BUILD AN ARK / “You’ve Gotta Have Freedom” (J. Rocc Remix)
So, check it. We’ve talked about jazz great Pharoah Sanders before and we’ve talked about the DJ wunderkind known as J. Rocc. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about the L.A. collective called Build An Ark, but they’re some hip cats as well. This week’s feature cover song, J. Rocc’s remix of Build An Ark’s version of Pharoah Sanders’ “You’ve Gotta Have Freedom” (there’s a mouthful), is going to be all three of these artists doing their thing at once.
First, lets talk about the separate elements of the track. There’s the Pharoah Sanders original, a real anomaly of a tune if I’ve ever heard one. What’s so unusual about it? Mostly, it’s the lightness. “You’ve Got To Have Freedom” (from Sanders’ 1980 release Journey To The One) is a breezy, weightless-sounding record that seems like something out of the post-‘60s Blue Note camp. Meaning, it sounds more like Bobbi Henderson or Blue Mitchell than Pharoah Sanders. But that’s just the rhythm section. Eddie Henderson’s solo is nice, but over on the lead there’s Pharoah, still blowing as hard as he ever did. That gut-piercing wail Pharoah always managed to get out of his horn remains just as distinctive in 1980 as it was a decade earlier when he was cutting his classic sides for Impulse. Whether you consider “You’ve Got To Have Freedom” an oddity or not, one thing I think we can all agree on is it’s a great record. I think of it as kind of a last gasp for the type of ‘70s-era soul/jazz that I really like: easy-on-the-ears yet deeply spiritual. Likeable, yet significant. (Feel free to add in your own combination of unlikely adjectives here.)
Build An Ark is an L.A. Collective of jazz and soul musicians who run deep, but despite their reputedly having thirty or so members at any given time, I wouldn’t call Build An Ark a ‘big band’ in the traditional sense. They’re more of an organic and constantly shifting, um, sprawl. The Build An Ark crew came together just after 9/11 under a stated mandate for peace. It’s no surprise then, that all of their songs are positive and uplifting, many of them having a gospel-like fervor. (Although the band isn’t explicitly religious. Not that I’ve heard anyway.) On their 2004 album Peace With Every Step, Build An Ark remade Sanders’ “You’ve Got To Have Freedom.” The BAA version is very different from the original, having been recasted as a funky shuffle as opposed to the airy, swinging tempo of Sanders’ version.
The feature of the remake is the vocals of BAA member Dwight Trible (who, probably not coincidentally, also sings with Pharoah Sanders’ band), whereas the original featured more prominent hornwork. The BAA version is a total rearrangement, much moreso than the average cover. To my ears, the only element that survives from the original are the catchy female harmony parts. (Hear them once and you’ll know what I mean.)
In 2005, Build An Ark dropped a remix EP. (As far as I know, the EP is only available on vinyl. But if you’re willing to go the iTunes route, it is available there as well.)
The second track of the EP is a remix of “You’ve Gotta Have Freedom” by the legendary hip-hop turntablist J. Rocc of the Beat Junkies. But if you know both the Sanders version of “Gotta Have Freedom” and the BAA cover, it’s a bit difficult to tell which one J. Rocc is actually remixing. What we’re really dealing with is a creative meshing of both tracks. J. Rocc takes the vocal elements of the BAA version and lays them over the instrumentation of the original. It’s an odd remix, given that it’s billed as a remix of the BAA version, yet sounds most like the Sanders version. Also strange is that I’ve heard a previous J. Rocc mix in which he cuts up various jazz records over the main rhythm parts of Sanders’ version. That earlier mix that J. Rocc did sounds almost exactly like the Build An Ark remix. Anyhow, no matter what the genealogy of the cut is, I dig it and I hope you do too.
* * *
As a bonus, here’s another Build An Ark track I’ve always liked named “Always There.”
It’s basically the whole sprawling crew laying down a chunky, conga-heavy groove then taking turns calling out the names of jazz elders who are no longer with us. (I think. Can’t say I checked all the names to make sure though.)
—Mtume ya Salaam
P.S. Just to give credit where it’s due, I came across the Build An Ark remix on Ear Fuzz
, an mp3 blog I check out from time to time.
Pharoah = Freedom
“Meaning, it sounds more like Bobbi Henderson or Blue Mitchell than Pharoah Sanders.” Son, put down that pencil, you know you don’t know nothing about no jazz! "You've Got To Have Freedom" is far, far, far from an anomaly—in fact, what we have here is a lack of background knowledge. “You’ve Got To Have Freedom”
is almost instantly recognized as middle period Pharoah from when he did a series of albums on the Theresa label (which was eventually acquired by Evidence Records). I’m going to resist the temptation to go deep into the pyramid and read the hieroglyphs, i.e. I won’t talk at this moment about Pharoah’s storied career as a spiritual vibrationist of dynastic import (but I promise to return soon to the subject and offer my translation of the writings on the wall).
Mtume, I think you dig "Freedom"
because of the melodic body and the fact that it swings straight ahead, hence your reference to the chorus. That’s cool. However, beautiful melodies have always been one of Pharoah’s signatures (just check the Thembi
album). As terrible as his reputation and reality is as a destroyer of tenor saxophone conventions, Pharoah, nevertheless, always, always signed his name with the lightness of a phoenix feather; my man was/is always ascending regardless of the ashes and flames in his wake. Don’t just dig the fire, check the flight!
And by the way that’s New Orleans homie Idris Muhammad on the drums.
Sorry about the little detour but to consider the “lightness” of “Freedom”
an anomaly is not to know the out-of-body essentials of Pharoah’s impressive musical corpus.
With that said, let’s now return to the discussion at hand: namely, different versions of “You’ve Got To Have Freedom.”
I’ve added a remix by Two Banks of Four, a band we featured a while back with their version of “Afro Blue.” What I find interesting is their utilization of electronics in an acoustic way, following a typical Pharoahic solo flight path including the collective improvisation just past the midway point. Perhaps it is helpful to know that Pharoah played with Sun Ra. In that light the Two Banks of Four version is not really as radical as it may initially sound to the uninitiated.
Which brings me to repeating myself. In over two years, we at BoL have not repeated a song posting. We have been very conscious of covering the spectrum and offering something different every week. However, in this case I’m going to do the Bobby Brown and take author’s prerogative to re-post Dwight Trible covering "You've Got To Have Freedom."
What we have here is Dwight full out with a “Freedom”
shout so impressively intense that the atmosphere is smoking, vapors rising off the microphone. That’s the club-jazz, Japanese band, Soil and Pimp Sessions, backing up Dwight. This is the kind of shit that desperately needs to be shared with the whole damn world but, unfortunately, it is not commercially available.
You can hear here how Dwight fits into Pharoah’s flight path. My man literally roars and soars. I’ve heard of and am a big fan of getting down but this is some uprising kind of sound. My God! (Literally, human black vibrations is my God and Dwight Trible is a messenger.)
* * *
Part 2 of this mini-exegesis.
Mtume, I’m chagrined [wink, wink ;>)] that you didn’t recognize the provenance of “Always There.”
That’s a cover of the hook on Incognito’s tune entitled—surprise, surprise—“Always There.”
I’ve got three or four Incognito versions. The one I’ve put into the jukebox is from Let The Music Play
feturing Joycelyn Brown lead vocals.
And so, another week of BoL rolls by, another week of surprises. When Mtume and I set out to do a week we never know where it will lead us. We just follow the music into unknown realms, always surprised, always satisfied. Damn, the music is wonderful.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
P.S. We got more Pharoah and more Incognito, soon come.
The comparison of the melodies
Kalamu's already forgotten more about jazz than I'll ever know, I think that's obvious to anyone who reads BoL. But, I'm not buying the comparison of the melodies on Thembi
to those from "You've Got To Have Freedom."
The latter tune has an almost Manhattan Transfer vibe. It's not cheesy like Manhattan Transfer is, but it's damned breezy. And you can sing along to it. Meanwhile, Thembi
(one of my favorite jazz albums, by the way...I highly recommend it) has a stately, intense and very serious vibe. Yes, the melodies are beautiful, but they're also the type of melodies that make you think rather than sing along. It's the kind of music that I like to play early in the morning, when I'm alone. So that's the distinction I was trying to make. Like Kalamu said, I certainly don't know the entire body of Pharoah's catalog, but "Got To Have Freedom"
doesn't sound anything like the rest of Pharoah's music I've heard. Including the Thembi
Oh. And I can't wait to hear the Incognito track. I had no idea that was a remake too.
—Mtume ya Salaam
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