I’m willing to say this obscure sitar-infused psychedelic jazz album is one of the absolute best I’ve heard from the legendary Impulse! jazz imprint. Why they haven’t reissued it yet is beyond me. Bill Plummer’s primary trade is in the string bass, which does provide the awesome backbone for all of these songs. But someone must have tossed Mr. Plummer in a vat of acid (almost like Jack Nicholson in the 1989 “Batman”) before the making of this album. With it’s layers of Eastern gauze, occasional blasts of spoken word and free jazz, and oddball covers, this is the most ear pleasingly far-out legitimate jazz album I’ve come across (the wild fury of John Coltrane’s Om, also on Impuse!, is probably the most far out, but it’s not easy to listen to).
The first track, “Journey to the East,” is far beyond awesome and deserves a place on every psych compilation. It’s got a rock-solid groove, crazy chanting, a wall of sitar, and a totally entertaining spoken word rambling. Practically every 60’s cliche is packed into the spoken word, but it’s all convincingly sold by the dispassionate reading and the phenomenal music backing it up. I think I’ve listened to it about 600 times in the past week; I can’t think of a better complement than that. For your own mind journey to the East, you need go no farther than “Arc 294,” which plays as Indo-psychedelic free jazz for about ten minutes. The covers here are of note as well. Seeing “The Look of Love” on a track listing typically makes me groan, but with sitar drones and a groovy beat accompanying the tune, it works out just fine. Even better is the similar treatment to the Byrds great, yet-neglected “Lady Friend.” I didn’t know that that song required a transcendental Indo-jazz reading, but apparently it did. To hear Mr. Plummer score at making more conventional jazz, head for “Pars Fortuna” and “Song Plum”
This album manages to fuse jazz, Indian music, and wacky psychedelia, while still ending up as more than the sum of its parts. You need to become part of the Cosmic Brotherhood as soon as possible.