Meshell Ndegeocello

Released June 2005

Grammy Nominee Best Contemporary Jazz Album 2006

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2005




SPIRIT MUSIC JAMIA represents Meshell Ndegeocello’s vision of spiritual groove music – improvisation featuring jazz and soul legends and luminaries. Influenced by life, Miles Davis, Kool Herc, Carl Sagan and holy scripture, these new compositions are suitable for free minds, open hears, and shaking behinds. With every album Meshell reinvents herself and the way we relate to music.  This new album is no different.  Making a name for herself on the jazz scene, SPIRIT MUSIC JAMIA  is an instant favorite and classic.  It’s the kind of album that you can drive to, chill to and fall asleep to.  Noticeably different from her last release COMFORT WOMAN, SPIRIT MUSIC JAMIA holds its own and will no doubtedly be the conduit to new listeners of Meshell’s masterpieces. Meshell Ndegeocello is one of those rare artists who have won a large fan-base by simply following her muse wherever it leads–which in her case has been innovative, challenging, striking and often surprising directions. In the twelve years since her debut release, the singer/songwriter, bassist, and producer has taken a different musical direction with virtually every recording. Her latest project, Dance Of The Infidel (to be released on Shanachie Entertainment June 21, 2005) showcases her Spirit Music Jamia ensemble, a stunning all-star vehicle that plays spiritual groove music–music for free minds, open hearts and shaking behinds! This new recording project features such notable artists as Cassandra Wilson, Miles Davis-alum Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Garrett, Lalah Hathaway, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Sabina (The Brazilian Girls vocalist), Ron Blake and more, as well as Meshell herself as musical director, bassist and composer. Dance Of The Infidel is destined to be one of 2005’s landmark events in music, a beacon of originality, musicianship and spiritual feeling in an often bleak contemporary landscape dominated by musical mediocrity.

Track Listing:

1. Mu-Min featuring: Don Byron / Oliver Lake / Josh Roseman 1:54

2. Al-Falaq 113 featuring: Michael Cain / Mino Cinelu / Gene Lake / Wallace Roney 11:47

3. Aquarium (Sabina Sciubba) featuring: Ron Blake / Michael Cain / Wallace Roney / Sabina Sciubba 4:43

4. Papillon featuring: Kenny Garrett / Matthew Garrison / Federico Gonzalez Peña 11:32

5. Dance of the Infidel featuring: Oran Coltrane / Chris Dave / Kenny Garrett 7:26

6. The Chosen featuring: Michael Cain / Brandon Ross / Cassandra Wilson 6:34

7. Luqman featuring: Don Byron / Jack DeJohnette / Oliver Lake / Grégoire Maret 11:55 8. Heaven featuring: Chris Dave / Neal Evans / Lalah Hathaway 6:07


Meshell Ndegeocello: bass (3-5,7), programming (1,3)

Oliver Lake: saxophone (1,7)

Don Byron: clarinet, bass clarinet (1,7)

Joshua Roseman: trombone (1)

Michael Cain: piano (2,5-7), keyboards (1,8)

Chris Dave: drums (1,4,5,8)

Wallace Roney: trumpet (2,7)

Did Gutman: keyboards (2,3; programming (3)

Brandon Ross: guitar (2,6,7)

Gene Lake: drums (2,6)

Mino Cinelu: percussion (2,7)

Matthew Garrison: bass (2,4,6,7)

Ron Blake: saxophones (3)

Dan Rieser: clay drum (3)

Ari Raskin: programming (3)

Takuya Nakamura: programming (3)

Kenny Garrett: saxophones (2,4,5)

Federico Gonzalez Pena: keyboards (4)

Oran Coltrane: saxophone (5)

Neal Evans: keyboards (5), piano (8)

Gregoire Maret: harmonica (2,7)

Jack DeJohnette: drums (7)

Pedro Martinez: percussion (7)

Yosvany Terry: percussion (7)

Sabina: piano, vocals (3)

Cassandra Wilson: vocals (6) Lalah Hathaway: vocals (8)

Recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC March 1-4, 2003, additional recording & editing at Chez Bob, Mixed at Sony Studios, NYC
Except track 3 which was recorded and mixed at Chung King Studios, NYC, with additional recording at Lunchbox Studios, NYC

Produced by Meshell Ndegeocello and Bob Power

Executive Producer: Kofi Taha

Arranged: Meshell Suhaila Bashir-Shakur, Michael Cain

Engineer [Assistant]: Brian Montgomery (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 8), Ross Peterson (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 8)

Mastered By Emily Lazar

Mixed By [Assistant] Dave Swope* (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 8)

Recorded By [Additional] Zeke Zima (tracks: 3)

Recorded By, Mixed By Ari Raskin (tracks: 3), Bob Power (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 8)


Making jazz records is easy. Anyone with half a name and the slightest interest (read: Lea DeLaria and Queen Latifah) can hire a bassist and book a session. You don’t really need any ideas, just a wisp of a voice and a desire to be “moody. 
Fortunately Meshell Ndegeocello is smarter than that. She’s hung with Madonna and the Stones and recorded rock and funk records, but her foray into grownup art (or whatever) is more than a vague sorta Billie redux. Instead she reaches back to ’80s style integrations of jazz composition and electric instruments, not rehashing the M-BASE Collective but it’s hard to imagine she doesn’t have some of those discs at home.
Ndegeocello doesn’t sing on the record and she only plays bass on a few tracks, but she gets composer credits (sharing the honors on some tracks with Oliver Lake, Don Byron, and others on a few), does some “programming (another ’80s nod), and clearly serves as ringleader for the session. Along with Byron and Lake, Jack DeJohnette, Brandon Ross, Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney, and Gregoire Maret, among others, fill out the band. And it is a band record. Lalah Hathaway and M-BASE alum Cassandra Wilson provide vocals, but most of the tracks are instrumental.

It’s an admirable and clearly heartfelt attempt, even if much of it is burdened by overly bright keyboards and bass. It’s not until the last three tracks that Spirit Music Jamia (the name given to her band) hits its stride. Wilson’s vocals and Ross’ guitar on “The Chosen make that track a standout. Lake’s solo on “Luqman justifies the preceding jazz lite, and Hathaway’s take on “Heaven (also known as “When Did You Leave Heaven, recorded by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Bob Dylan, Little Jimmy Scott, and Nancy Wilson) provides a nice, if slight, coda for an honest effort.

Kurt Gottschalk (AllAboutJazz)