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I can't remember when I first found out?about Stanton Davis?and his Brighter Days LP. Maybe it was when I scored a rather tattered copy at a Montreal Record Fair. Or perhaps it was when his 12" on Soul Cal of Things Cannot Stop Forever came out. Whenever it was, I soon became obsessed with finding out more about the man who created this seminal jazz funk groove masterpiece.
Stanton Davis grew up in New Orleans and was around music his whole life. He was first exposed to it as a kid?through the church and more specifically?through second line funeral bands. Stanton studied?piano and voice and performed in the school's marching and concert bands at an early age. At this time, along with the?New Orleans music down on Bourbon Street, Stanton was also heavily drawn to the Delta Blues, R&B music, Professor Longhair, James Brown, the Dixie?Cups, and Aaron Neville. More surprisingly, he had a deep love of?opera and orchestra music.?His next obsession - jazz music - led to him obsessing over the tunes of Louis Armstrong, Cannonball Adderley,?John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
When it came time for college, Stanton went to Berklee College of Music in Boston to?study trumpet in 1967. From there he went on to focus on composition at New England Conservatory. It was during his?time at NEC that he was discovered by the legendary?jazz theorist and composer George Russell, who took the young performer under his wing. "[Russell] guided my own curiosity to where?I could articulate it," Stanton told me. "He encouraged me to?branch out into?my own style."

Stanton?was also playing clubs in the city in an area that at the time was known as the combat zone. The biggest venue - the Sugar Shack - was where Stanton became the musical director of the house band,?backing up Motown artists such as?Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops?and the Temptations, as well as the O'Jays, Lou Rawls, and Gladys Knight.?
Soon after graduating from NEC, Stanton began working at Dimension Sound in Jamaica Plain as an engineer, songwriter and freelance musician. He wrote music for television, industrial film projects and the children's shows Zoom and Rebop, and helped produce?a bicentennial project called "Where's Boston." It was in this studio that he began to write and work on his own songs, some of which would become material for the Brighter Days album.
After winning a grant from the Massachusetts Council of Arts to record the track "Brighter Days," he pulled together a group of musicians later known as the Ghetto Mysticism Band. At the time, it was a multi-racial group which included African-Americans, Asians and Caucasians, many of whom Stanton had met at school while at Berklee and NEC. The band was soon gigging all over Boston.
It was during these live shows that Stanton and the Ghetto Mysticism Band really put together what was to become the Brighter Days album. "I had very specific people in mind to perform together and I wrote with them in mind," Stanton recalls. "Very much like?the?way that Ellington wrote compositions."?At the time, Stanton was heavily influenced by a variety of sounds including Ravi Shankar, the Chambers Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire, and jazz fusion.
Stanton created the framework for most of the songs and the?individual players brought their flair and style to the compositions. Early material that was recorded included lengthy jam sessions for tunes like "High Jazz" and "Brighter Days." Clocking in at almost 18 minutes, these versions of the tracks didn't make it to final?album. After?band members Alan Pasqua and Akira Tana left?and Delmar Brown joined the group on keyboards and vocals, a different sound was created and the racial composition of the band suddenly changed. Stanton added Vinnie Johnson on drums, Les Lumley on congas, Tim Ingles on electric bass, and Jerry Harris moved to guitar.

The saxophonist on the recordings and esteemed professor of music, Dr. Leonard Brown, had this to say:

"This band had a different energy than the first one.?Not better, just different and definitely a more Nubian sound, clearly influenced by Miles' electric ventures as well as Herbie Hancock, James Brown and Coltrane, too. Delmar, Tim and I were members of another band called Colours and we were playing a lot of original music and stretching into the nethersphere, so that energy now came to the Ghetto Mysticism Band."

Brown also took the time to reflect on the group's new lineup.

"The GM Band had its own sound that was a mix of acoustic and electric, with Stanton and me sometimes alternating between acoustic sound and using phase shifters and other electronic sound manipulations, enhancements and modifications," he said. "Delmar was a keyboard virtuoso and a powerhouse of creativity and energy, with Tim providing a rock steady bass foundation and Vinnie and Les swinging and applying various cross and poly-rhythms all throughout. The band had an incredible amount of energy that at times I felt was overwhelming for some of the audience."
It's easy to see why the group's new vibe did not go unnoticed by their audience. The GM Band was now producing a more concise song form with most of the tracks clocking in at four to five minutes. Recorded over a two-day session starting on New Year's Day in 1975, where Jeff Anderson was on bass and Alyrio Lima was on percussion, the album immediately became an amalgamation of a number of music geniuses.
The track "Things Cannot Stop Forever" was written with both of Stanton's favorite singers at the time, Chaka Khan and Teddy Pendergrass. Stanton loved the way the vocalists, Lee Genesis, Delmar Brown and J.O. Wharton, could develop phrases by repeating them with different emotional accents.

In "Space a Nova" (parts?1 and 2), Stanton used Afro-Cuban Rhythms and a lyrical melody that builds so you get into the trance of this composition.?He worked with simple and complex rhythms taken from the drums and congas that shift in?meter and pulse with syncopated accents. Stanton explained that "the verse is a conversation between lovers spoken in the midnight air."

"Play Sleep" is another complex?metric piece using two linear lines of measures over with 3, 3, 5 and 7 beats. Stanton recalls, "What?I wanted to create was a feeling of floating. In my psychological perception of this piece, ideas seem to float timelessly in my conscious and sub conscious mind while I am still listening to my heart as it taps out a constant pulse." This is one of the few tracks with Alan Pasqua on it, playing acoustic piano with Stanton on electric flugelhorn.

"Brighter Days/Brighter Daze" is a piece afro-centric in nature with a positive uplifting melody and lyrics sung by Lee Genesis featuring a piano solo by Alan Pasqua.

Influenced by some of Stanton's earlier studio work on Caribbean Soca tracks, "Funky Fried Tofu" has a tropical feel with a funky bottom. Jerome Harris has a tight bass solo with Stanton playing a duo trumpet solo with Bill Pierce on a very exciting soprano sax solo.

"Nida" has a lyrical melody influenced by John Coltrane with a flugelhorn and lots of ambient string sounds played by Alan Pasqua and Delmar Brown.

? "High Jazz" was influenced by African High Life music and is characterized by jazzy horns and multiple guitars which lead the band. This version has an up tempo, synth-driven sound with vocals by Lee Genesis.
Around the time of the album's release, the group was at the cutting edge of Boston's live music scene. However, things would not remain copasetic for long, as Dr. Brown recalls, "Our gigs were always well-attended and we had a strong following. Then the race card began being played because the band was all black. All this happened during the desegregation of schools in Boston so there was a lot of racial tension. As I remember, Stanton and some of us spoke about the white racist prejudices that were leading to the band not getting work now that it was all black.?Of course, once we said that, things really dried up."
Unfortunately, the album was originally released on a small local folk?label called Outrageous Records out of Somerville, MA, which was owned by jazz trombonist/educator Phil Wilson and?only had regional distribution. By the late 70s most of the players on the album had moved on to play with famous names in jazz music and Stanton had?accepted a?position as Director of Jazz Studies?at the Third Street Settlement Program in the Lower East Side in New York.
After the album's release in 1977 it went into obscurity until DJs and record collectors from all over the world began to discover it. In 2003 the Soul Cal label released and remixed the opening track from the album, "Things Cannot Stop Forever."

Cultures of Soul Records is proud to bring you this album, so sit back, relax and enjoy it!

Deano Sounds January 2011, Boston


Brighter Days

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