the mid '60s, the Afro-Caravan, formed and lead by 22-year-old
Wali King, brought a new kind of percussion-based jazz to
Central Texas. As comfortable and accepted at Austin's downtown
hippy haven, the Vulcan
Gas Company, as at the predominantly Black Austin east-side
nightclub, The Afro, the hip ethnic jazz group garnered a following
that crossed age and racial lines. Sonobeat's relationship with
the Afro-Caravan began in August 1968, after Sonobeat Records
owners Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Jr.) heard the group
perform at the Vulcan.
In August 1968, Sonobeat recorded the Afro-Caravan before a live audience at HemisFair in San Antonio, Texas. Recorded in just one take on a 2-track Ampex 354, Comin' Home Baby (backed with Afro-Twist) was Sonobeat's only commercial release of a live performance by any artist.
Sonobeat stereo single, Comin' Home Baby
The Austin-based Afro-Caravan were Wali King (congas and bongos),
Robert Moore (percussion), J. Murray (tenor and alto recorders),
Ronald Nance (bass violin), and Ray Lewis (flute). The group
eventually took the name Wali and the Afro-Caravan. The combination
of instrumentation, rhythm, and melodies were, as producers
Josey Sr. and Kelley wrote in their liner notes for the
Afro-Caravan's 1969 album, Home
Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), "rhythmic -- romantic -- thrilling
-- appealing -- satisfying."
Liberty/UA's commercial release
of the Afro-Caravan album on the Solid State label
Sessions for Home Lost and Found began
in fall '68. The album was recorded on Sonobeat's
Scully 280 4-track recorder in the spacious den at the Josey
family home in northwest Austin. Sonobeat released a limited
non-commercial vinyl advance pressing of the album early
in 1969. The "white
jacket" release was intended primarily to attract a sale
of the masters to a national label, which finally came
in fall '69, almost a year after the album had been recorded.
Liberty/UA Records -- which had purchased Johnny
Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment album
from Sonobeat in '68 -- bought the Afro-Caravan album master.
Sonobeat retained rights to the single, since neither of
the songs on the single appeared on the album. Early in
'70, Liberty/UA released Home Lost and Found on
its Solid State jazz label. The album featured a highly
stylized double-fold jacket with photography by L'Azul
and Renate Taylor. Interestingly, the Solid State album
cover shows the silhouettes of 6 performers, but the Afro-Caravan
was a quintet.
The Home Lost and Found sessions -- which
spanned several evenings -- yielded seven tracks, ranging in
length from 4 minutes to over 11 minutes, the longer songs
giving the Afro-Caravan plenty of room to stretch musically.
Five songs were Afro-Caravan originals. The album received
-- and, although long out of print, even today receives --
excellent reviews, and Wali's arrangement of the traditional Hail
to the King is
considered an Afro-jazz classic. The album remains vital and
musically relevant in the 21st century, validating the adage "everything
old is new again."
the Afro-Caravan 2nd album master tape boxes.
Bill Josey Sr. produced a second album with Wali and the Afro-Caravan
in a series of sessions beginning January 29 and ending February
1, 1971. The tracks were recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills
Drive studio. The untitled album featured four songs on side
1, including an expanded remake of Afro-Twist, and
a 19 minute three-song suite, Shades
of Africa, on side 2. Bill Sr. offered the album to Liberty/UA
Records, which passed for reasons not documented in the Sonobeat
archives, and circulated demos of the album on audio
cassettes, beginning his trend away from the much more expensive
vinyl test pressings Sonobeat previously had used for its demo
albums. Also not documented is why Josey didn't release
the album on the Sonobeat label, but the likely reason was
purely financial: albums cost significantly more to master,
press, package, and market than 45s and were very difficult
to sell in sufficient numbers in regional markets to make a
profit. And jazz albums were far more difficult to sell than
rock or country albums. The second Afro-Caravan album is certainly
as good as Home
Lost and Found,
and it's unfortunate that it remains unreleased. We're pleased
to present sound bites from the Sonobeat single as well as
from the three songs that were to make up the Shades
of Africa suite.
Today, Wali (now known as Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye)
is founder and CEO of International Afrikan-American Ballet in Brooklyn, New York.