containing detailed liner notes and fantastic imagery throughout. Jazzman Records are renowned for both their incredible musical output, and their attention to detail when it comes to documenting and presenting music. Spiritual Jazz 2 is certainly no exception, and the gatefold vinyl is a collectors dream.

Tracklisting:

01. Erich Kleinschuster Sextett – Communion
02. Albert Manglesdorf Quintet – Varie
03. Michael Garrick Sextet – Temple Dancer
04. Raphael – Archangelo
05. Barney Wilen – Africa Freakout
06. Nicolai Gromin – Corrida
07. Heikki Sarmanto – Duke and Trane
08. Wroblewski Jazz Quintet – Nana Imboro
09. Dusko Goykovic – Bosna Calling
10. Pedro Iturralde – Las Morillas de Jaen
11. Hans Dulfer & Ritmo-Natural – Candy Clouds (Part II)

As somebody who counts them-self as a jazz fan, but not a jazz expert or historian, I found that this compilation contained plenty of music (and artists) I was unfamiliar with. But, the music is outstanding. From the (previously unreleased) eastern-sounding Michael Garrick Sextet track, Temple Dancer, to the nearly 13-minute long Raphael epic, Archangelo, Spiritual Jazz 2 had me gripped and enthralled. Incidentally, the compilation is dedicated to the late Michael Garrick, who sadly passed in November last year.

The detailed liner notes contain biographical information on the artists, including a full list of the players on each track, as well as some of the stories behind the creation of the songs. But, when I say ‘liner notes‘, this isn’t a quick scribble including credits and ‘thank-yous’, this is more closely related to an early edition of the much fabled and revered Wax Poetics magazine – it’s like a short book and acts a wonderful accompaniment to the music.

At just shy of an hour and 20 minutes of music, I felt as if the entire listening experience was a journey. I was being educated through music, without even being particularly conscious of that fact. Such pure instrumentation and expression is something which is sadly lacking from a lot of contemporary music, so it’s with much appreciation that an opportunity to experience it would be presented in the form of this compilation. It’s also worth noting that Jazzman Gerald had each track digitally restored from their respective original master tapes.

Naturally you’ll have to have a degree of interest in jazz music for this to appeal, but I believe that most people with an open musical mind will appreciate the beauty present within this release. It certainly strikes me as being the sort of release many wouldn’t automatically associate themselves with – that is until they begin to listen – this is the point at which you’ll get sucked in well and truly. Call it a beautiful jazz trap, but it’s one I would gladly fall into again and again.

Spiritual Jazz 2 can be purchased via Jazzman Records directly – who are currently offering Volumes 1 and 2 as a bundle – plus you can purchase it digitally via iTunes from 13 February, where it comes with an exclusive digital booklet containing the earlier-mentioned liner notes and imagery.