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10 Jazz Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the 1970s You’ve Never Heard

We praised them 40 years ago — and you should listen to them today!

Flora Purim and Gato Barbieri

Flora Purim and Gato Barbieri

Tom Copi/Getty; David Warner Ellis/Getty

Rolling Stone has never been a jazz-specialist publication, but in the Seventies, the magazine made sure readers stayed apprised of the jazz world as part of a well-rounded musical diet. In the thousands of record reviews Rolling Stone printed between 1970 and 1979, there were hundreds of jazz albums covered, by names both famous and obscure. Here’s ten of the LPs, from fusion to jazz-reggae, that we had in heavy rotation but are unknown today to all but the most hardcore jazzheads.

Larry Coryell, 'Spaces'

Larry Coryell, ‘Spaces’

On this album, Larry Coryell teamed up with another leading fusion guitarist, John McLaughlin, and they pushed each other "to ever-new heights of wizardry." On both electric and acoustic six-strings, they blew through one instrumental after another, with hypnotic results. How strong was their chemistry? Two years later, they formed a group together: The Guitar Trio, which also featured flamenco player Paco de Lucia.

What We Said Then: "Their fast thinking and quick fingers are phenomenal, but so is their interplay; they never get in each other's way, an amazement considering the breakneck tempos. Both players have a deep understanding of their instrument, of its traditions and literature, so that attaching tags like 'rock' or 'jazz' or 'classical' to parts of the music is futile and impossible. They just burn, and in the process set new standards for the art of modern, improvisational guitar." — Bob Palmer, RS 79 (April 1st, 1971)

Anthony Braxton, 'New York, Fall 1974'

Anthony Braxton, ‘New York, Fall 1974’

Braxton, veteran of the group Circle (alongside Chick Corea) made this impressive major-label debut, making music that was both experimental and highly listenable, with his saxophone floating through jagged rhythms. We hailed this album as a harbinger, saying that Braxton had established himself as "one of the most significant jazz voices of the Seventies. He fulfilled that promise, releasing over 100 albums, becoming a professor at Wesleyan, and receiving a MacArthur "genius grant" in 1994.

What We Said Then: "Where other jazz performers would prefer a mandala, Braxton adorns his new album cover with six enigmatic diagrams; severe in outline, they are strangely evocative of the music within. Yet Braxton's attention to sonority imbues even his most methodical and precisely defined pieces with an affecting pathos, as if Charlie Parker, lost in the bowels of a nuclear reaction, were performing improvisations inspired by mathematical theorems." — Jim Miller, RS 189 (June 19th, 1975)

Don Cherry, 'Eternal Rhythm'

Don Cherry, ‘Eternal Rhythm’

Cherry, now best-known to pop-music fans as the stepfather of singer-rapper Neneh Cherry ("Buffalo Stance"), was an important figure in avant-garde jazz, long playing flute and pocket trumpet alongside Ornette Coleman. This album, originally released in West Germany in 1968, had already been hailed as an underground jazz classic by the time it made its way to American shores. It drew heavily on Balinese gamelan instruments, which Cherry incorporated into an epic blend of blues, gospel, and beauty.

What We Said Then: "Equally eternal-sounding is 'Crystal Clear,' which appears on both sides. Its theme is actually a four-note scale pattern from Bali; the horns toss it playfully back and forth… 'Turkish Prayer' is a lovely, wistful trumpet melody with a Near Eastern flavor. The other themes are equally diverse, but there is no sense of crowding or unnecessary eclecticism; they emerge naturally out of the album's kaleidoscopically changing textures." — Bob Palmer, RS 117 (September 14th, 1972)

Gato Barbieri, 'El Pampero'

Gato Barbieri, ‘El Pampero’

The Argentinian tenor saxophonist tore up the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival at a 3 A.M. gig with a pickup band that included the great drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie (who had come to Switzerland with Aretha Franklin): this album documented the high-flying set. The following year, Barbieri would win a Grammy for scoring the X-rated Marlon Brando film Last Tango in Paris.   

What We Said Then: "Gato's great strength lies in the huge, high, wild tone he coaxes from the tenor instrument and in his novel mingling of South American concurring rhythms and melodic tradition with the searing energetics pioneered by Coltrane, Coleman and Albert Ayler. The great appeal of his music is the apotheosis of heartbreakingly gorgeous melodic lines of tunes… into churning, imploding kegs of rhythm and the soaring expression of feeling via tenor saxophone." — Stephen Davis, RS 120 (October 26th, 1972)

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