Free Speech

Free Speech

On the cusp of the '70s , Eddie Harris delivered Free Speech, an album that foreshadows a sea change in jazz culture. Listening to “Wait Please” and “Boogie Woogie Bossa Nova” one can practically see the lights dim, feel the shag carpet grow between the toes, and smell the marijuana vapors in the nostrils. None of which is by any means a bad thing. While Free Speech might mark the dividing line between jazz that people get stoned to and “stoner jazz,” there’s no denying the album’s pleasures, or its singular innovations. The album marks Harris’ first thorough exploration of the electronic Varitone sax, which helped him discover in the horn all manner of burp, gurgle and whistle. While “Penthology” shows the band becoming somehow spacier and sharper in the same moment, the nearly ambient “Things You Do” shows Harris reaching for a unseen kind of blues: abstract and utterly forlorn, but led by the tender, muted hum of Harris’ reed trumpet. It would become one of the defining approaches of his career.

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