For a label that wasn't around long, Strata East achieved the same sort of label recognition that Impulse! or Blue Note managed to build. In other words, you knew what you were getting when you bought a record on the label, even if you didn't know the names on the outside of the cover. This is no exception. Who is Shamek Farrah? Who knows? Who cares? It's the music that's important. This is the standard spiritually intense new jazz one learns to expect from the label, soaked in some Eastern influences but always with its ear to the street. Musicians took their roles as leaders and spokesmen very seriously back then.
This very adult statement from a group of very serious men is no exception. However, what might be an average, forgettable session is rescued by the propulsive engine of Milton Suggs' bass. He adds the fire and the drive that keeps things interesting and prevents the music from wandering into a circular spiritual morass.
For fans of the sound or the label, this can be heartily recommended.
Rob Ferrier /AMG
REVIEW: All About Jazz, March 2018 by Chris May. 5*****
First Impressions" is one of both spiritual jazz and funk jazz's great treasures, up there with Pharoah Sanders's "Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt" from Tauhid (Impulse, 1967) and Donald Byrd's "The Emperor" from Ethiopian Knights (Blue Note, 1972). Alongside Farrah and Suggs's input, the track is further lifted by the almost-literally magical piano playing of Sonelius Smith (who co-headlined The World Of The Children). The entire album is outstanding. But the title track alone qualifies it for a five-star rating.
Side A: 1. Meterologicly Tuned 2. Watch What Happens Now
Side B: 1. Umoja Suite 2. First Impressions
Personnel: "First Impressions" - Shamek Farrah (as); Norman Person (tp); Sonelius Smith (p); Milton Suggs (b); Ron Warwell (dr); Kenny Harper (perc); Calvert 'Bo' Satter-White (cga)
Producer – Janfar Productions
Recorded At – Sound Ideas Studios
Mixed At – Sound Ideas Studios
Engineered by – Geoff Daking and George Klabin