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The John Betsch Society

Earth Blossom

Release Notes
  • Heavenly sweetness reissue classics
  • One of the rarer albums on the legendary Strata East label
  • Deluxe packaging, 180g vinyl, Limited edition 1000 copies for the world

One of the rarer records of the mythical Strata East albums is finally reissued for the first time on Heavenly Sweetness! The recording of Earth Blossom, the John Betsch Society’s one and only album, seems something of an enigma nowadays. For even though Nashville is clearly one of the towns in the US with the highest number of recording studios, who would have thought that the capital of country music would give birth to one of the forgotten masterpieces of 1970s spiritual jazz. The path leading to the album starts in 1963 when John Betsch, originally from Jacksonville in Florida, arrives in Nashville to study at Frisk University. He is a young drummer and joins Bob Holmes trio. Holmes is one of the towns major jazz organists and pianists; he becomes Betsch’s mentor and, over the space of two years, John will play alternately with him and with the trumpeter Louis Smiths group. However, in 1965, John leaves town to go to the prestigious Berkeley University in Boston and do a two-year course along with his fellow debutants with names like John Abercrombie, Ernie Watts and Alan Broadbent. Two years later, he is invited by a pianist friend, Billy Chilf, to join the legendary singer/songwriter Tim Hardin’s group. Just after Woodstock, John Betsch and Tim record a psychedelic album Columbia will never release together with the members of the future group Oregon: Colin Walcott, Glen Moore, Paul McCandles and his friend Billy Chilf. But he soon leaves this group to return to Nashville where he hooks up again with his friend Bob Holmes. Two years later, he is accepted on Archie Shepp and Max Roach’s famous course at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMASS) and for the next four years he participates in this collective of intellectuals and musicians under the aegis of the two masters. During this period he returns to Nashville to form his Society whose music is obviously influenced by the Afrocentric ideas of the UMASS student and political movement. However, the album, recorded in one day and in one take, also bears the hallmark of their generations psychedelic experiences, and in the themes and playing of the musicians we can hear a less violent form of music than the radical free jazz of New York or Chicago. Nature and environmental themes are the inspiration behind tracks touched by the spirit of Coltrane but also of Flower Power. After Amherst, John Betsch joins Marion Browns group in 1976, leaves Tennessee for good and makes his home in New York over the next ten years or so. He plays and records with Dollar Brand, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre and many others, before heading off to France. He has lived in Paris for the last twenty years and played in Steve Lacy, Mal Waldron and Archie Shepp bands, as well as forming groups of his own. He now lives in Paris and plays with many musicians/bands