09 Feb Lonnie Liston Smith – 1975 – Expansions

Lonnie Liston Smith – 1975 – Expansions

Whether it be a hard-edged slice of funk or subtle jazz infused keys this record has everything. I have been repeatedly blown away by this since getting hold of it. “Expansions,” with it’s bouncing bassline and searing keys is immediately infectious. Donald Smith has a wonderfully smooth voice. “Dennis Nights“, starts with Cecil McBee’s deep bass and the track builds up into a beautiful mounting crescendo with Lawrence Killian’s shimmering percussion. “Summer Days“, is a bright, uplifting piece of music with it’s bossa beat it reminds me of being in a busy street, watching the hustle and bustle.

Voodoo Woman“, changes tack again with the hard edgy bassline and Dave Hubbard’s haunting flute. Perhaps the standout track for me is,”Shadows“. This is drum and bass circa 1974. Beautifully arranged with steamy organ effects and delicate sax this starts off slowly and then the amazing rhythm section comes in and really takes over. They perform so tightly as a unit, it’s hard to believe this is a group of musicians recording something in a studio.

Really great records never lose their freshness and this is one of those. Please get your hands on this sublime recording, something is missing in your collection.

Tracks
A1 Expansions 6:04
A2 Desert Nights 6:45
A3 Summer Days 5:53
B1 Voodoo Woman 4:20
B2 Peace 4:13
B3 Shadows 6:20
B4 My Love 5:40

AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek 

When Lonnie Liston Smith left the Miles Davis band in 1974 for a solo career, he was, like so many of his fellow alumni, embarking on a musical odyssey. For a committed fusioneer, he had no idea at the time that he was about to enter an abyss that it would take him the better part of two decades to return from. Looking back upon his catalog from the period, this is the only record that stands out — not only from his own work, but also from every sense of the word: It is fully a jazz album, and a completely funky soul-jazz disc as well. Of the seven compositions here, six are by Smith, and the lone cover is of the Horace Silver classic, “Peace“. The lineup includes bassist Cecil McBee, soprano saxophonist David Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Donald Smith (who doubles on flute), drummer Art Gore, and percussionists Lawrence Killian, Michael Carvin, and Leopoldo.

Smith plays both piano and electric keyboards and keeps his compositions on the jazzy side — breezy, open, and full of groove playing that occasionally falls over to the funk side of the fence. It’s obvious, on this album at least, that Smith was not completely comfortable with Miles’ reliance on hard rock in his own mix. Summery and loose in feel, airy and free with its in-the-cut beats and stellar piano fills, Expansions prefigures a number of the “smooth jazz” greats here, without the studio slickness and turgid lack of imagination. The disc opens with the title track, with one of two vocals on the LP by Donald Smith (the other is the Silver tune).

It’s typical “peace and love and we’ve got to work together” stuff from the mid-’70s, but it’s rendered soulfully and deeply without artifice. “Desert Nights” takes a loose Detroit jazz piano groove and layers flute and percussion over the top, making it irresistibly sensual and silky. It’s fleshed out to the bursting point with Smith’s piano; he plays a lush solo for the bridge and fills it to the brim with luxuriant tones from the middle register. “Summer Days” and “Voodoo Woman” are where the electric keyboards make their first appearance, but only as instruments capable of carrying the groove to the melody quickly, unobtrusively, and with a slinky grace that is infectious.

The mixed bag/light-handed approach suits Smith so well here that it’s a wonder he tried to hammer home the funk and disco on later releases so relentlessly. The music on Expansions is timeless soul-jazz, perfect in every era. Of all the fusion records of this type released in the mid-’70s, Expansions provided smoother jazzers and electronica’s sampling wizards with more material that Smith could ever have anticipated.


Bonus

Lonnie Liston Smith grooves it hard here with his Cosmic Echoes group – mixing in a stronger dose of soul than ever before, yet still giving tracks a righteous feel overall! The approach here is a bit like that of Roy Ayers work from the 70s – still jazzy at its core and conception, but often featuring vocals to deliver a wider message for the tunes – plus some nicely snapping rhythms that are enough to get a fe cuts good play on the dancefloor! The record’s still got plenty of great mellow tracks too, though – the kind of floating spacey numbers that Smith virtually invented during the 70s, and which stand here as a more strongly jazz-voiced contrast to some of the soul tunes in the set. 

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21 Comments
  • MudFlapp
    Posted at 22:21h, 09 February 2018 Reply

    The song Voodoo Woman (clocking in at 420, insert winking smiley with corn cob pipe) Voodoo Woman is the 70s, period. If you ever wanted to hear what the 70s was like, play Voodoo Woman at 420 with 420 and you will be able to smell the leather seats inside the Monte Carlo.

  • Lord Eric
    Posted at 01:44h, 11 February 2018 Reply

    Voodoo Woman is a Funky spiritual jazz masterpiece. Expansions is his best LP for me.

  • S.Gallagher
    Posted at 01:53h, 11 February 2018 Reply

    No other sound like this in Music. Finally getting his Creds……

  • Rick
    Posted at 01:57h, 11 February 2018 Reply

    Theres no better healing music on this planet than lonnies.

  • Gerald
    Posted at 12:12h, 11 February 2018 Reply

    This is what I need most of my time to relax and get me in the mood.

  • Ufo88
    Posted at 14:24h, 13 February 2018 Reply

    What a powerful music! lonnie!

  • Martin
    Posted at 15:08h, 13 February 2018 Reply

    ol skool …kool az hell

  • Angel
    Posted at 03:20h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    Many thanks for this goodie

  • Paco
    Posted at 03:21h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    at last. thanks a bunch, you’re the man for anotha time!

  • westernboy
    Posted at 11:21h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    Just anotha flavour!,luvin it

  • Jaguar99
    Posted at 11:29h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    Thanks for putting thesse two up Nikos!

  • Aston Martin
    Posted at 13:07h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    This kicks ass, love it.

  • DarlingMN
    Posted at 14:36h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    Not familiar but can’t wait to listen to it.

  • James Bull Jr
    Posted at 14:43h, 15 February 2018 Reply

    Never noticed the absolutely killer Expansios by Lonnie Liston Smith. I guess that’s why i should follow your blog mates.

  • Marina E
    Posted at 10:35h, 16 February 2018 Reply

    My gosh. It’s perfect.

  • Gary
    Posted at 01:33h, 19 February 2018 Reply

    Thanks for another gem from the past, there so much stuff out there undiscovered and needs to be recovered.

  • Silverman
    Posted at 00:27h, 20 February 2018 Reply

    Just came across your site im lovin the vibes yall really put your foot with jams you uploaded.
    keep bringin that heat.

  • Sunny
    Posted at 00:33h, 20 February 2018 Reply

    Never heard this before. Caught me with the 1st note, just gets better as it goes along….

  • Burton34
    Posted at 20:57h, 24 February 2018 Reply

    I just stmbled across your site…WOW!!
    Thank you so much for remembering, much love to you all.

  • Zamba
    Posted at 21:04h, 24 February 2018 Reply

    A big thank you to Nikos and the rest of the team for your dedication and efforts.

  • Psychfan
    Posted at 18:14h, 23 May 2018 Reply

    Thanks very much!

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