Jazz 100
The Creative 70s
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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Washington Suite
Lloyd McNeill Quartet
1970 [Asha]


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Flautist and visual artist Lloyd McNeill often gets tagged as avant-garde, but he is probably best described as playing a modern creative style. Nothing here is too over-the-top, with most songs sounding somewhat sombre. The exception is the 16-minute City Triptych, which the platform laid in previous songs to go to a variety of vibrant places.





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Conference of the Birds
Dave Holland Quartet
1972 [ECM]


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Apart from Holland's amazing bass playing - this early ECM classic features some fine work from reed players Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers. While the music here is undeniably free, it is not directionless. Holland is a disciplined and inventive composer and Conference is his defining statement. Not typical of the later ECM sound.





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Black Unity
Pharoah Sanders
1972 [Impulse!]


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Free-jazz icon Pharoah Sanders shows distinct signs of maturation as he tones down the dissonance, and explores and unifies a range of disparate musical influences. The album consists of a single 37-minute excursion described by music critic Joe S. Harrington as, "…an exercise in sustained harmonic groove that cannot be beaten."





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Sahara
McCoy Tyner
1972 [Milestone]


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Pianist McCoy Tyner never seemed to completely fit in with John Coltrane's later work. This album is best described musically as post-bop, although the wilder moments provide bursts of pure creative engery. Sonny Fortune thrives on both alto and soprano sax, while the Calvin Hill/Alphonse Mouzon rhythm section provides solid support.





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Birds of Fire
Mahavishnu Orchestra
1973 [Columbia]


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The follow-up to The Inner Mounting Flame (1971) finds John McLaughlin's double-neck 6 and 12-string guitar in searing form. The rest of the band - keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird and fenetic drummer Billy Cobham - doesn't miss a single wildly chaotic beat. Superbly remastered for CD.





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Musique du Bois
Phil Woods
1974 [Muse]


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Terrific and highly inventive from clarinetist/alto saxophonist Phil Woods, including three original tracks. Although much more relaxed than any bopper could be, it's not hard to hear the influence of Charlie Parker throughout. Pianist Jaki Byard is the other notable here, taking free jazz phrasings and ironing them out to fit Woods' vision.





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Brown Rice [aka Don Cherry]
Don Cherry
1975 [EMI]


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This album by trumpeter Don Cherry has a somewhat confusing release history, initially appearing in Italy under the 'Brown Rice' title, but showing up in 1977 as simply titled 'Don Cherry' on the Horizon label. It is a funkified world fusion extravaganza with African, Indian and Arabic influences readily apparent. A classic of its creative type.





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Enigmatic Ocean
Jean-Luc Ponty
1977 [Atlantic]


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French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty is outstanding on this fine 70s fusion outing. With two electric guitarists on board, the album had just enough rock to gain decent commercial success, peaking at #35 on the Billboard pop albums chart. The track 'Mirage' got plenty of FM radio airplay, with others also scoring the occasional DJ spin.


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