The Awakening’s reissue of 1972’s Hear, Sense and Feel still uplifts through jazz and R&B | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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The Awakening’s reissue of 1972’s Hear, Sense and Feel still uplifts through jazz and R&B

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When the Awakening formed in the early 1970s, they combined veterans of Chicago’s R&B sessions and jazz players affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The sextet drew on these diverse sources for its 1972 debut album, Hear, Sense and Feel, which is being reissued domestically this month as part of Real Gone Music’s new pressings of the California-based Black Jazz catalog (which also includes influential 70s LPs from multi-instrumentalist Doug Carn and pianist Walter Bishop Jr.). Like their friends who became Earth, Wind & Fire, the Awakening have an uplifting tone that’s as needed now as it was nearly 50 years ago. The album opens and closes with spoken-word recitations that call for raising consciousness, but the music throughout is joyous enough that it could deliver that optimistic message on its own. Prior to the Awakening, keyboardist Ken Chaney and trumpeter Frank Gordon had been part of popular instrumental trio Young-Holt Unlimited, and that group’s soul inflections run through these tracks, especially “Kera’s Dance.” Chaney’s introspective lines also provide a striking contrast to the assertive, slightly dissonant solos of saxophonist and flutist Ari Brown and trombonist Steve Galloway on “When Will It Ever End.” That song also references the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago with a brief touch of bells and small chimes over the single-note vamps of bassist Reggie Willis. Though the Awakening split up after the release of their 1973 sophomore album, Mirage, their members have remained active. Brown and Galloway are still part of the AACM, and Brown continues to be a crucial presence on the local circuit. Echoes of the Awakening’s spiritual advocacy and groove-based improvisation reverberate among younger generations of Chicago bandleaders, including Angel Bat Dawid. Perhaps the Awakening sounded so optimistic because they knew how long their legacy would endure.   v

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