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The Leaders


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Why weren't The Leaders bigger?  This was the group with Lester Bowie, Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman, and an impressive rhythm section.  They were leaders indeed and should have been a high-caliber collective force. But their albums were on several different and very small labels. Their records have been quite hard to find.

Are they still around, with largely different players?  Did anyone see the band live in its prime?  

I have just two albums.  One is Mudfoot--recently acquired and it sounds quite good.  The other is Slipping and Sliding, which is notable (to my ears) for two ballad-like pieces: "Everything Changed" and "High Summer."  But otherwise it just seems average.

Was it a group with great potential that wasn't quite achieved?  

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The two albums I know of on Black Saint are good IMO, though Allmusic doesn't rate them highly (see below). Second and third discs of this:

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Can't speak to the other issues. For what it's worth, the Allmusic entries on the band are rather dismissive. See for instance https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-leaders-mn0000076409/biography

Edited by T.D.
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13 minutes ago, felser said:

I found their work extremely disappointing, too "safe".  Chico Freeman in general has proven to be a lost opportunity after a blazing stary

 

That's about my take on both The Leaders and Freeman although I did see The Leaders live and they were a lot more energetic, and even adventurous in parts, than their recordings.

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These part-time, all-star units often add up to less than the sum of their parts.  No one is in charge, so the music can easily start sounding like an unfocused mish-mash.

That said, I do enjoy Out Here Like This and Heaven Dance quite a bit.  They're not earth-shattering records, but I still like them.  Lester's feature on Out Here -- can't remember the title -- always strikes me as a high point. 

I'm less fond of Mudfoot, and I'm unfamiliar with Unseen Blessings.

 

Edited by HutchFan
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39 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

These part-time, all-star units often add up to less than the sum of their parts....

That said, I do enjoy Out Here Like This and Heaven Dance quite a bit.  They're not earth-shattering records, but I still like them.  Lester's feature on Out Here -- can't remember the title -- always strikes me as a high point. 

I'm less fond of Mudfoot, and I'm unfamiliar with Unseen Blessings.

 

Agreed on "all-star units" (italics added).

I prefer Out Here Like This to Unforeseen Blessings, but enjoy both. Truth is, I only got these two due to their inclusion in the Bowie Black Saint / Soul Note box (of which The 5th Power is the star entry), but I don't regret the purchase and frequently listen to the whole box.

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Although they may not have equaled the sume of all the parts, or the expectations based on the caliber of musicians, I enjoyed the group. Yes more straight-ahead than expected, but solid. I saw them live once at Sweet Basil and was not disappointed. Don Cherry was the original trumpet in the band for a period of time before it recorded. Eddie Henderson and Bobby Watson replaced Bowie and Blythe in an even more conservative iteration of the ensemble.

Edited by relyles
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7 hours ago, BFrank said:

I like their albums. Maybe not as adventurous as you would think, but there's nothing wrong with them.

This is basically it, isn't it. I have quite enjoyed every record of theirs that I have heard, but never felt anything stronger than that. Given the quality of the players, I think that counts as a failure.

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On 6/28/2022 at 0:15 PM, relyles said:

Eddie Henderson and Bobby Watson replaced Bowie and Blythe in an even more conservative iteration of the ensemble.

Didn’t know this - are the Cookers a successor band?  And if so… why are the Cookers’ reputation more positive?

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27 minutes ago, Guy Berger said:

Didn’t know this - are the Cookers a successor band?  And if so… why are the Cookers’ reputation more positive?

Although Eddie Henderson overlaps in both bands, the Cookers are not a successor. My understanding is that the Leaders were organized by Chico Freeman, while the instigator for the Cookers seems to be David Weiss.

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50 minutes ago, Guy Berger said:

Didn’t know this - are the Cookers a successor band?  And if so… why are the Cookers’ reputation more positive?

What makes you think the Cookers might be a successor band? I'm intrigued as there seems little to connect them that I know of

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None of their albums is bad. It’s just that with these names, you expect a little more. And you start listening with those high expectations and feel disappointed when it sounds like a solid but average bop date. 
 

The Cookers are a group that do make up high expectations though I don’t see a connection either.

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On 6/30/2022 at 8:38 AM, mjazzg said:

What makes you think the Cookers might be a successor band? I'm intrigued as there seems little to connect them that I know of

There was no deep thinking involved beyond “all star band”, “Eddie Henderson in both”, and “ ‘-ers’ in the name”

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