I first wrote about Lonnie Liston Smith here, when I profiled the “Goddess of Love” 45. However, this is one of my all time favorite tunes on vinyl. It’s a classic and deserves some more shine. Here’s Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes – Expansions on Bob Theile’s Flying Dutchman Records from 1975.
I was digging through some records and couldn’t believe I had never profiled this record. It’s such a great side, not to mention a great record all the way through. I did all the usual bio stuff about Lonnie in my last article about him that you can get to at the link above. One fact I turned up and didn’t mention before was that he had a musical stint with Max Roach that was undocumented on vinyl (How is this??). It was a big deal because Max didn’t really use the piano that much, but he used Lonnie. I’d really like to find out if there are any recordings with the two of them at that time. If you have a lead on this, please let me know. As he became more recognized, his career would take another path. Playing with Rahsaan Roland Kirk then led to a gig with Pharoah Sanders, which led to saxophonist Gato Barbieri and a sideman gig with Miles Davis. Smith played on the highly decorated fusion record On the Corner as well as Big Fun. His early experimentation with Sanders had transformed itself into his own sound by the time he got done playing with Miles. His spiritual messages and blend of his own sound made people take notice. Records like Astral Traveling, Expansions, and Cosmic Funk solidified the notion that Lonnie Liston Smith was on to something, a new sound that he called his own in the world of Jazz. Mixing Soul and Funk with atmospheric fusion Jazz, Smith took it to another level. He’d even dabbled in some Disco/R & B type stuff in the late 70’s with “Space Princess” before going back to straight forward Jazz and smooth Jazz. He was a part of the famous Marvin Gaye Band that backed Gaye up in 1980 at the Jazz Festival Montreax. Eventually, Smith got the props he deserved with the younger folk, aka the Hip Hop community, when he teamed up with Guru on Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 as well as being sampled most notably by Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige (let’s not forget O.C. among others!). This brought Smith’s music up in front of a whole other audience. It also didn’t hurt when Mike D shouted out the Groove Merchant for selling him “two sealed copies, of Expansions“, sending young beat heads scavenging for records named Expansions. Much more recognition that Lonnie Liston Smith truly deserves.
“Expansions” is 6 minutes and 4 seconds of perfection. Cecil McBee’s bass is so damn thunderous when this tune kicks off (that Guy Ritchie could have lifted it for one of his movies) and Art Gore’s drums are so in the groove, it makes me sick (in a good way). Lonnie’s brother Donald adds some flute and vocals, and this baby takes off. Leopoldo Fleming does the triangle (yes I said triangle) some sweet justice while also laying down some pretty hot percussion while he was at it. Lonnie Liston Smith takes you on another plane with this tune. His keyboard work is on point making “Expansions” a stone cold classic. This side is guaranteed to get the whole party moving. If you don’t believe me, put it on and see.
Expand your mind to understand
We all must live in peace to Earth
Extend your hand to help the plan
Of love to all mankind on Earth
Expand your mind
Expand your mind