A characteristic of modern jazz is its interest in both its own root materials and in other kinds of music with which jazz can be naturally fused. On this classic 1960 release on the Atlantic label, Herbie Mann and his Afro-Jazz Sextet explore African, Afro-Cuban and modern jazz and attempt to bring them together at a level on which they can relate to each other -- The Common Ground.
Originally released on Atlantic (1343).
Personnel: Herbie Mann (flute); Michael Olatunji (vocals, percussion); Dolores Parker, Maya Angelou (vocals); Doc Cheatham, Jerry Kail, Ziggy Schatz, Leo Ball (trumpet); John Rae (vibraharp, percussion); Nabil Totah (double bass); Rudy Collins (drums); Ray Mantilla (congas); Ray Barretto (bongos).
Flautist Herbie Mann is well-known for his forays into Cuban jazz. However, on 1960s THE COMMON GROUND, he journeys east to create a unique blend of jazz and African music. Much of this album still falls back on salsa sounds, since Mann employs a four-man Latin-inspired trumpet section and two Puerto Rican percussionists. However, the strength of this record lies in Mann's collaborations with the West African hand-drummer Michael Olatunji.
For "Sawa Sawa De'," Mann plays an African flute, and vibraphonist John Rae switches to an African marimba, while the vocals of Olatunji, Maya Angelou, and Dolores Parker invoke the spirit of Nigeria. Mann's composition "Uhuru" also interweaves jazz with African sounds, though the boundaries here are not as clear. This tune is a simple waltz centered on a 12-bar blues form; however, Olatunji's griot-style vocal performance, heard towards the end of this piece, takes the listener back to West Africa. As the closing title track implies, Mann's record is about finding common ground in a number of styles, blending American jazz and Latin rhythms with the strong influence of African music.