Label: Gramavision – GR-8101
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1981
Style: Free Jazz, Avant-garde Jazz, Modern
Recorded at Mixed at Vanguard Studios, 1981.
Album Design By – Neal Pozner
Engineer – John Kilgore
Producer – Jonathan F. P. Rose
I probably first heard Anthony Davis on Leo Smith's "Reflectativity" album on Kabell and shortly thereafter, in the waning days of the loft jazz era ('78-'79), caught him live around town a bunch., sometimes with Chico Freeman's band and one memorable occasion in duo with vibist Jay Hoggard (I think on the same NYU bill as the Jarman/Moye duo). iirc, it was on that date that Davis played several compositions of his, including his beautiful "A Walk through the Shadow", that he'd return to often over the next decade.
Still, "Episteme" came as a shock. I think it had to do somewhat with the sheer precision of the band, that overlay of a classical approach (via minimalism, Lou Harrison, etc.) that you rarely if ever heard among the jazz avant-garde...
_ By Brian Olewnick
A1 - Wayang No. II (Shadowdance) . . . 7:40
A2 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) I - Opening – Dance . . . 8:04
A2 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) II - Sustained Tones . . . 4:39
B1 - Wayang No. IV (Under The Double Moon) III . . . 16:23
c) Trombone Solo
d) Flute Interlude
e) Kecak (Repeated Clusters)
B2 - A Walk Through The Shadow . . . 5:03
Anthony Davis – piano, composed
Dwight Andrews – flute, piccolo flute, bass clarinet
Warren Smith – marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel,
timpani, bass drum, gong [Chinese], cymbal
Jay Hoggard – vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel
Shem Guibbory – violin
George Lewis – trombone
Abdul Wadud – cello
Rick Rozie – bass (track A1)
Pheeroan Aklaff – drums, gong, cymbalMark Helias – conductor
As a composer, Anthony Davis sensed the limitations of free jazz improvisation while coming up through the music's hotbed in the '70s. While seeing the benefits of wide open solo and ensemble playing, he also pushed for something akin to thoroughly composed music with improvisation as its lifeblood. Davis' ideas would eventually find full scope in his opera X (a chronicle of Malcolm X) and through various teaching stints, but maybe the purest setting for his compositional approach can be found in his Episteme ensemble. That's also the title of this 1981 album for Gramavision, which includes multiple sections of Davis' extended piece "Wayang" and the short piano meditation "A Walk Through the Shadow." The Episteme group features fellow travelers of the New York free jazz scene like bassist Mark Helias (who takes up conducting duties here), drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, cellist Abdul Wadud, percussionists Jay Hoggard and Warren Smith, and trombonist George Lewis, among others. The players ably wend their way through Davis' Balinese gamelan-inspired "Wayang," adding their own spin to the pianist's mix of fast and repetitive tempos, furtive horn arrangements, and dramatic atmospherics. Like the work of similarly disposed artists such as Henry Threadgill and Muhal Richard Abrams, Davis' pieces require effort to understand and appreciate. It's definitely knotty and cerebral stuff, but repeated exposure will bring its own rewards.
_ Review by Stephen Cook
If you find it, buy this album!