Label: Licorice Soul
Original date of release: 1969
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Jazz Club. Nice! Tonight, we've got some jazz upstarts lined up who have taken the liberty of augmenting their grooves with antique instrumentation.
We've all got "Time Tunnel" and International Ska Festival DJ Sean Bright to thank for this one. Catching up with me at a soul night in Camden, he thrust a copy of this into my hands at the bar with the blunt words: "This is the single you were after". This record, sought after by me for a year or two now, is a victim of one his clear-outs - so disgusted was he with the version of "Eli's Comin'" on the A-side ("A song I thought it would be virtually impossible to ruin") that he passed it on to me for the price of a beer.
So, this probably isn't to everybody's tastes, but it is downright unique. So unique that it's a wonder it ever got recorded in the first place. A collaboration between two members of the medieval music ensemble The Early Music Consort (David Munrow and Chris Hogwood) with UK jazzers Don Lusher, Kenny Clare and Kenny Baker, the tracks contain two drummers, a hammond organ, harpsichord, crumhorn and a whole lot of other unlikely music room instruments thrown into an audio blender. It should be complete and total chaos, an unlistenable cacophony, but it's tight and amazingly insistent. The A-side "Eli's Comin'" does indeed take liberties with the original tune, but turns it into something quite vibrant and - despite the obvious jazz flourishes - surprisingly groovy.
The flip "Saturday Gigue" allows the medieval instrumentation to come out to the fore, and gels less well, but does give you a chance to hear Munro's playing up front.
David Munro should really be given particular mention here as a remarkable individual who dedicated his life to obscure instrumentation, even commissioning reconstructions of defunct instruments. He was behind a total of fifty LPs, and a large body of soundtrack work and BBC radio programmes and British television programmes. Sadly, however, he committed suicide in 1976 while in a state of depression. You can see an example of his televisual work here, and it's worth remembering that prior to these ideas getting ITV exposure (imagine that) this was incredibly niche stuff.