Artist: Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King
Release Date: 2023
Audio Format:: FLAC (tracks) 24 bit, 48 kHz
Total Tracks: 8
Total Size: 539 MB
01. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Future-Blues (05:03)
02. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Unfunkingstoppable (06:51)
03. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Sunday Sunrise (07:31)
04. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Stomp-time Shuffle (03:52)
05. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Auguries (09:19)
06. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Sonny’s Hand (06:42)
07. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Starpath (06:27)
08. Bernie Worrell, Cindy Blackman Santana, John King – Muddy’s Dream (04:29)
How often do you walk into a situation without knowing what will happen? Do you fear it? Or do you embrace it? The unknown is a ubiquitous phenomenon that can be found in the essence of a person, place, or thing. Many musicians welcome musical situations where they are unaware of what will happen. That could be during improvising or performing with musicians for the first time. Both take an incredible amount of vulnerability and trust. The unknown seems to drive them into a space and time that controls them, not the other way around. And more than likely, that’s what they want it to do. Musicians prefer the unknown to utilize them as vessels to reach their audience or even to experience their own liberation.The concept of Spherical was unknown. The only thing that John King knew was that he wanted this album to be rock, funk, blues, noise, and experimental, and so by instinct, Cindy Blackman and Bernie Worrell were the perfect musicians for accomplishing this. It’s one thing to understand the level of expertise behind each musician, but you could never predict what would happen if you put them together in one room. They found funk, rock, the blues, and an abundance of trust, within an eight hour improvised recording session in 1994 at Baby Monster Studios in New York. It was at this moment they went on a ride to the unknown.
There were no expectations or preconceived notions about what the outcome of their creations would be that day. It was only the conviction between these three musicians to create something unknown. That conviction is what audiences feel while listening to this record. The music does not attempt to articulate what they should feel, nor does it simultaneously take every listener to the same place. This reason is why the unknown is ubiquitous and even malleable. The trio lay into the depths of a sphere, and the music reaches the surface in every direction to find us listeners, wherever we are. The music places us in passenger seats, drawing us into the core like a gravitational pull. Unsurprisingly, being without expectations meant that this three-dimensional power trio would take the music into liberating spaces.
It’s an impressive, yet unintentional, stunt when a power trio makes you question if there was a touch of overdubbing. These three musicians, who are all powerhouses in their own right, transformed vague ideas of riffs and melodies into a melting pot of their genius. The humble King constructs sonic walls using a plethora of processed effects from amplitude modulators, phase shifters, delays, fuzz/distortion pedals, and a wah pedal. The wall he builds is where you’ll hear Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix, two of his earliest influences. He compliments the boldness that Cindy Blackman brings to the session as a drummer with hardcore rock and jazz chops. At times, her right foot on the kick in ‘Stomp Time Shuffle’ seemed to want to fly away, playing on the off beats of 16th notes. She had worked with Worrell before, but had only met King briefly before this session a few months prior. She immediately conveyed her trust in him by kicking off the first tune of the album called ‘Future-Blues’ with an explosive drum fill instead of a traditional count-off. It’s the perfect album intro. In the spirit of trust, she didn’t reveal what was coming when they asked for a count off. She makes a simple yet valuable statement that students of improvisation should remember —“trust your bandmates”.
An innovative mastermind on what we refer to as vintage synths, Bernie Worrell’s talents stretch far beyond funk. Just a few days after learning about the passing of his mother, Worrell expressed his feelings into the Clavinet, B3 organ, and a synthesizer. Worrell’s Hammond B3 opening solo on ‘Sunday Sunrise’ begins in outer space. Yet, that gravitational pull at the core of this sphere takes us back to the blues and gospel. The synth patch that Worrell uses for his solo on ‘Unfunkingstoppabble’ is so calming and meditative that, for a moment, you forget that this is probably the edgiest song on the album. King describes how Worrell played a single note on the Clavinet that resonated the walls and made him feel the entire history of funk. The only way for this album to ever exist was for all three musicians to put their trust in the unknown.
Interestingly, the unknown embraced this project by manifesting itself into a domain of the lost, otherwise known as… an unknown space. The lost and found is a mesmerizing place that exists because we simply overlook it. This project had been missing for 29 years until John King found it in a place we’re all too familiar with, in a box of unlabeled CDs, cassette tapes, and DAT tapes. During a time of cleansing, the lost was now found. Perhaps Spherical’s whereabouts were unknown because sometimes life has its own timelines, which can be distracting. Is it possible that music does, too? Conceivably, the music was ahead of its time and wanted to be known when it was this time. And maybe, this time is the right time to be known.