Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz attended the Juilliard Conservatory of Music and became a member of Charles Mingus' Jazz Workshop from 1962-1964 where he worked with Eric Dolphy and encountered McCoy Tyner for the first time. He also began gigging as a sideman in the mid-'60s with Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, and later as a member of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.
His recording debut was on Blakey's Soul Finger album. Tyner formed his famed Expansions band in 1968 with Bartz on alto. In addition, Bartz also formed his own bands at this time and recorded a trio of albums for Milestone, and continued to tour with Max Roach's band. In 1970, Miles Davis hired Bartz and featured him as a soloist on the Live-Evil recording.
Bartz formed the Ntu Troop that year as well, an ensemble that fused soul and funk, African folk music, hard bop, and vanguard jazz into a vibrant whole. Among the group's four recordings from 1970-1973, Harlem Bush Music: Taifa and Juju Street Songs have proved influential with soul jazzers, and in hip-hop and DJ circles as well.
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