Lonnie Liston Smith
Lonnie Liston Smith’s last album for the Flying Dutchman label ‘Renaissance’ was actually released on RCA in 1976. It is a bridge between his jazzier Flying Dutchman recordings and his slightly more commercial Columbia albums that followed: Exotic Mysteries, Loveland, Song for the Children and Bridge Through Time. His only outing on RCA, the music is an intoxicating mix of vintage Lonnie Liston Smith Jazz-Funk with his prototypical arrangements, flirtations with spiritual and Latin Jazz and beautiful instrumentation.
‘Space Lady’ and the slightly slower ‘Mongotee’ are vintage Lonnie Liston instrumental Jazz- Funk grooves, hinging off a low-slung interplay between bass guitar and corruscating electric keys. ‘Mardi Gras (Carnival) ‘ has a Brazilian flavour and a relentless groove, a percussive and upbeat Jazz- Dance classic featuring a sensously plucked acoustic guitar and soulful acoustic piano, while the elongated rattle of vibraslaps and the knock of wood on metal in the shape of various agogo and cowbells ride away in the background.
‘Renaissance’ is a beautiful mid tempo groove featuring brother Donald Smith on vocals, possesing a kick to the rhythm making that made it a popular feature on the 2-Step Rare Groove scene. ‘A Song of Love’ is an uplifting duet between Lonnie and his brother, which makes for some fantastic listening. Donald further puts his vocals to good use on the downtempo ‘Starlight and You’, one of the more spiritual cuts on the album replete with a gorgeous string section, glowing electric keys and ethereal harmonies.
Renaissance is a great set from Lonnie, at a period in his career where his music turned a corner from his earlier spiritual outings —influenced by the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri and Oliver Nelson— to the more polished and commercial output of his columbia outing. Renaissance is a quiet-fire, a transitional record for Lonnie which retains the best characteristics of his earlier Flying Dutchman output as well as those from his later Columbia works: a perfect meeting point between the two. This is the first ever Lp reissue so grab it while you can. I’m taking one too…
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