What You Get With Dogon A.D.

Not that anyone’s going to hit this site for last-minute Christmas shopping, but, in the spirit of the holidays…

I’ve been proselytizing about how people should purchase Julius Hemphill’s newly reissued Dogon A.D. CD, even though the music has been available through less legitimate (albeit cheaper) means for some time. Part of my argument was that the quest to reissue Dogon A.D. seems like it’s been long and difficult, and we should be willing to show there’s a market for the stuff.

If you do spring for a real, tangible Dogon A.D. compact disc, here’s what you get.

  • Stiff gatefold package mimicking the LP packaging. Printed inside are the original liner notes by critic Richard Palmer.
  • Square poster of the original album cover, front and back, from Hemphill’s Mbari label in 1972. The 1972 back cover has a quaint DIY vibe and refers to Baikida Carroll as “Baikaida Yaseen.” (The more famous “African mask” cover, chosen for this rerelease’s outer packaging, was put out by Freedom Records (distributed by Arista) in 1977.)
  • Small blowup poster of Palmer’s liner notes, a godsend for those of us with aging eyes. On the back of this poster are some notes from producer Jonathan Horwich of International Phonograph Inc. about the album’s history and some engineering details about putting the reissue together.
  • The CD. Duh.

As for the music — well, if you’ve come to this page at all, there’s a decent chance you know it already. I’d examined the title track, “Dogon A.D.,” in this post in 2009. I’ve been listening to it with more careful attention to the horns lately, rather than getting hypnotized by Abdul Wadid and that that 11/8 cello line. It’s just as fun to get lost in the swingy melody line and Julius Hemphill’s fast soloing. “Rites” is an exercise in the freedom of spirit that had enveloped the culture by 1972. “The Painter,” with its flute and strummed cello, crosses serene ’60s folk/prog with edgy, stabbing modern jazz; it might be my favorite track.

The CD adds “The Hard Blues,” which you may have already heard on Hemphill’s album ‘Coon Bidness (politely retitled Reflections by the time I bought a copy.) It comes from the same recording session as Dogon A.D., so there’s a feeling of completeness about having it included here. The annoying way the right speaker keeps cutting out during the main theme — an intentional twist that I’m sure seemed like a good idea at the time — is preserved. Great track overall, though, an evenly paced long jam.

The sound on the CD flickers here and there, probably reflecting the condition of the master tapes. Maybe that’s one reason why a reissue was so hard to bring about. Whatever the case, Dogon A.D. is an important piece of jazz history that needs to be available. I’m glad to have bought a copy.