27 Great Spiritual Jazz Albums


15 fév. 2008, 14h53m

Continuing in our series over at the Jazz Desk in the Music Advice Center, we recommend these albums as 27 instances of great jazz albums that evoke spirituality or invoke a greater power.

If you are interested in joining the conversation at the jazz desk, we build these lists two or three entries at a time, readers as editors and critics. The guidelines are simple: the only limits are one entry per (main) artist, the connection to jazz must be present, and each contributor decides his or her definition of the topic. Surrounding the lists, we discuss the finer points of recommendations, and this takes the conversation into new paths.

astro1_rohit, one of our most prolific contributors, suggested the topic:

25 Great Spiritual Jazz Albums

Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity (1964)
Alice Coltrane - Huntington Ashram Monastery (1969)
Art Ensemble of Chicago - Bap-Tizum (1972)
Charles Tyler Ensemble - Charles Tyler Ensemble (1966)
Clifford Thornton - Ketchaoua (1969)
David S. Ware - Godspelized (1998)
Don Cherry - Eternal Rhythm (1968)
Donald Byrd - A New Perspective (1963)
Duke Ellington & Mahalia Jackson - Black, Brown, & Beige (1958)
Frank Lowe - Black Beings (1975)
Frank Wright - Church Number 9 (1973)
Freddie Hubbard - Blue Spirits (1964)
Grachan Moncur III - Echoes of Prayer (1974)
Hamid Drake & Michael Zerang - Ask the Sun (1991)
Hannibal Marvin Peterson - The Angels of Atlanta (1981)
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (1964)
Jonas Hellborg - The Word (1991)
Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre - Humility in the Light of the Creator (1969)
Larry Young - Lawrence Of Newark (1973)
Mary Lou Williams - Mary Lou's Mass (1975)
Mtume Umoja Ensemble - Alkebu-Lan: Land of the Blacks (1972)
Nicole Mitchell & The Black Earth Ensemble - Afrika Rising (2002)
Pharoah Sanders - Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) (1970)
Sun Ra - discipline 27-II (1973)
Wadada Leo Smith - Kulture Jazz
Wynton Marsalis - In This House, On This Morning (1992)
Yusef Lateef/Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Orchestra - In the Garden (2003)

27 Great Spiritual Jazz Albums

//editor's note: I am always reluctant to remove someone else's selections to these lists. The purpose of these lists I see as at least twofold--we build a community resource through a dialogue of great jazz, and for those exploring a genre, we offer a list of recommendations as a jumping off point to other explorations.

I know that many albums can be slotted into several genres, and I also am aware that one person's definition of the genre does not have to carry the same borders that another sees. But, perhaps more than others, I want these lists to be aware of the conversations that have preceded them. That's why, since the lists are targeted at a length of 25, convention has been to limit to one entry per artist. In the albums that follow, three entries have been included on recent lists--one by me! I wouldn't necessarily exclude them from this list, but I've added three to the list, taking it to 27. If listener's have been paying attention, they should already have Bap-tizum and Lawrence of Newark, anyway. Everyone should. The Mtume Umoja Ensemble is more for the committed.


  • djjazzpants

    Great list, but I am curious why you chose Mary Lou's Mass over Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes, now in interest of full disclosure I have not heard Mary Lou's Mass so it is a question based fully on curiosity, buy Black Christ of the Andes is one of the best Spiritual Jazz albums I've ever heard (IMO), and I know this is a group effort and like I said I am can't really say that I disagree with having Mary Lou's Mass on there because I have not heard it and I know I am opening myself up to heavy ridicule by some people but I am always trying and willing to learn. Thank you

    15 fév. 2008, 18h42m
  • beelzbubba

    djjazz-- no opening for ridicule here, but an invitation to get in the mix at the Jazz Desk. I'm not the one who put Mary Lou's Mass in the list in the first place; I hope that whoever did can answer your question. I've not heard either one of them. The list is intended for exactly this purpose--a net's been cast, and you've thrown in another offering for the catch.

    15 fév. 2008, 19h04m
  • astro1_rohit

    (I'm a jazz novice, so...) I played Black Christ of the Andes & Mary Lou's Mass back to back, to get a fair idea of Mary Lou William's style (Initially, I wasn't going to play Mary Lou's Mass - thinking that Black..Andes is a popular gospel jazz album.) The second album has more variety & had a stronger, instant impact on me.

    16 fév. 2008, 8h57m
  • beelzbubba

    [quote][b]Quoth madcap44[/b]: great list! David S. Ware is rapidly becoming one of my all time favourite jazzmen![/quote] Uncompromising is a word often used to describe Ware. I know he's not the only one, but he refused some major recording contracts because he would have had to play to the label's vision, and even as a relative unknown outside NYC, he would not sign over that control. He drove a cab but never gave up his desire to express himself through his horn. His recording relationship with Shipp and Parker and the great drummers he's worked with (Whit Dickey, Susie Ibarra et al) has been ideal for us listeners.

    16 fév. 2008, 18h35m
  • djjazzpants

    I really think that Thirsty Ear as a whole has been/is a great label that is not afraid to push limits, particularly the Blue Series, it is one of the few times when you can be pretty sure if it is part of that series, no matter the artist, it will be forward thinking and pretty damn incredible

    16 fév. 2008, 20h54m
  • atoga

    very intriguing list - a handful of names i love, and loads i've never heard of. thank-you for putting this together. also: a 25 Fine Afrofuturist Albums list (not exclusively jazz, of course) would be interesting.

    21 fév. 2008, 23h22m
  • beelzbubba

    I think we ought to start an Afrofuturist desk at MAC and the first order of business will be to generate that list of 25 gems.

    22 fév. 2008, 16h22m
  • djjazzpants

    ok...time for me to play dumb...what would afrofuturist albums be? or what artists what these be?

    22 fév. 2008, 19h54m
  • beelzbubba

    I'm far from the expert here djjazz, but afrofuturist artists span the spectrum from Sun Ra to Funkadelic to Del tha Funky Homosapien, from the Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron to DJ Spooky and Scott Herren (Prefuze 73), Saul Williams and Butch Morris. Afrofuturism is a cultural and literary movement that inhabits the intersections of the African diaspororic experience and technological/scientific applications. Brother from Another Planet would be an Afrofuturist film; Deltron 3030 would be an afrofuturist personality for Del. Sun Ra is often credited with being the grandfather of Afrofuturism. Mark Dery is creditied with coining the term in his essay Black to the Future. Here's a place to start exploring: Afrofuturism

    22 fév. 2008, 20h10m
  • djjazzpants

    Interesting, although a few of the artists confuse me but besides that I think I have the idea...i think

    23 fév. 2008, 1h10m
  • beelzbubba

    The artists confuse you, or their inclusion on a list of Afrofuturism confuses you? If it's the latter, I wouldn't worry too much--it seems to be a big tent. If its the former, tell me more...

    23 fév. 2008, 16h25m
  • djjazzpants

    the latter...like how is prince on there and/or how is Air on there but not AEC...if it is what I read, then Sun Ra is definitely numero uno and Deltron 3030 has to be there

    23 fév. 2008, 23h23m
  • beelzbubba

    The list as far as I could tell was put together by the person who assembled that site. I think by self-definition, any of the AACM bands belong (motto: Ancient to the Future), so perhaps the person assembling the list really dug AIR but perhaps the AEC not so much. I don't think there was a formal criteria for admission.

    24 fév. 2008, 4h38m
  • djjazzpants

    ahhhh...good point...always find it interesting the definition/qualifications of various genres/sub genres...sometimes I wish we weren't so focuses on the sun genre but then again music under one genre can be sooo much different from music in the same genre so it makes sense but...well yea

    24 fév. 2008, 14h04m
  • atoga

    you're both right, there is a lot of overlap with experimental & avantgarde music here. i became interested in afrofuturism through literature, so i'm not sure about what if anything holds afrofuturist music together (hence my asking for a list). a couple of things come to mind: first, explicit science fiction themes - so the music of sun ra and alice coltrane is definitely in (if this isn't clear from their music just look at the visuals in some of their performances!), along with futurist rapping & dub poetry. second, there seems to be an emphasis on creating entirely new musical forms through technology, rather than experimenting with pre-existing ones; ie. the music of lee perry and king tubby, or early electronic jazz and funk, or the crazy new mixing techniques of jeff mills and dj spooky -- it's all future shock music, and i think that IS a salient quality in the music if you have an understanding of its place in history & how it relates to the development of other forms. it seems a lot easier to determine whether music would fall under that category than whether it is experimental or avantgarde or whatever. though by that second criterion, raymond scott might have been the first afrofuturist musician. (also don't know about prefuse 73 - he's the first person i know of who used really granular, glitchy, cut-up techniques to make hip-hop, but those production ideas are far older than his music.) this theorizing could all be too vague or i may be missing out on something important - for example wikipedia says Afrofuturism is identified discourse concerned with revisioning racial identity through the tropes of science fiction and fantasy narrative or aesthetics. involving identity politics with instrumental music is quite messy; who knows if wikipedia is right though. please forgive the lateness of my reply, i often forget to check these. i would be interested in developing these ideas and making that list of albums. can i just roll into the music advice center and start a thread or do i have to go through some elaborate proposal process or something first?

    27 fév. 2008, 3h55m
  • beelzbubba

    Well the first thing you would have to do if you haven't already is join the Music Advice Center. Membership is open, so all you have to do is join. Then, start a thread. That simple. You might want to put a message in the shoutboxes of people who've contributed to this thread to get the word out, but I'll join in. I'm sure others will too.

    27 fév. 2008, 14h03m
  • djjazzpants

    I would join in as well, it certainly seems like an interesting genre (of movies, music, and lit) according to the website there a good amount of each that I am a fan of, so it is certainly worth a shot

    27 fév. 2008, 17h39m
  • PopplagiWest

    Great list except save Wynton Marsalis. Will definitely check some of these out.

    23 juin 2008, 2h11m
  • beelzbubba

    Not sure I understand the dig at Marsalis. I'm pretty sure that album fits in quite well with this theme. You would have to know me to know that I have had significant issues with the Wynton Marsalis Myth over the years, but I'll come to his defense here.

    23 juin 2008, 13h34m
  • jstarkman

    Spiritual Jazz is a quite a loaded phrase who's to say that Charlie Parker wasn't spiritual?

    25 jui. 2008, 6h13m
  • beelzbubba

    Who said that? Starkman, let me put the MAC lists in context. We begin with a theme and a target of 25+/- representative albums that would give an interested listener some entry points into a genre--and often the genres are quite loosely defined or only loosely definable. It's clear that your preference for jazz would not include [i]most[/i] of the artists on this list, but that won't prevent you from joining in the conversations at the Jazz Desk in the Music Advice Center. [i]Most[/i] of the list comprises albums whose title, content, or guiding perspective is avowedly spiritual. No one, I think, would argue that listeners cannot experience feelings of spirituality from Charlie Parker. No one, I think, would argue that Charlie Parker's aims in presentation of his music and his pursuits in music and in life were avowedly secular.

    25 jui. 2008, 11h28m
  • JPdrumming

    Sonny Sharrock's - Ask the Ages would be a nice addition to the list. aAso I know there's already one Alice Coltrane album listed, but Journey to Satchidananda is a fantastic album along these lines.

    3 sept. 2008, 15h00m
  • beelzbubba

    Yep, both would fit in well with this list. Over at the Jazz Desk, the idea is not so much to come up with a complete list, but to keep dialog flowing about the music. Your picks are a most welcome addition.

    3 sept. 2008, 20h10m
  • Spinnbar

    really good stuff in this list!

    29 mars 2010, 16h37m
  • kmullin

    very nice

    30 sept. 2011, 3h10m
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