STLJN Audio Archive: Julius Hemphill - Dogon A.D.


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This week's Audio Archive spotlights a recording that's generally acknowledged by jazz musicians, fans, critics and scholars as being of major significance, yet somehow has remained mostly out of print for more than 30 years.

Saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill recorded Dogon A.D. in February, 1972 at Oliver Sain's Archway Studios on Natural Bridge Rd in north St. Louis. In addition to Hemphill on saxophone and flute, the musicians included Abdul K. Wadud on cello, Baikida Carroll on trumpet, and Phillip Wilson on drums.

The session was Hemphill's debut as a leader, and somewhat unusual in that Sain recorded lots of blues, soul and R&B artists at Archway, but relatively few jazz performers. Sain is, of course, well known as an R&B saxophonist, bandleader, producer and songwriter of tunes such as “Don't Mess Up A Good Thing," but his engineering work on Dogon A.D. certainly represents another noteworthy addition to his extensive resume.

Since no producer is listed, it seems likely that Hemphill and Sain worked together on mixing and mastering the final product. Hemphill pressed up some copies—probably numbered in the hundreds rather than thousands—and issued it under his own imprint, Mbari. (You can see the original cover art above left.) A few years later when Hemphill was signed to the Arista/Freedom label, they reissued Dogon A.D. with new cover art (pictured, below left).

The album includes three tracks: “Dogon A.D.," “Rites" and “The Painter." “The Hard Blues," the fourth track recorded during the session, eventually turned up on Coon Bidness, a subsequent Hemphill album for Arista/Freedom.

Musically, Dogon A.D. is notable particularly for how the musicians start with some simple melodic, rhythmic and textural ideas and successfully develop them through improvisation. Writing for AllMusic.com, reviewer Scott Yanow awarded the album 5 stars and said, “This historic album features four then-unknowns on three lengthy avant-garde explorations that were quite influential... This important music is better to be heard than described."

You can read more about Dogon A.D. in this post at the blog Wedge Radio, and there's a very good essay and discussion in comments as part of this post at the blog Inconstant Sol that also contains links to a free downloadable version of the album.

To get your copy, scroll down to the first comment in that linked post, locate the URL for either the .MP3 or lossless FLAC version, and copy and paste it into a new tab or window. The URL takes you to a Rapidshare page with the download; look for the green button that says “download" and follow the instructions there. For more about .RAR files and how to decompress them, see this page.

The StLJN Audio Archive links only to recordings that are out-of-print or that never have been commercially available. The purpose of the Audio Archive is encourage discussion, appreciation and knowledge of St. Louis jazz artists, and we encourage you to support them (or their estates) by purchasing authorized recordings and merchandise or, whenever possible, attending live performances.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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