Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shamek Farrah - "First impressions" (Strata-East, 1974)

First posted at "Orgy In Rhythm" by Bacoso in September 2006.
Re-post by permission.

Simon says :

Check the "First Impressions" above. When I was about fourteen years old, a few years after this record would have come out, a late night radio DJ used to play this song every night - I guess he was kind of obsessed with it. Soon, I was too - it was like an alien message being transmitted into my cheap AM radio headphones. The bass - percussion - drums unit holds down a dark, finger-snap funk , while saxaphonist Shamek Farrah and trumpeter Norman Person emit this eerie, wailing series of rolling arpeggios, almost falling into quarter tone gaps.

At fourteen, I thought of snake charmers and other Hollywood-style images of the middle east, there was something exotic here. But it's really pianist Sonelius Smith who takes us on the journey in "First Impressions". In his slightly distant, reverbed space, he rhythmically and melodically skirts around the other musicians, tone clusters rolling up and down the piano to settle in clouds of arpeggiated colour - it's almost as if he drifts off, only to get brought back by the insistent pull of Milton Suggs' bass and Kenny Harper / Calvert Satter-White's hypnotic click percussion. It's still my favourite piano performance, and an extraordinary piece of music ....

Kevin Moist says :

As Strata-East Records got rolling, one of the admirable things it was able to do was offer a platform to some more obscure artists who weren’t being heard elsewise, folks like Billy Parker’s Fourth World (including DeeDee, Ronald, and Cecil Bridgewater); the Washington, DC ensemble Juju (who evolved from an Art Ensemble knock-off into the great jazz-funk band Oneness of Juju by the mid-70s); and alto sax player Shamek Farrah. I don’t really know too much about Shamek except that he made two great albums of spiritual jazz for Strata-East in 1974 and ’77 (the second and half of the first in collaboration with pianist Sonelius Smith).

Both are way cool, but my favorite is probably this one, recorded with 2 slightly different ensembles but consistent in style: largely dark, minor-mode pieces w/a drone implied or explicit and executed w/plenty of edge. The playing is chunky, heavy, and group-minded; Farrah emits a glorious wail on alto sax that takes the lead on most cuts but still leaves plenty of elbow room for everybody else. The most “out” cut is the opener, 'Meterologically Tuned' (titled perhaps for the bracingly out-of-tune trumpet & sax on the intro & outro unison melodies), swirling horns and percussive piano and a rhythm that moves in and out of focus throughout; while the album closer, 'First Impressions', hovers like fog above a loping bassline digging a moody jazz-funk furrow so deep it’s hard to see up over the edge (no surprise it was sampled by Tribe Called Quest some years back).


"Meterologicly Tuned" (11:20) - Shamek Farrah
02 "Watch What Happens Now" (5:41) - Fredger Dupree
03 "Umoja Suite" (7:23) - Norman Person
04 "First impressions" (10:28) - Shamek Farrah

MUSICIANS tracks 1-2

Alto Sax - Shamek Farrah
Bass - Milton Suggs
Trumpet - Norman Person
Piano - Kasa Mu-Barak Allah
Drums - Clay Herndon

MUSICIANS tracks 3-4

Alto Sax - Shamek Farrah
Bass - Milton Suggs
Conga - Calvert "Bo" Satter-White
Drums - Ron Warwell
Percussion - Kenny Harper
Piano - Sonelius Smith
Trumpet - Norman Person


Recording Engineers - George Klabin, Geoff Daking
Recorded and mixed at Sound Ideas Studio, NYC
Graphics : Jerry Harris
Liner photo - Richard Hinson
All Tunes : Supreme Reality Pub. Co.
Produced by Shamek Farrah / Janfar Productions
1974 Strata-East Records
Special thanks to my father and
mother, brother Norman Person, Strata-East Records Inc. and all the beautiful people whose names appear on this album.

Poem from the back cover :

Time unbalanced.

The state of those who are going out,
but forgot how it was to come in.

You see that what is
Outweighs what was.

And you try to balance it out with
Dreams of what could be.

Only what could be
is not what is.

And what's left is
What was.

Time unbalanced,
A state that comes with time.

Niheem Glover

Also available by Shamek Farrah at 'Never Enough Rhodes' :
"The World of the Children" (1976)
"La Dee La La" (1980)



el goog said...

Hi simon
Cheers to your hard working :)
much appreciated!

el goog

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Thank you so much, interesting backstory too!

regis "t.b." milkshakey said...


Simon666 said...

Glad that you enjoyed it Regis :)
Could you possibly have a look at the note I left at your blog in regards to the Henry Franklin album?

PR said...

Been looking for this lp for a long time. Vinyl has proved most elusive.
Thank you very much for this.
Is there something you would like? My collection is modest but you never know your luck.

Chris Ward said...

This is one bad (meaning v good!) album. The second track is incredible, seems to herald the arrival of Hip Hop.

verge said...

word, this is some bangin music right here, thank you!

Simon666 said...

Glad you like it Verge, thanks for all your comments :)

CapQ's Ego Trippin' said...

Hi Simon, just wonder which ATCQ song sampled First Impressions? I tried to dig it but failed. Anyway thanks for sharing this brilliant album.

Unknown said...

I knew Shamek fairly good back in the day. He and Norman complimented each other well. The music is first class although somewhat some what advance on his understanding of tone and tempo. I recall when the group played at Bronx Community College on early 1974. The group left folks amazed. Through contact with with Shamek and Norman I was able to understand what Fist Impressions was all about. Shamek was laying tribute to his first born, his daughter. That's why the under was a little far off but pricise. Shamek Farrah was a friend of mine back in the Bronx 1973-1977. I have always enjoyed listening to this group. In fact I was supposed to do the linar notes for his second album, but O was out of town when the album dropped
I am sorry I miss the opportunity to help expand the audience for the group. To me that eas a missed chance to bring more ears for the misic. That is JAZZ music ya hear.

Simon666 said...

Thanks for your stories!

El Padre McKenzie said...

Thanks a lot for this gem! Greetings from Mexico City.