Have You Heard? – (33) “Little Sunflower” by the East New York Ensemble de Music

OK, so this is obscure! But it’s good.

It’s school half term this week, and I had a few days of holiday left before the end of March, so I decided to take the week off. Be around for the kids, but also spend some time writing and cycling. On the writing,  a chance to push on with my book about my musical journey. I’m on a chapter right now about jazz and fusion – fusion being all that music that has a bit of jazz and a lot of something else. Or maybe the other way round.

That’s when I found myself today listening to a brilliant two CD compilation from 2005 called “New Thing!”. On the Soul Jazz label. It’s fusion music from the seventies and eighties mostly. Jazz but not jazz. And downright weird much of the time.


My favourite track is “Little Sunflower” by the East New York Ensemble de Music. It’s from a 1974 album called “At The Helm”.


The band are led by a saxophonist called Bilal Abdurrahman and he plays some far out sounds. It’s the high pitched sax – the soprano – that makes the tune, as well as a Korean instrument called the Piri, which according to my research (a click on Wikipedia of course) is a bamboo version of the oboe. There’s an element of the snake charmer about it, especially at the beginning. There’s some cool jazz in midstream, before the end when everyone gets to wig out.

So, thirteen minutes of obscure jazz, and vaguely eastern weirdness. Worth listening to? Oh yes, I promise you. This is one of the best jazz tracks I’ve heard – ever.

Not in the John Coltrane or Miles Davis class, but in the next division.

Give it a go!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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11 Responses to Have You Heard? – (33) “Little Sunflower” by the East New York Ensemble de Music

  1. I had a nice listen this morning with my coffee. I enjoyed it a lot! I know what you mean about vague, eastern snake charmer, Thanks John, and I hope writing your book is going well.

  2. DyingNote says:

    I’m always wary of fusion music. You need to be really good at understanding the nuances of the forms that you attempt to meld, which is why I found a lot of the ’60s and ’70s attempts crappy because a lot of it was marked by astonishingly pathetic, even if well-intentioned, effort put in to bring in a “fashionable” Eastern mysticism. And by that I don’t mean that that delusion was exclusive to Western musicians.

    That aside, I like this one on first listen although I don’t think it has enough on offer to justify its 13 minute trip. BTW, what do you think of Sun Ra’s music? I found it quite hard to get a feel for it.

    • John S says:

      Agree with you on fusion, though it can be really good. And yeah, the penchant for eastern “mysticism” in the late sixties and seventies was pretty embarrassing at times. I like fusion best when jazz mixes up with more modern forms like rap and dance. That’s what I’m writing about just now.

      Sun Ra I’ve not listened to much. My jazz knowledge is very selective!

      • DyingNote says:

        The reason I asked about Sun Ra is the name featuring on that compilation that you mentioned you’re listening to

      • DyingNote says:

        Oh yeah! I agree – I’ve heard some good examples but not often enough. It’s probably easier to mix forms when they have a common structural base – something like rap and jazz. It’s when you mix different structures, say Jazz with the Arabic form or Indian classical or Chinese traditional that you can run into trouble. But that degree of difficulty also makes the effort far more interesting and richer if it comes off

  3. DyingNote says:

    And wish you the very best with the book. Do you have a target date for completion and publishing?

  4. John S says:

    Been writing it on and off for five years now! Frightening – realised when the Led Zep DVD of the O2 reunion came out. That was five years ago?! I’m making a concerted effort to get it finished by this summer. As for publishing, it’s long and self indulgent so I suspect it may be self-publication. Might have to do an edited version without the quotes so I don’t take another year getting permissions!

  5. Osama Rahman says:

    I find that jazz with Indian classical works well given the improvisational nature of both. Amongst my favourite albums (and not merely favourite jazz albums or fusion albums) are the Shakti and Remember Shakti albums, then offshoots from that such as Zakir Hussain’s (with Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin and Hariprasad Chaurasia), “Making Music”, and Jan Garbarek and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan’s “Ragas and Sagas” (although that’s more jazz – khayal fusion, rather than jazz – hindustani / carnatic classical fusion).

    Here’s a taster

    On a slightly different tack, there’s been Brooklyn Qawwali Party’s jazzy Nusrat Faterh Ali Khan covers

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