Kilby, Kraig - Satori LP

Regular price $25.00

Kraig Kilby.

Detroit: Just Us Records, 2021.
Second pressing.

In the Spring of 1977, Kraig Kilby began the thirty-year trip towards realizing his only solo album. By his early thirties, the trombonist and keyboard player had become firmly embedded in the national Soul music circuit, having recorded with artists such as Bennie Maupin and Dynasty as well as spending months each year on tour with The Whispers. At home in the San Francisco Bay Area, he was writing the compositions that would eventually become Satori.

When it came time for Kilby to record, he tapped longtime friends Michael Clark and Paul Jackson, the groundbreaking rhythm section behind Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters band, to help him realize the tunes he’d sketched out. Over a burst of sessions at Tres Virgos Studio in Marin County, the three-piece group (with Kilby on keys) solidified the arrangements and recorded the foundational tracks in the converted garage underneath the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais.

Kilby returned home to Marin when off the road between 1977 and 1981 to continue work on the album. Following a precise mental map, he painted a panoramic array of additional instruments, synthesizers, percussion, effects, and trombone onto the original takes. This painstaking process brushed up against the technical limitations of the then-humble studio and pushed the recordings in an experimental direction that, in retrospect, finds strong parallels in contemporaneous masterpieces from acts like The Mizell brothers, Norman Connors, and Detroit’s Tribe Records.

The white-hot rhythmic core of Clark, Jackson, and Kilby, alloyed with Kilby’s production flourishes and knack for aural texture make Satori play like a record collector’s fever dream of a psych-jazz grail. If it had been released at the time, it would have most likely become one– but the universe had other plans. Kilby’s busy schedule with The Whispers kept him out of the studio, and in 1989 he landed a steady gig touring with Etta James. Traveling the world for nearly two decades with his trombone and what became a tight-knit musical family, Satori would remain on the shelf until 2007. Rounding out the tracklist with two short improvisations recorded in the early 00’s, Kilby self-released the album on CD. Primarily given away to friends and family, it seems to have largely missed the prying eyes of jazz obsessives and crate diggers until now.

Equally meticulous and wild, lyrical and chaotic, nostalgic and trailblazing, it’s not an exaggeration to herald Satori as one of the most adventurous and prescient Jazz albums to have ever fallen through the cracks. The recordings feature musicians working at the height of their power at a critical moment in Jazz history, when the widening gap between the avant-garde and the dancefloor tended to draw musicians to one side and cast shady glances towards those on the other. Kilby somehow manages to capture both of these possibilities with an ease and expansiveness that is ascribed to the giants of the era.

As the Jazz-Funk milieux from which albums like Satori emerged increasingly solidifies in the collective consciousness as both a golden age of American music and a vital reference point for those immersing themselves in the prehistories of Hip-Hop and House, it feels critical for these compositions to have another chance at reaching an audience, and to mint Kilby his own much-deserved star. Upstart Detroit label Just Us is pleased to offer Satori on vinyl for the first time.

Kraig Kilby: Trombones, Keyboards, Kalimba, Small Percussion, Drum Programming (on Incantation)
Paul Jackson: Bass
Michael Clark: Drums
Lyn Haet: Acoustic Harp (on Strawberry Point)