Faruq Z. Bey

During the 2000s, KZSU received a few CDs by Faruq Z. Bey with the Northwoods Improvisers and/or his Griot Galaxy band. Bey dated back to the ’60s, but he was still putting out music in the 2000s, and I was happy to showcase it on KZSU.

He played free jazz with that earthly touch of the old days, rooted in the jazz tradition but in ways that didn’t sound “retro.” I liked the stuff but didn’t know any of the background.

That changed sometime last year when someone on Twitter — I think it was Jazz Session host Jason Crane (@JasonDCrane) pointed to this fascinating article about Bey, from 2003: “Musician Interrupted.” (The photo, by Barbara Barefield, is taken from that article.)

It tells the story of Bey’s Griot Galaxy in their glory days, before Bey’s motorcycle crash in the ’80s cut their time short. Bey survived, but the band didn’t. (The CD we got consisted of recordings of old concerts, IIRC).

Now there’s word Faruq Z. Bey has died at the age of 70. The Metro Times, which ran that other article, did a nice obituary on June 6.

Those Bey CDs had come to us courtesy of Mike Khoury’s terrific little label, Entropy Stereo, operating out of Detroit. Now would be a good time to check in with them and discover a little of the music that Faruq Z. Bey left behind.

It does feel good knowing that in some tiny, tiny way, I helped his music reach a few more ears. Even if not every listener remembered or even heard the name, the music was present; it was part of their lives for some small time. That’s the magic that radio can weave.