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Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes

When Lonnie Liston Smith made the transition from sideman to leader in 1973, it was the beginning of a fusion/crossover/post-bop band he dubbed Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes. The acoustic pianist/electric keyboardist, who was born in Richmond, VA, on December 28, 1940, should not be confused with soul-jazz/hard bop organist Lonnie Smith. This Smith would have had an impressive résumé even if he had never formed a band of his own. In the '60s or early '70s, he had been a sidemen for, among others, Pharoah Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gato Barbieri, singer Betty Carter, and trumpeter Miles Davis. In fact, Smith was still in Davis' employ when he signed with producer Bob Thiele's RCA-distributed Flying Dutchman label and recorded his first album as a leader, Astral Traveling (which Thiele produced). Nonetheless, the Cosmic Echoes were a major step forward for Smith -- the improviser had a lot more time to devote to his own compositions and he was free to concentrate on a very spiritual type of fusion that had a variety of influences. The post-bop of model explorers like Coltrane, Sanders, Kirk, Yusef Lateef, McCoy Tyner, and Charles Lloyd was a heavy influence on Smith's composing since all of those artists shared the Cosmic Echoes' spiritual concerns. But the Cosmic Echoes were hardly jazz purists. Their instrumental fusion combined those post-bop influences with funk, pop, and rock, and some of their best-known vocal numbers (which include 1979's "Space Princess" and 1983's "Never Too Late") were outright R&B. It was on April 24, 1973, that Smith recorded Astral Traveling and led his first Cosmic Echoes lineup, which included George Barron (soprano and tenor sax), Joe Beck (guitar), Cecil McBee (bass), David Lee, Jr. (drums), James Mtume (percussion), Sonny Morgan (percussion), Badal Roy (tabla drums), and Geeta Vashi (tamboura). Astral Traveling was entirely instrumental, but it wasn't long before Smith added a vocalist to the Cosmic Echoes: his brother Donald Smith. Although Donald Smith had helped his brother put together the Cosmic Echoes' first lineup, he isn't actually employed on Astral Traveling -- 1974's Thiele-produced Cosmic Funk was the first Cosmic Echoes album that featured him on vocals. From 1974 on, the Cosmic Echoes' albums were typically about 80 percent instrumental, but included a few vocal offerings. Subsequent Cosmic Echoes projects included 1975's Expansions, 1975's Visions of a New World, 1976's Reflections of a Golden Dream, and 1977's Renaissance, all of which were on either Flying Dutchman or RCA proper. Along the way, the Cosmic Echoes had more than their share of personnel changes. When the group recorded a live album for RCA in 1977, the lineup included Smith on piano and keyboards, his brother Donald on vocals, Dave Hubbard on tenor and soprano sax, Al Anderson on electric bass, Ronald Miller on electric guitar, and Hollywood Barker on drums -- a lineup that, except for Lonnie Liston Smith himself, is totally different from the Cosmic Echoes lineup heard on 1973's Astral Traveling. It was in 1978 that Smith and his Cosmic Echoes left RCA and moved to Columbia to record Loveland, which was a respectable seller (at least by jazz standards) and fared well among fusion, crossover, and quiet storm fans. Smith's next Columbia album, Exotic Mysteries, gave us the single, "Space Princess," which featured Donald on lead vocals and became a minor hit. Although Exotic Mysteries was primarily an instrumental fusion album, "Space Princess" wasn't jazz at all -- the tune is funk-disco but still has that mystic Cosmic Echoes vibe. Some people felt that when Smith and his Cosmic Echoes were recording for Columbia in the late '70s and early '80s, they became too slick and commercial -- nonetheless, the group still had integrity and was still enjoyable and interesting during its Columbia period. Donald Smith temporarily left the Cosmic Echoes after Exotic Mysteries and on 1979's Song for the Children, he was replaced by singer James "Crab" Robinson (who is also employed on 1980s Love Is the Answer). And Robinson wasn't the only person who passed through the Cosmic Echoes in the late '70s or early '80s. Others who came on board during Smith's Columbia period included guitarist Abdul Wali, bassist Pee Wee Ford, drummer Lino Reyes, and percussionist Lawrence Killian -- like Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes could be a revolving door. Donald Smith ended up returning to the fold in the early '80s, which is also when the Cosmic Echoes were reunited with Thiele (who signed Smith to his new Doctor Jazz label). One of songs that Smith's Cosmic Echoes recorded for Doctor Jazz was the urban/quiet storm vocal number "Never Too Late," which was released as a single and became a minor hit. In the mid-'80s, the Cosmic Echoes unofficially called it quits and Smith moved on to other things. But the pianist/keyboardist (who turned 60 in 2000) returned to a Cosmic Echoes-minded approach in 1998, when he was reunited with his brother Donald and featured him on the album Transformation (which came out on Smith's own label Loveland Records). In 2002, Sony's reissue-oriented Legacy Recordings looked back on the Cosmic Echoes' late '70s and early '80s output with a two-CD retrospective titled Explorations: The Columbia Years. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Cosmic Grooves in the early A.M. Remember when.
high school revelation,h e r b s . . H a m i l t o n Bohannon..
We can Dream.That is music.
I just made "Space Lady" my ringtone. Awsome
This song is my drug of choice!!!
I'm still in space and I"ll return in a flash.
I feel like I'm floating in space, and I don't want to return to earth, I"ll see on Mars
jazz4557
This brings back some wonderful memories very cool.
Close your eyes and float away...
Seen Lonnie Liston Smith at Bakers Keyboard Lounge with and without Pharoah Sanders..... . v e r y into astral traveling as well as travailing for real.Hope he hasn't gone the commercial route as I have not heard anything from him lately.
Space Lady, just love the way it being performed by Lonnie and Cosmic Echoes, out of this world....can ' t get enough
Mr. Leo Robinson and trunatur777 u r absolutely correct about 70's and today generations, they are out of touch (just a few)...... peace
I feel like I'm sitting in Griffith Park park on a cool Saturday afternoon in 1974. Pretty girls with feathers in their hair float by, while cool brothers pass their bongs around with acrid smoke of commerical weed hanging in the air like exotic incense....y e a h man, it's ageless...be a u t i f u l !
funk at its best,what can i said the 70s.
Lonnie is a part of the early sounds of my life. Part of a beautiful becoming of the 70's. universe of colors ,sounds, cosmic love, happiness, that was what brothers and sisters needed then and ever so now ! Amen ! Do it Brother.. Do It !
creation with humanity revolves around something symbolic.... . . . . M U S I C . . Long live LLS.....
product of richmond va, am very proud of him.
I was fathered,197 2 april26th, by saxophonist, George Barron.
the tune footprints is driven into orbit after the piano really cooks it. still echoing on my block. this tune mix it in for your cosmic playlist my friends
I have three of his records (yes the old black flat pancakes) because he been in my music collections since 70's, and now I also have in CD. can't get enough of COSMIC sound. At times I get a rush or flashback of getting when I listen to his beat. CANNOT SAY ENOUGH ABOUT THE ARTIST EXCEPT HE'S THE GREATEST.
Love, peace and happiness
HY
Gets inside of you like a spiritual Thang
mmitch50
Lonnie Liston Smith... Great sound, great talent. I was turned on to LLS back in the '70s. His music is still as captivating now as it was then. In fact, I'm passing the enlightenmen t on to the next generation - I turned my son on to Mr. Smith.
moerobd
I had the pleasure of seeing Lonnie and the crew live in "75". What a show. Expanions, Visions of a New World, and Renaissance are all great albums. Sooo mellow, sooo relaxing, and soo perfectly performed. I must agree with Martin Franco remarks below, that Lonnie's music was like a great meal and a special bottle of wine....
This is another example of the best music coming from the 70's.
Psyche-delic jazz... Gotta love it... Great music to "get high to" or better yet to "be high with"... Used to have a few of his albums back in the day. Pandora needs to do some crate digging cause Lonnie put out a string of them back in the 70's...
I would like to hear more music by Lonie Liston Smith. He one great artist and the music produce is so smooth.
Yeah this cat is on some other planet but he allows us to share in some common notes and flow. His groove is always moving. Thank goodness he didn't let the industry box him in. What's with that anyway? We get up Monday and we go to, work, school or not. On Saturday, we dress for play, or fun, unless we dress for the party; on Sunday we dress to worship. My point is that we wear diffrent clothing for the particlar circumstance . Music is like that. We play/or create according to the inspiration.
WOW
Badass great groove, harmomnious ethereal melodic jams. Love it. Right there with Miles' "Silent Way" and Coltrane's "Love Supreme(in instrumental form)"

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