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Bennie Maupin

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Bennie Maupin The Jewel in the Lotus album cover
4.26 | 23 ratings | 5 reviews | 17% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Ensenada (8:05)
2. Mappo (8:25)
3. Excursion (4:47)
4. Past + Present = Future (1:45)
5. The Jewel In The Lotus (9:57)
6. Winds Of Change (1:25)
7. Song For Tracie Dixon Summers (5:14)
8. Past Is Past (3:52)

Total time: 43:37

Line-up / Musicians

Bennie Maupin - Reeds, Voice, Glockenspiel
Buster Williams- Bass -
Billy Hart - Drums
Frederick Waits - Drums, Marimba
Bill Summers - Percussion
Herbie Hancock - Piano, Electric Piano
Charles Sullivan - Trumpet (tracks: 2, 3)

Releases information

LP: ECM Records ECM 1043 (Germany),ECM 1043 ST (US),Trio Records PAP-9006 (Japan)

CD: ECM Records ECM 1043 172 3520 (Germany, 2007)

Recorded March 1974 at The Record Plant, New York City.

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BENNIE MAUPIN The Jewel in the Lotus ratings distribution

(23 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BENNIE MAUPIN The Jewel in the Lotus reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

As Maupin was one of the indispensable ingredients for Miles' and Hancock's Jazz Rock adventures with his bass clarinet layers, offering much sonic space and possibilities in the treble end of the spectrum. First noticed in Miles' BB album, Hancock enticed Maupin into his Mwandishi group where he stayed for the duration of the line-up, three albums including the fabulous Crossing and the stupendous Sextant. Indeed much of the magic of BB, Crossing and Sextant comes from Maupin's discreet but absolutely essential interventions with his bass clarinet.

So when he started his own solo career, you'd have expected him to carry on in that direction, but this debut album is released on the ECM label, he's definitely not exploring that alley at all, even if Hancock, Williams, Hart and Summers all played with him in the Mwandishi trilogy While I wouldn't say that the music is light years away from Sextant, it is definitely less structured and more dissonant and improvised. We're not into free jazz either, nor are there blatant improvisation, and the music is sufficiently structured to have been entirely written. Hancock's electric piano and Williams' bowed bass drones provide the perfect tapestry to allow Maupin to intervene at will, since he's the only wind man on the album outside Sullivan's trumpet on two of the eight tracks .also of interest is the two drummers playing together but each in his own stereo channel. If the first side is still relatively lively, the B-side is quite amorphous, if you'll except the odd burst of energy.

Actually I find this album a tad too experimental for the ECM label because of its reputation of being a soft or cool jazz-fusion specialist label, but overall it just happens to be one of the label's better releases along with the first Return To Forever

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is one of the many Mwandishi offshoot releases, an album recorded by virtually the same line-up as Hancock's early 70's masterpieces. But this one is composed by clarinet player Bennie Maupin, and it is very different from Crossings or Sextant, demonstrating how this line-up had reached a level of creativity and collective intuition that allowed them to take on entirely different and very challenging material.

'The Jewel in The Lotus' is a very experimental album, avant-garde almost, but not of the hard-core kind. The music is free-jazz based and largely eschews traditional melodic playing but it is still very rich harmonically, leaving an impression that it was composed as much as improvised. The tight grooves, which drove Hancock's albums, are absent. Instead the drums, just like all other instruments, are used to create an atmospheric texture that ebbs and flows as graciously as the waves, very fluent, continuous music with vague abstract patterns. It's hard to grasp sometimes, and nearly impossible to analyze, but at the same time it's one of those albums that totally drags you into its gentle dreamy mood. It's brooding, mesmerizing, addictive. Even during the wilder atonal sections.

I've only recently got to know this album thanks to a much appreciated suggestion from a hard-core fan. I can see why now, this work quickly established itself as one of my favorite titles of my most beloved jazz period, that of the early 70s, where a deeply psychedelic and intuitive approach embraced some of the energy and electricity of rock. A masterpiece. Much recommend to fans of the early Weather Report albums and Davis' Silent Way.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Bennie Maupin will be a name familiar to those who are into Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. He played clarinet on "Bitches Brew" as well as being part of the "Mwandishi" albums by Hancock. He was the only one from those album to record with Herbie on "Headhunters". The lineup here on "The Jewel In The Lotus" includes Hancock, Hart and Williams from the "Mwandishi" albums along with Summers from the "Headhunters" sessions. Maupin surrounded himself with those he knew during the recording of this album. Besides Hart on drums we also get Waits doing the same. What he did was have one drummer coming through the left channel and the other coming through the right channel playing completely different things. We also have Sullivan playing trumpet on two tracks.The music here is different from any of the bands he had played with before. Some call it Avant Jazz and maybe that's part of it, but to my ears this is melancholic and minimalistic while intricate sounds often come and go. I was not expecting this at all. This was such a great time for those into experimental Jazz because these amazing musicians were trying new things and trail- blazing at the same time.

"Ensenda" opens with bass as we get some atmosphere with marimba, piano and bells. Everything is so intricate as sounds come and go. "Mappo" opens with trumpet and intricate sounds. Some flute after a minute as sounds come and go until after 1 1/2 minutes when it settles in.They quickly go back to the intricate sounds. Piano and bass standout after 3 1/2 minutes and the piano sounds amazing as it gets pretty intense. It settles back down before 8 minutes. "Excursion" has this atmosphere that hovers and it's dark as vocal melodies come in. It turns insane as piano, trumpet, drums and more blast the soundscape. "Past + Present = Future" is a short piece with percussion, piano, flute and atmosphere.

"The Jewel In The Lotus" has these experimental sounds as the horns come in. It's brief as we get a dark calm with sparse piano, bass and cymbals. Sax before 2 minutes joins in. Bass clarinet follows. Sax and bass then lead but the piano and drums are prominant as well. Cool sounds end it. "Winds Of Change" is a short piece where sounds rise and fall. "Song For Tracie Dixon Summers" opens with bass then horns as drums join in around 2 minutes, piano too. "Past Is Past" has these mournful sax melodies with piano. Drums come in later in this melancholic closer.

A unique album played by some of the best on the planet.

Review by Guldbamsen
5 stars A Jewel in the Lotus

I've been getting back into the Mwandishi albums the past couple of months, and what an absolute joy it has been. These records are among the most wondrous and bewitching you'll ever come across inside the chops-dominated sphere of jazz-rock. For those of you who don't know, Mwandishi was the Swahili name Herbie assigned to himself, back when everybody was soul searching - and especially the black communities were finding a lot of power and inspiration in their African heritage, although these jazz infected guys probably would have stood out like a couple of soar thumbs standing in the middle of a dirt brown Kenyan savannah...

Anyways, all of the other guys involved changed their names as well - so Buster Williams became Mchezaji, Jabali/Billy Hart, Mganga/Eddie Henderson, Mwile/Bennie Maupin, Pepo Mtoto/Julian Priester, and Ndugu/Leon Chancler. -And finally we're off to the promised land of orange deserts, exotic jungles and growling big cats.

Aside from the cultural stand, which in all honesty was happening on a nation-wide scale much credited to a guy like Cassius Clay, the actual music of these Mwandishi releases, whether they are Hancock's, Henderson's or Maupin's, are among the finest inside the world of experimental fusion. Sure there is a direct lineage going back to what Miles was trying to do with Bitches Brew and so forth, but once you step inside the miraculous world of Mwandishi, you realise just how original the music was - and still is.

Whereas both Sextant and Crossings rely much on electronic fizzings and bubbles, Jewel in the Lotus is far more "traditional" in its instrumental approach - leaning on an incredibly acoustic and earthy vibe. Now don't let that fool you, because even if the electronics are all but gone, this album's expressive behaviour is still far beyond your every day melodic Brand X album. It's not that it is completely bereft of any melodies, but the focus remains an experimental one - even if it mostly feels arranged and well-plotted. Opposite opposites right here - and loads of 'em... Outside of maybe a few mad piano stints done by Herbie himself, especially on the second cut Mappo that feels like a man possessed trying to climb the Himalayas with a grand piano on his back, - the overall mood of Jewel in the Lotus is one of chill-out peaceful serenity. It puts you into a deep urban trance, that wafts overhead the black and sticky tarmac of the city and gives you time and patience to light a cigarette whilst overlooking the majestic sight of far-away rains hitting the shiny roof of an old factory hall.

Rather bizarrely I count this outing among the most experimental and avant guarde of the Mwandishi releases, yet at the same time it fits the bill of being the most delicate, frail and non-abrasive of the lot. How is that even possible? I guess it has something to do with the way these individual tracks revolve around Bennie Maupin's bass clarinet. He plays that thing like an ancient mantraing jazz guru, who's tired and stoic like a mountain - slowly slowly emanating foggy, cleansing, soothing breaths of sound. He never really flips out - leaving that entirely up to the guys around him, although you can tell how much of a group thing this really is, as none of them puts on their big kahuna hat and goes off like a rabid Charlie Parker on steroids. What covers most of Jewel in the Lotus in this intangible experimental coating is actually the percussive side of things. The nervous, vibrating and slightly edgy feel of the marimbas for once has always spellbound me. They flavour the music in an expressive otherworldly finish that gets me fantasizing about the deep black jungle, pyramids and tribal ceremonies of long lost societies from the heart of human civilisation.

This album is perhaps my all-time fave fusion record. It has everything going for it: that fluttering unhinged jungle vibe, highly soothing surfaces of sound, ethereal landscapes and lastly what makes all of this work wonders - makes the whole project leap straight up in the air, is of course an astonishing cast. If you dig the early fusion groove of Miles Davis, Weather Report and Herbie Hancock then this album should preferably be sneaking in your bedroom window as we speak - ready to get you entranced and bemused whilst you dream of Africa and rainbow coloured vipers.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Recorded after the formal breakup of Herbie's Mwandishi septet, The Jewel in The Lotus harnesses the talents of over half of that septet in Bennie, Herbie, Buster Williams, and Billy Hart but expresses a musical direction quite different than any of the Mwandishi albums (three under Herbie Hancock's name, two under that of trumpeter Eddie Henderson). First of all, the album was produced and released by Manfred Eicher's new ECM label (which leads to expectations of impeccable sound quality), while also being recorded in New York City's Record Plant.

1. "Ensenada" (8:05) fast-paced static two-note bass line and wind chime-like percussion instruments open this song until the reset pause at the 95-second mark signals the arrival of flutes and piano. A song that reminds me of some of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin's more sedate spiritual-oriented songs as well as some of Chick Corea and Gary Burton's duets. At 4:35 there is another reset pause which is then followed by a key change when the instrumentalists resume their wind-chime nature imitation. I really love this song! (14.5/15)

2. "Mappo" (8:25) Bennie's flute leads this one as trumpet, bowed double bass, delicate drum play (from both drummers) and additional percussion inputs support. In the third minute the band starts to establish a kind of tense, dour, even cinematically-frightening motif but then backs off. This is so much like the future music of avant gard pioneers UNIVERS ZERO and PRESENT! But then Latin hand drums enter totally wiping away the cinematic tension, redirecting the tension into some free-jazz kind of play. Even Herbie's discordant piano play in the fifth and sixth minutes (or Buster Williams and Bill Summers' wild play) seem only to add to the tense 20th Century classical music feeling of this. This feels like a very wise and mature composition! Wow! (19/20)

3. "Excursion" (4:47) starts out sounding as if we're in some high mountain Tibetan monastery with the horns, reverberating gongs, glockenspiel, tuned percussion, prayer-like vocalisations, piccolo, bassoon, and, later, discordant and free-for-all double bass riffs, piano hits, and snare and drum fills. The cacophonous sound just builds and thickens the further the song runs until the end when recorder and single-voice vocal chant are left to end the song. Wow! What a journey this man is taking us on! (9/10)

4. "Past + Present = Future" (1:45) piano, distant snare and shaken percussives, long, bowed double bass notes, and multiple flute and reed instruments present this lovely little interlude. (4.75/5)

5. "The Jewel In The Lotus" (9:57) spacey electric piano (with fast-panning reverb) with shaker percussives open this while reed instruments, double bass sprays, delicate cymbal play, and marimba gradually set the stage for Bennie's soprano sax and other reed instruments to slowly, subtly set a melody. I am so impressed with the design of this music! And the discipline it takes to perform it. (And I know from second-hand sources that Bennie is a very exacting, very demanding band leader.) Once Bennie is in front, the music pretty well established and solidified, it kind of loses its appeal to me as it becomes less about mystery and melody and more about continuing the floatability. The individual instrumental choices and contributions are interesting yet they're often so soft and subtle that they do more to deflect my attention off into some tangential place of dreamy sensuality. I hate to detract from the ability to perform such a wonderful (and wondrous) feat, but I kind of want to stay engaged with the song. (17.66667/20)

6. "Winds Of Change" (1:25) multiple reed instruments performing together, in attempted unison. (4.5/5)

7. "Song For Tracie Dixon Summers" (5:14) a lot of space--some times quite empty--around which Bennie and company add small whorls and twists of movement--until the third minute when Bennie's soprano sax leads Herbie, Buster, Billy, and the percussionists into something slightly more definitive and organized. There's just so much space! I usually love spacious music like this but this one is almost too reliant on the long decays of instrumental sound as to not represent music but rather act as a reminder of what the world would be like without music. Interesting! (8.75/10)

8. "Past Is Past" (3:52) Bennie's plaintive, languid soprano sax in duet with Herbie's full piano prowess--at least for the first 90-seconds, then triangle, shaker, timpani, and other hand percussion instruments (and background harmonizing flutes) join the flow (which is pretty much a drawn out three-chord flow). The drummers get to join in--as only accenting percussionists--in the final minute. (8.875/10)

Total time: 43:37

A surprisingly transportive, spiritual experience comes out of listening to this album each time I do so. This is, in my opinion, no small feat. In fact, I would argue that it might take some artists a lifetime to achieve such an effect through their art.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of quite remarkably mature song compositions performed by the remnants of the Mwandishi lineup months after the last Mwandishi session wrapped up.

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