Monday, 4 June 2018

Freddie Hubbard / İlhan Mimaroǧlu - Sing Me A Song Of Songmy (1971)

A unique and still powerful collision between jazz, recited poetry/other spoken word and the electronic/composed avant-garde, this album is very much a product of its time, but continues to resonate.  Credited first to the legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (and solely to him on the spine of the CD I have here), Sing Me A Song Of Songmy was however foremost a project by Turkish-born composer İlhan Mimaroǧlu (1926-2012).  As a producer at Atlantic, Mimaroǧlu had top-notch facilities at his disposal to indulge in an album this bizarre and still get a major label release out of it, and Hubbard's quintet were game to provide an underlying backbone of post-bop accessibility.

Before even hearing the record, listeners of the time would've been aware that there were weighty themes within - 'Songmy' was an anglicization of Sơn Mỹ, the Vietnamese village in which the 1968 My Lai massacre took place; the cover painting was Picasso's Massacre In Korea, and the gatefold a collage of contemporary anti-war content.  Alongside Mimaroǧlu's "Fantasy For Electromagnetic Tape", with occasional quotes of older classical music, and Hubbard's quintet, were readings of poems by Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca and Nha-Khe, and texts by Kierkegaard and Che Guevara.

The album opens with another then-contemporary recitation, of Susan Atkins' testimony at the Manson Family trials, accompanied by a nightmarish sound collage giving way to a string orchestra overture and more electronics.  If this is a bit too much of a chucking in at the deep end, a few minutes of Hubbard and band follow with minimum disturbance, before the electronic processing gradually leads to the first piece of war poetry.  The album continues in collage mode, jumping from jazz to processed noise to orchestrated passages to recitation and sometimes piling on all at once, clearly intended to be unsettling, provocative and thought-provoking.  A must-listen, even today.

mega / zippy

4 comments:

  1. Agreed. This album's just as powerful and urgent now as it was back in the early 70's. As with Simon and Garfunkel's "7:00 O'Clock News/Silent Night", I think you could replace the roughly fifty year old subject matter with current events and it would be just as compelling. I hope someone's doing that sort of thing these days. Social comentary like this will always be relivent. Have any suggestions?

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    1. Absolutely should be something like this being done nowadays - I'd like to think there is, but no doubt pretty deep underground rather than on Atlantic Records! I'd also love to hear any suggestions, as I struggle to keep up to date other than with instrumental stuff. I try to keep an eye on Pitchfork so that I've got a vague idea what's going on. Certainly someone like Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamaar or Frank Ocean could possibly push the avant-garde envelope and have the talent/skill to come up with a stunning album, they're the current artists I'm most interested in watching to see how they continue to develop in terms of social commentary and musical innovation.

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  2. I first heard this sometime in the mid 1970's on a local midnight-4:00am FM radio program. It blew me away. I had never heard anything quite like it - jazz and avantgarde electronic together! Luckily, because it had Freddie Hubbard's name on it and was on Atlantic it wasn't too difficult to get ahold of. I urge everyone to give it a listen. I look forward to hearing it again. Many thanks!

    -Brian

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