BY RON HART
The coolest and most culturally diverse children’s programming in 1970s public television was not Electric Company nor Sesame…, though the Street earns its street cred thanks to appearances by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Cab Calloway and Johnny Cash (Hootie, not so much).
No, that honor went to Say Brother on WGBH out of Boston. When the long-running black education series (now known as Basic Black) wasn’t exploring such topics as “The Psychology of Runaway Slaves” and “Blacks and Basketball”, they offered up some outstanding live music in the form of the Stark Reality, a jazz supergroup led by vibraphonist Monty Stark (1940-2009) and rounded out by bassist Phil Morrison, drummer Vinnie Johnson and acclaimed ECM guitar master John Abercrombie, whose seriously funky re-creations of the Children’s music of big bandleader Hoagy Carmichael takes any kid programming cake I don’t care by how much of a stretch.
Henceforth, a solid decade after introducing those outside the elite crate digging brotherhood from which it was passed around and kept secret with the essential anthology Now, Stones Throw General Manager Egon’s rarities-obsessed reissue imprint Now-Again Records offers up the full “Monty” with Acting, Thinking, Feeling, a three-disc set that tells the complete saga of the Stark Reality legacy. In addition to marking the first time the band’s 1970 crate digger’s delight for jazz legend Ahmad Jamal’s AJP imprint The Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael’s Music Shop has appeared in its complete form (only half of the two-LP set was featured on Now ten years ago), this beautifully packaged collection also contains the entirety of the group’s long 1969 debut Roller Coaster Ride as well as some exclusive one-offs they recorded for WGBH’s “Classroom” series, including the three-part title track and the theme song to Say Brother in addition to a highly informative liner notebook featuring insight from all of the principal participants in this project.
Whether you are a Soft Machine head in search of a different vintage psychedelic groove or a seriously deep beatminer who can’t get the sample Main Source lifted from “Junkman’s Song” for their 1994 banger “Only the Real Survive” out of his head, Acting, Thinking, Feeling is an absolute must-own for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of fuzzed-out funk.
DOWNLOAD: “Junkman’s Song”, “Rocket Ship”, “Blue Pillow”, “Comrades”, “Red Yellow Moonbeams”, “Theme to Say Brother”