Bennie Maupin - Dark side of the sun

Penumbra is the long awaited new album by Bennie Maupin, best known for his work on Head Hunters and Bitches Brew. The saxophonist and bass clarinettist talks to Tom Barlow about why his new album has taken so long, his Nichiren Daishonin Buddhist beliefs, recollections of Eric Dolphy and mentor Yusef Lateef
Bennie Maupin - Dark side of the sun
Back in 1976 Bennie Maupin’s bass clarinet screeched and soared over some impossibly funky African-drenched grooves. The recording was called Survival Of The Fittest, a collectors’ item adored for its gritty funk classics that felt like a meeting between high jazz and party music. Yet the album, or at least its title, also served as a sobering reminder that for the human race (and musicians in particular) life is a struggle where only the strongest survive.

It’s easy to forget the battles our musical heroes fight simply to continue working as artists. I’m thinking of McCoy Tyner forced to take shifts as a cab driver after his service with John Coltrane; Weather Report legend Eric Gravatt trading in his drumkit to work as a prison guard, or recently revitalised bass master Henry Grimes who after the late 60s sustained himself with construction and janitorial work in downtown Los Angeles.
Strength of character has been key to the longevity of Detroit born multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin, 66, whose light has thankfully remerged after some sporadic years with a musical statement that matches anything in his long career.

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