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BENNIE MAUPIN

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Bennie Maupin biography
Bennie Maupin was born on Aug 29, 1940 in Detroit Michigan. After attending the Detroit Institute for Musical Arts and playing locally in Detroit, Maupin left for New York in 1963. Once in New York Bennie worked with many of the best jazz musicians in the scene, including Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner and Pharoh Sanders. In the late 60s Maupin joined up with Miles Davis and became a major creative force behind ground breaking albums such as Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson and Big Fun. After leaving Miles, Bennie continued to break even more musical barriers with Herbie Hancock�s brilliant avant-fusion Sextet. Later Maupin would stay with Herbie to become part of the futuristic abstract funk-jazz of the Headhunters.

Very few musicians in the history of jazz fusion have been involved with so many progressive genre defining bands as Bennie Maupin, yet sometimes it seems his name has been forgotten. His dark modal lines on the bass clarinet that recall modern classical composers such as Stravinsky, Moussourgsky and Debussy, combined with his ability to mix Coltrane�s freedom with Maceo Parker�s hard funk during his explosive tenor sax solos places him second only to Wayne Shorter as an early fusion innovator on woodwinds.

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Early ReflectionsEarly Reflections
Cryptogramophone 2008
Audio CD$11.27
$6.60 (used)
Slow Traffic to the Right; MoonscapesSlow Traffic to the Right; Moonscapes
Import
Dutton Vocalion 2011
Audio CD$14.45
$24.35 (used)
PenumbraPenumbra
Cryptogramophone 2006
Audio CD$7.98
$7.66 (used)
The Jewel in the LotusThe Jewel in the Lotus
Ecm Records 2007
Audio CD$26.99
Driving While BlackDriving While Black
Intuition 1998
Audio CD$6.49
$6.48 (used)
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BENNIE MAUPIN discography


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BENNIE MAUPIN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.19 | 10 ratings
The Jewel in the Lotus
1974
3.58 | 7 ratings
Slow Traffic To The Right
1977
4.00 | 2 ratings
Moonscapes
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Driving While Black (with Dr. Patrick Gleeson)
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Penumbra
2006
0.00 | 0 ratings
Early Reflections (with The Bennie Maupin Quartet)
2008

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BENNIE MAUPIN Reviews


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 The Jewel in the Lotus by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.19 | 10 ratings

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The Jewel in the Lotus
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Guldbamsen
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

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.

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 The Jewel in the Lotus by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.19 | 10 ratings

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The Jewel in the Lotus
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Slow Traffic To The Right by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.58 | 7 ratings

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Slow Traffic To The Right
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

2 stars Comparing Maupin's first two albums you get a perfect illustration of the huge gap between the fusion of the first half and that of the second half of the 70s. Maupin's 74 'Jewel in the Lotus' album was experimental, daring, totally out there and mesmerizing. 'Slow Traffic' on the other hand is down to earth, funky, smooth and to my ears totally forgettable. It just makes me wonder how it all could go from mindblowing to wallpaper jazz in just a few years?

I don't know the answer but the music says it all. We start with the harmless soft-porn easy listening funk of 'It Remains to be seen'. Skip. 'Eternal Flame' is a bit more loungey and atmospheric. It sets a mood for greater things to happen. And the anticipation rises, because the third track is an adaptation of 'Water Torture' from Hancock's Mwandishi era. The musicians here are largely the same (bar Hancock) and since this track counts amongst the best fusion has to offer, I couldn't resist the curiosity to hear it. Unfortunately, this torture has become the type of funky muzak that is only fir for TV commercials, listening to it will just make you doze off. All magic and tension from the original is professionally destroyed.

The second side of the album follows the same pattern. A funk/disco track followed by a quiet atmospheric one and another funk/dub treatment of a Mwandishi classic 'Quasar'.

While not a bad album if you like the smooth silky jazz fusion of the later 70s (at least it's not cheesy!), the contrast with the creative excitement of the early 70s era is simply too much to take for me, and the result is at least less then half as enjoyable. Hence 2.5 stars.

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 The Jewel in the Lotus by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.19 | 10 ratings

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The Jewel in the Lotus
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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.

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 Moonscapes by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Moonscapes
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After his great near masterpiece from 1977 Slow Traffic to the Right I decided to check out his work a bit more and ended up with this successor from a year later. And guess what ? This is actually more progressive than STttR. My challenge right now is to decide which is the better album but this is far more in fusion style than the straightforward funky style from the predecessor.

And this also means that Moonscapes is even a better justification for inclusion on PA than STttR. The way he plays the sax and bass clarinet on this album (mainly Anua) reminds me somewhat of Santana's Borboletta (Here and Now !) so more in a free style sort of way. Just playing about, almost noodling but still making sense if you know what I mean. So indeed more fusion than plain jazz one might say.

On the other hand, on Nightwatch there's still pure funk to be enjoyed so I'm not saying it's a black and white thing with the funk/fusion switch but overall I feel it's the case. Bottom line is that Maupin also here proves his ultimate class and can without doubt be classified as one of jazz' wind greats. It's not a coincidence he played with Davis and Hancock. In the end this album is not as special for me as the predecessor but it's still a very good album and this means another four stars, slightly rounded up (3,9).

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 Slow Traffic To The Right by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.58 | 7 ratings

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Slow Traffic To The Right
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It's probably kicking in an open door to mention Bennie Maupin plays more the funky jazz than sheer jazz. The great wind artist is nevertheless essential for jazz history (or is that kicking in this same open door ? :) And this fantastic album undeniably reminds me of how much I actually love jazz and all its side ways. Because besides my very favorite the smooth jazz (like Steely Dan plays it) also this funky jazz appeals to me big time.

And Bennie Maupin is a master of creating a great atmosphere through his music. It's the kind of music that was to be heard in typical 70's and 80's TV-series as Starsky and Hutch, Hill Steet Blues and Taxi. Boy, those good old days ... I even wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Maupin composed some of the music in those series. Mouth watering stuff really. And what I also like is that even though all songs are great, there is still variation in sound, style and atmosphere.

Funky Jazz is maybe not the best example of jazz prog but still I feel Bennie Maupin is justifiably here on PA, maybe in a sort of borderline way but, well at least I don't mind. His music is elaborate and complex enough to defend his presence. I love it to the bone and award this album with at least four stars. Music can hardly get much better as far as I'm concerned.

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 Slow Traffic To The Right by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.58 | 7 ratings

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Slow Traffic To The Right
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by darkprinceofjazz

5 stars This album is more of a Jazz Funk session than a Jazz rock session. One of the best unsung albums of an unsung artist, Maupin played Bass Clarinet on the Miles Davis classic Bitches Brew, He also played on The lee Morgan live at the light house double vinyl, he was in the Herbie Hancock Mwandishi band, This session as of 2011 , not released on CD, I picked this up on vinyl after checking out the you yube videos of each song. paid 26 dollars, worth every penny. it does have that late 70's vibe, with the smoother background edges, but the funky groove and bubbling sax work is is perfect. if you like the mwandishi band, you will like this. it's a little smoother though. and not quite as complex. but not the dreaded Fusak.

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 The Jewel in the Lotus by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.19 | 10 ratings

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The Jewel in the Lotus
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

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

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 Slow Traffic To The Right by MAUPIN, BENNIE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.58 | 7 ratings

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Slow Traffic To The Right
Bennie Maupin Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Critics often write this record off as being Bennie Maupin's 'commercial album', there are a few 'mellow' groove oriented cuts on here, but this is far from typical late 70s fusion-lite, or 'fuzak'. Maupin had just finished long stints with Herbie Hancock's avant-electro fusion Sextet as well as his futuristic funk band The Headhunters when he released this album that combines The Sextets psychedelic electronic textures with The Headhunters sophisticated orchestrated grooves. It took Herbie's ex-sideman to create the perfect blend of Hancock's adventurous Crossings and his more tightly focused Manchild.

It Remains to be Seen kicks off the album with a steady funk groove layered with reverb heavy orchestrated horns and electronic atmospheres. The beat is unobtrusive and seems to pre-date 90s acid jazz and trip-hop. Bennie and pianist Patrice Rushen turn in high energy solos that lift the song far from commercial pabulum. This song is followed by Eternal Flame, a long unwinding melody backed by an abstract jazz beat. The harmonies and the song's long dramatic build-up recall some of Debussy and Ravel's Spanish tinged music. This song wouldn't sound out of place on an ECM release.

Side one closes out with Water Torture, a slightly funkier remake of a former abstract Sextet tune. Maupin also augments the original arrangement with lot's of extras as he showcases his ability to orchestrate with his small ensemble. Throughout the album Bennie combines his arsenal of woodwinds with synthesist Pat Gleeson's electronics to create exotic 70s 'futuristic' sound textures. When they occasionally add wordless vocals they almost take the music into 'space-age bachelor' territory. Speaking of kitsch, side two opens with You Know the Deal, a slow funk number that has blaxploitation soundtrack written all over it. Gleeson's bizarre synth breaks and Blackbird McKnight's classic late 60s fuzz tone psychedelic guitar solo complete this gritty urban scenario for a car chase that never happened.

Next up is Lament, an acoustic classically influenced jazz ballad with Maupin on clarinet and Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano. The album closes with Quasar, yet another tune that originally appeared on a Sextet album. This time I prefer the more subtle original version to this album's version which has the song's exotic melody repeated too many times and subjected to an anachronistic early-70s styled progressive rock like huge build-up with a massive string orchestra to the point that it really is a bit overdone.

If you like the sophisticated psychedelic groove music of Herbie Hancock's early 70s bands and soundtracks, then you will probably like this brilliant spin-off by Bennie Maupin.

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