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DR LONNIE SMITH - Afro-Desia cover
3.34 | 4 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


A1 Afrodesia 9:18
A2 Spirits Free 15:00
B1 Straight To The Point 6:54
B2 Favors 10:00
B3 The Awakening 8:00


Drums – Ben Riley
Drums, Percussion – Jamey Huddad
Electric Bass – Ralphe Armstrong, Ron Carter
Guitar – Compliments Of A Friend
Keyboards [Uncredited] – Lonnie Smith
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Joe Lovano
Trumpet – Greg Hopkins

About this release

Groove Merchant Records GM-3308(US)

Re-released in 1979 by America Records (France) as "Lonnie Smith Featuring George Benson Ron Carter"

As well released in Italy in 1981 as "Europa Jazz" and "I Giganti Del Jazz Vol. 32 "

Thanks to snobb for the addition and js for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

When “Afro-Desia” opens you are likely to think you have one of those typical mid-70s soul funk jazz sides, but don’t take the needle off the record because this one is about wander into some fairly strange and interesting territory. Side one starts with an almost disco leaning bass line and borderline campy vocals, but after Joe Lovano’s fiery sax solo, Lonnie Smith brings on the weird synthesizers and the song goes into a strange percussion driven psychedelia before fading out. The rest of side one gets even more out there as “Spirits Free” presents an angular funky bass line topped with phasing distorted keyboards ala Miles Davis, as well as another great solo from Lovano. Even though he is surrounded by heavyweights like Lonnie Smith and George Benson, Joe emerges as the real star on this album. As this song continues, Smith begins to play bizarre melodies on the synthesizer backed by his distorted organ invoking the spirit of Sun Ra and early Funkadelic in the process. Overall this side is reminiscent of other classic psychedelic 70s jazz albums like Les McCann’s “Invitation to Openess”, Buddy Terry’s “Pure Dynamite” or countless spin-offs from Herbie’s Sextet.

Side two enters into slightly more traditional territory with a fast fusion jazz samba followed by an up-tempo cover of “Impressions” (renamed) and closing with a classic hard bop soul jazz groove. Although a little more traditional than side one, this side still carries the bohemian vibe of the “hippie-jazz” era where everyone picks up a shaker or conga when they aren’t soloing and there is plenty of incense, sandals and dashikis to go around for everyone. With one foot in the world of psychedelic fusion and the other in the more aggressive end of the 70s soul jazz groove, “Afro-Desia” is a great very 70s flavored funky jazz record.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
Umpteenth album from de Hammond Doctor, Afrodesia sometimes spelled Afro-Desia is more of a collaboration between Joe Lovano, George Benson, Ron Carter and Ben Riley. Released in the second half of the 70’s, it represents fairly well the days’ jazz survivors, and it mixes all kinds of influences, but can be safely labelled funk-soul-jazz. NB: this album has seen a few re-issues with changed track titles and different lengths, including the LRC release that adds a few bonus tracks with plenty of added musicians and even including choirs and vocals. A difficult album to review properly, since you’re likely to find three of four versions, all sporting the orange artwork

Most of the music on the album consists of the usual Hammond-dominated funk-fusion-soul-jazz. Indeed, if Straight To The Point (re-titled Apex) is more of a Latin-jazz piece with Caribbean-sounding percussions, it features Lovano’s sax soaring over Smith’s drooling and underlying organ, the lengthy Favors (later re-titled Flavors, but reportedly an adaptation of a Coltrane piece) features Benson taking a cool solo, fighting Smith’s Hammond in a Homeric duel and duet. Another track that had to suffer a name change is The Awakening (later called Good Morning)

Opening the album is the 9-mins+ Afrodesia, one that comes with Hopkins helping Lovano’s sax and features vocals and choirs and features a funky rhythm and guitar, which is anice change from the rest of the album. Where the LRC reissue goes slightly awry is that it adds two bonus tracks (this is relative, but they don’t sound like they really belong) – both Hohenberger piece in the middle of the album, at the expense of the 15-mins Spirits Free. The first is the more standardier-jazz (everything being relative) It’s Changed and the almost mushy When The Night Is Right, but neither are majorly shocking. The third “bonus”, All In My Mind is much more out of the frame of the original album though, with that mid-tempo sung blues that sticks out like a sore thumb from the album’s cohesiveness.

A confusing and slightly frustrating review to write, but the original album is an enjoyable mid-70’s artefact. You could even be enjoying that strange LRC CD-release if they hadn’t suppressed the 15-mins Spirits track, because there was plenty of space to include it, but it isn’t and that final track is a turn-off. Avoid the LRC release and the Laserlight one as well (you don’t even get the original artwork) and go for the vinyl.

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  • Rokukai
  • darkprinceofjazz

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