Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ANTHONY BRAXTON – Three Compositions Of New Jazz (LP-1968)




Label: Delmark Records – DS-415
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1968
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded at Sound Studios: Track A1 on March 27, 1968; Tracks B1 & B2 on April 10, 1968.
Cover, Artwork – Zbigniew Jastrzebski
Liner Notes – John Litweiler
Photography By [Cover] – Ray Flerlage
Producer [Album Production And Supervision] – Robert G. Koester
Recorded By – Ron Pickup

A  -  840M (Realize) ................................................ 19:50
        (Composed By – Anthony Braxton)
B1 - N-M488-44M-Z ............................................... 12:50
        (Composed By – Anthony Braxton)
B2 - The Bell ........................................................... 10:20
        (Composed By – Leo Smith)

Anthony Braxton – alto, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute, bagpipes [musette], accordion, 
                                bells, drums [snare], mixed
Muhal Richard Abrams – piano, cello, alto clarinet
Leo Smith – trumpet, mellophone, xylophone, percussion [bottles], kazoo
Leroy Jenkins – violin, viola, harmonica, bass drum, recorder, cymbal, whistle [slide]

Anthony Braxton’s debut LP introduced an unconventional, often controversial new talent whose career – spanning decades and still going, without nearly enough attention, today – has been one of the most fascinating in jazz. At the time this was recorded, Braxton was just under 23 years old, an affiliate of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which had been active (but barely documented on record) since 1965. The boldly titled 3 Compositions of New Jazz was among the first statements of the group, preceded by AACM co-founder Muhal Richard Abrams’ Levels and Degrees of Light (on which Braxton made his first recorded appearance; his own debut was his second) and some of the albums that would lead to the formation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, with records by Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman featuring the extended AACM family.


3 Compositions resonated with the aesthetic being forged on these late ’60s albums. This was a radical new sound in free jazz, paring back the unrelenting energy and frenzied blowing sessions that had become de rigueur in favor of space, extreme dynamics, humor, and versatility in both instrumentation and style. Ironically, given the chilly reception with which this scene was greeted at the time, Braxton’s late ’60s/early ’70s work made in the orbit of the AACM was one of the last times in his career that the iconoclast composer would actually fit comfortably into any larger tradition or collective.

The AACM formed a solid foundation for Braxton’s early musical experiments. He joined the group in 1966, immediately after returning from a stint with the Army Band, stationed in South Korea. At this point, the AACM was very active in Chicago, with a huge membership whose activities frequently overlapped and intersected. Braxton played with many of his AACM peers during this time, putting in his apprenticeship in the groups of Abrams, Jarman, Mitchell, Gerald Donovan, and others. These groups weren’t recorded and didn’t make much impact outside their hometown at the time, but the wildly creative atmosphere encouraged Braxton to push himself; he was both directly influenced by many of these musicians and inspired by them to come up with his own unique contributions.

The AACM’s influence started to expand beyond Chicago towards the end of the ’60s, as some documentation of these musicians finally trickled out. From 1968-1970, Braxton recorded a string of albums with likeminded musicians from the AACM. In particular, he formed a regular trio with violinist Leroy Jenkins (who like Braxton had debuted on Levels and Degrees) and trumpeter Leo Smith, sometimes adding Abrams (as on the B-side of 3 Compositions) or drummer Steve McCall. Once this group moved to Paris in mid-1969, they were known, for a short time, as the Creative Construction Company, but while the Art Ensemble (who also went abroad) flourished in that milieu, the CCC quickly broke up and Braxton briefly gave up on music, moving to New York to play chess.

Regardless, this was a vital and productive era for all these musicians, who were rapidly developing new musical ideas and expanding the possibilities of jazz, at times making music that pushed beyond even the most liberally defined boundaries of the genre. Such concerns would be a hallmark of Braxton’s career, and this album proves both a valuable document of early AACM ideas and a first hint of Braxton’s own idiosyncratic aesthetic.

The Braxton/Jenkins/Smith trio was characterized, like many of the AACM musicians, by their multi-instrumentalism, and none of them stick to any one instrument for very long, particularly on this album’s side-long first piece. Among other variations, Braxton and Jenkins insert primitive drumming, Jenkins plays harmonica, Smith plays bottles, and Braxton plays accordion and bells in addition to his saxophones and clarinet. This kind of instrument-switching and insertion of unusual sound-making devices was a key innovation of the early AACM. It enriches and complicates the texture of the music, introducing novel and even lowly sounds, challenging the idea of jazz virtuosity with a palette that’s as open to junk and clatter as it is to speed-blurred sax solos. This trio was also, like the early Art Ensemble before Don Moye joined, unmoored from rhythm by the absence of a regular drummer: all the musicians contribute percussion, but there’s no one keeping time or providing a steady percussive backdrop of any kind, so the music floats freely and time seems to stretch while they’re playing.

The A-side of 3 Compositions is a 20-minute piece written by Braxton, titled, like most of his compositions, with a combination of graphic symbols and abbreviations, though it’s easiest to refer to his work using the retroactively applied opus numbers; this is “Composition No. 6E.” The LP opens with what might be thought of as the “head” of the tune, except that it’s carried by the musicians harmonizing “tra-la-la” and gradually adding instruments like slide whistle and kazoo. The playful instrumentation on “6E” suggests this group’s determination to toy with tradition. This piece, especially, was a remarkably risky way for the young trio to introduce themselves. The music is spiky but languid, spacious but not without momentary bursts of aggression. It’s meandering music that gradually wanders its way into being.

The composition is a “vocal piece for trio,” a likely callback to Braxton’s youthful love of doo-wop. That interest in non-jazz forms of black music was another point of correspondence between Braxton and the rest of the AACM musicians, one that’s not often attributed to him. He’d subsequently come to be seen as quite distinct from the rest of the AACM, and the Art Ensemble would be the group most known for gleefully mixing R&B with jazz, but even from this early stage an awareness of, and affection for, a broad spectrum of black music has always been one current in Braxton’s music as well. (Braxton even toured with the soul duo Sam & Dave in the mid-’60s, though they quickly fired him for playing too free.)

The vocals mostly appear at the beginning and end of “6E,” as the group sings the theme in rough harmony, then echoes the melody on a slide whistle with jangling bells in the background. From there, the simple melody provides a jumping-off point for further elaborations and improvisations. The basic structure isn’t too dissimilar from the head-solos-head format of much earlier jazz, but the thematic material, and the way the group approaches it, deviates substantially from what’s expected in the form.

It takes almost two minutes for Braxton to enter on sax, high and sweet, stating the melodic figure more conventionally – and even then, his rich, full line is assaulted from every side by Jenkins’ parodically simple harmonica, clanking percussion, and continued out-of-tune mumbling/singing. After another couple of minutes of this, Smith finally picks up his trumpet and Jenkins switches to violin, meaning that it takes four minutes for all three players to actually play their primary instruments.



Braxton, of course, drops out almost immediately to play a crude martial drum beat. The music is constantly shifting in this manner, with new combinations and textures being introduced at every moment. There’s a sense of delightful, mischievous amateurishness to a lot of the proceedings; all three men are masters of their main instruments, but they’re constantly throwing so much else into the mix that it makes the very idea of instrumental technique seem like a distant secondary concern at best. The music is balanced between the strange beauty of its often submerged thematic material, the eerie, haunting quality of many passages, and the charming humor with which the musicians undercut and subvert those more serious, emotional currents.

There’s a particularly sublime passage almost halfway through where Braxton, Smith and Jenkins actually do converge as a sax/trumpet/violin trio. Smith’s guttural trumpet interjections prompt Braxton to push his own line from melodic improvisations into squealing upper-register explorations, and Jenkins joins with screechy violin patterns serving as a makeshift rhythm section. The thick, dense sound becomes difficult to probe, with the trio seamlessly melding their individual sounds into a single grand clamor.

When, after all this woolly, wandering improvisation, the “head” finally returns in recognizable form at the very end of the piece, it beautifully completes the joke. The piece is both a parody of traditional jazz structure and an affirmation of the form’s possibilities. “6E” at least kind of sticks to the rules – its theme statements bracket group improvisation – but it does so much within those loose boundaries that would never be expected or tolerated in even the most “out” jazz performances of the time.

Abrams joined the trio for the record’s B-side, which is split between another Braxton composition (“6D”) and Smith’s “The Bell.” Abrams plays piano on “6D,” laying down a steady, almost unceasing bed of frenzied chords, occasionally sweeping scales up the keyboard and generally filling every available space. In Braxton’s terms, the piece is concerned with “fast pulse relationships,” an apt summation of Abrams’ percussive playing here. One of the only rests comes, with a sly wink, after the chaotic 10-second fanfare that opens the piece: a few seconds of dead silence, and then it’s back to the maelstrom. Because of this constant foundation, this track winds up being far less radical than “6E.” It’s a more conventionally structured piece, especially by the standards of late ’60s free jazz: after the initial chaos with everyone playing at once, the musicians politely take turns soloing atop Abrams’ pounding base, sticking to their primary instruments and laying out when another soloist is playing. This is not a structure that would appear often in Braxton’s ouevre. Much of the challenge and originality of his ensemble work is rooted in his quest for new structures and new composition/improvisation and composer/performer balances within his music.

Even with only Abrams and one other musician playing at any given time, the group makes an impressive racket. Smith is up first with a concise, confident trumpet line, varying the dynamics between bold, clean notes and passages that have a muffled quality, as though played from a distance. These shifts actually work quite well with Abrams’ piano: the trumpet vacillates between speaking clearly over the background or shyly letting its statements disappear into the accompaniment. Jenkins’ violin solo, by contrast, is lengthy and meandering, quickly running out of ideas as he scrapes the strings in a manner that coheres all too well with Abrams’ relentless virtuosity.

Unsurprisingly, Braxton’s alto sax solo is lively and vibrant, flexibly shifting from rapid streams of notes to harsh squeals and little playful asides before heading imperceptibly back to the main line. Inspired by Abrams and AACM horn players like Mitchell and Jarman, Braxton was starting to perform solo alto sax concerts around this time, and within a year he’d record his landmark For Alto, a double LP of solo saxophone music. Already it’s obvious that he’s something special as a soloist, but Abrams doesn’t give him much room to play with the pacing or dynamics. When Braxton pauses for effect, the space is merely filled in with relentlessly hammering piano. Abrams’ own solo spot, at the end of the piece, before another burst of chaotic group playing, varies a bit from the carpet of sound, introducing some loping rhythms and dynamic shifts, but the overall effect is still monotonous. If “6E” represented this band satirizing and playfully expanding the parameters of late ’60s free jazz, “6D” finds them cohering to the status quo, a rarity in Braxton’s work.

The final piece on the album is the Smith-penned “The Bell,” which returns to the restraint and dynamics of the A-side, albeit without quite the same raucous sense of humor. This is, rather, a stately and relaxed piece that documents Smith – a great and sadly undervalued composer and musician – at an early stage of his evolution, much as the rest of the album does for Braxton.

The first half of the piece is dominated by Jenkins’ violin, played gently and softly, emitting long, mournful tones that quiver and fade. The other musicians similarly play in ways designed to let tones decay and waver towards silence. Braxton inserts breathy, rustling sax interjections, Smith plays slow, interrupted lines with plenty of space and pauses, and Abrams switches between piano, cello, and clarinet but contributes only momentary shadings no matter which instrument he’s on. The overall mood of the music is hushed and expectant. In the second half, the sound becomes even more sparse and pointillist, with occasional jarring horn blurts intentionally adding an uneasy quality, shattering the peace. A metronome ticks away relentlessly in the background, setting the steady time that would usually be supplied by a conventional rhythm section; here, the group seemingly ignores even that rudimentary rhythm, setting their own patient pace.

Despite its quietness and seeming simplicity, this is intense, involving music, torn between serenity and tension, playing with space and silence in ways that anticipate Smith’s subsequent ’70s recordings, both solo and as leader of the shifting-membership ensemble New Dalta Ahkri. It’s much less indicative of the directions in which Braxton himself would head after his initial forays under the AACM aegis. As a result, the inclusion of this piece here adds to the album’s eclecticism and contributes to the sense that it’s a true document of a few different currents within the varied early AACM, not just a snapshot of the young Braxton’s interests.

Indeed, the AACM is so fascinating precisely because it represented the intersection of so many strong, individualist visions, so many musicians pursuing their own ideas in many different ways, united mainly by a commitment to following their own idiosyncratic visions, rather than by the specifics of the visions. 3 Compositions is notable for introducing Braxton, one of jazz’s most singular composers and musicians, but with the input of Smith, Jenkins, and Abrams (the latter a crucial mentor to all these musicians and many more) it’s also a valuable cross-section of the AACM during its unruly, inventive, under-documented first phase, before the collective, with all its disparate intellects and ideas, became virtually synonymous with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.


50 Years of AACM - Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians



If you find it, buy this album!

Friday, May 22, 2015

ROSCOE MITCHELL – Old-Quartet / 1967 (LP-1975)




Label: Nessa Records – N-5
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1975
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
„Old“ recorded May 18, 1967, „Quartet Part ½“ recorded May 19, 1967.
„Solo“ recorded November 25, 1967.
Liner Notes [1975] – Larry Kart, Terry Martin
Producer – Chuck Nessa
Recorded By, Photography – Terry Martin

A1 - Old .............................................................. 8:09
A2 - Quartet Part 1 ............................................ 19:40
B1 - Quartet Part 2 ............................................ 18:03
B2 - Solo ............................................................. 5:34

Roscoe Mitchell – alto/soprano sax, clarinet, flute, performer little instruments
Lester Bowie – trumpet, flugelhorn, performer little instruments
Malachi Favors – bass, performer little instruments
Phillip Wilson – drums, percusson, others little instruments

In the mid to late 60s, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell was at the center of a group of young Chicago-based musicians who were extending the language of the free jazz revolution, until then largely a New York-based phenomenon. That was about to change. Mitchell led a quartet that also included trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, and drummer Phillip Wilson. By the time the group made its first record. The style of this seminal ensemble was being defined when the rehearsal tapes that comprise Old/Quartet were made in 1967. Mitchell & Co. were not afraid to blow through the roof in the fiery style of their New York counterparts, but they also liked to reach back towards musical roots (“Old” is a 12-bar blues on which the traditional structure is respected, if not overmuch), as well as towards contemporary classical developments, or anywhere else that suited them. The tone can be passionate, ironic, whimsical, or sedate, sometimes all at the same time...
By Duck Baker


Recorded in the year prior to his groundbreaking Congliptious but not released until 1975, Old Quartet captures the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble (which would later coalesce into the Art Ensemble of Chicago) on a clear pathway toward the later album's majestic heights. In fact, it leads off with "Old," which closed the other album, and this performance is arguably superior both in its greater expansiveness and in Lester Bowie's incredibly poised trumpet work. That they slightly flub the ending (and joke about it) only adds to the relaxed air of the piece. "Quartet" is in two lengthy parts, and is a loose, somewhat rambling exploration that anticipates the title track from Congliptious less, perhaps, than it does Mitchell's quasi-narrative epic "The Spiritual" from two year later. The amount of freedom already at hand in 1967 is breathtaking, however. The group never meanders aimlessly; each little sound or moment of silence contributes to the flow. Vocal hums, whistles, harmonica tootles, and struck bells share equal footing with the more "traditional" instruments. Early on, Mitchell had realized that "free jazz" didn't only mean screaming at the top of one's lungs; there was room for quiet. The group would mature greatly over the next year, but all the seeds are clearly here. The album ends with a solo performance by Mitchell, augmenting his alto with bells, harmonica, and percussion. It's almost frightening how he's able to seesaw between delicate, music box-like melodies and the most harrowing slabs of sonic assault possible.
While perhaps a small step below Congliptious, it is nonetheless a beautiful album in its own right and one that ranks very high in Roscoe Mitchell's discography.


50 Years of AACM - Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians



If you find it, buy this album!

ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO – People In Sorrow (LP-1969)




Label: Nessa Records – N-3
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1969
Style: Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz
Recorded at Boulogne-Billancourt, France, 7th of July, 1969.
Photos By – Terry Martin
Design By – Schoengrund
Pathe Marconi Recording
Distributed by – Flaying Fish Records

A - People In Sorrow Part 1 .................................. 17:05
B - People In Sorrow Part 2 .................................. 23:05

Roscoe Mitchell – soprano, alto, bass saxophone, clarinet, flute, percussion
Joseph Jarman – alto saxophone, bassoon, oboe, flute, percussion
Lester Bowie – trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion
Malachi Favors – bass, zither, percussion instruments

In 1969, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (which had recorded just one official record, Congliptious, as a group at that point in time), moved to Paris for two years and recorded eight albums during their first year overseas alone.


This is one of those albums that completely shifts thinking about music. The unity of vision on this album is uncanny, offering two sides of a slow, almost a-rhythmic flow of immensely sad sounds, coming from a variety of instruments played by Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors (this is still the period before Famadou Don Moye joined on drums). There is no real soloing, just sounds and phrases interwoven in a stream of music that is both welcoming and strange, with a beautiful theme that once every so often becomes explicit when it emerges out of the background on the first side, and becoming more dominant on the second side, guided by Lester Bowie's beautiful trumpet playing, over a background of increasing mayhem and ritual shouts and incantations and little percussive sounds and other tribal goodies. Even after all these years, modern listeners will be surprised at the audacity of the music, as much as for its listening relevance today, and hopefully as emotionally impacted as your servant when listening to this album, again and again.

This is an absolute must-have for any fan of free music. Please also note that the early albums of the Art Ensemble of Chicago explicitly mentioned AACM and/or "Great Black Music".

_ By Stef
http://www.freejazzblog.org/2015/05/50-years-of-aacm-1975-1984.html


50 Years of AACM - Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians



If you find it, buy this album!

ROSCOE MITCHELL QUARTET – Roscoe Mitchell Quartet in concert at A Space (LP-1975)




Label: Sackville Recordings – 2009
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: Canada / Released: 1975
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded in concert at A Space, Toronto on the 4th and 5th of October 1975.
Photography By, Artwork – Bill Smith
Recorded By – Dan Allen
Produced by Onari Productions
Master tapes, Prepared By – Phil Sheridan
Composed By – Roscoe Mitchell (tracks: A1, B1, B2)

A1 - Tnoona ........................................................................... 6:42
A2 - Music For Trombone And B Flat Soprano .................... 14:35
        (Compiled By – George Lewis)
B1 - Cards ............................................................................ 10:00
B2 - Olobo .............................................................................. 9:42

Roscoe Mitchell – soprano B Flat / alto / tenor saxophones
Muhal Richard Abrams – piano
George Lewis – trombone
Spencer Barefield – guitar

The main dictum of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians was a self-reliant sense of Afrocentrism, and this notion of do-it-yourself ruggedness may even eclipse the pan-stylistics that are part of the AACM’s diverse aesthetics. Reedman and composer Roscoe Mitchell was one of the early members of the collective, which stemmed from pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band. Mitchell’s 1960s small groups with figures like trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Malachi Favors eventually developed into the Art Ensemble of Chicago, with the addition of reedman Joseph Jarman and, later, drummer Famoudou Don Moye.

As a solo performer and bandleader outside of the AEC, Mitchell’s music has often presented itself singularly and somewhat severely – it’s not necessarily monolithic, but carved out in an objective, laid-bare fashion. Whether hard or delicately-latticed, Mitchell’s phrasing is materialist, but in a fashion that is transcendent and direct. That’s especially true in his solo work, but in group music the focus is expanded – one could always tell Mitchell’s pieces immediately apart from other works in the AEC canon, as they are frequently rooted in repetition and didactic clarity.


One particularly interesting ensemble that recorded under Mitchell’s leadership was a 1975 quartet featuring Abrams, trombonist George Lewis and guitarist Spencer Barefield, an otherwise undocumented unit drawing from the first and second waves of the AACM that set the stage for Mitchell’s later work with Detroiters Barefield, drummer Tani Tabbal and bassist Jaribu Shahid. Recorded live at Toronto’s A Space over two nights in October 1975, four tracks from these sessions made it onto an eponymous LP for Sackville Records, run by saxophonist, promoter and journalist Bill Smith.

This recording was the first appearance on record of George Lewis. He’d later record solo for Sackville, and his membership in Braxton’s and Barry Altschul’s groups would cement his status as one of the AACM’s most commanding improvisers and thinkers, and he’s given significant space here. “Music for Trombone and Bb Soprano” has the trombonist front and center for much of its fourteen-minute duration, Lewis’ commanding facility and garrulousness approaching both first-chair symphonic trombone and the expressive detail of someone like Roswell Rudd or Albert Mangelsdorff. As a professor, composer and theorist for whom the academy seems at first blush to have replaced the immediacy of performance, his playing here should serve as a not-so-gentle reminder of Lewis’ creative vibrancy. Mitchell may be slightly back in the mix at times, but his straight horn curls and darts around Lewis’ phrases with curious and shapely specificity, at other times purring and striking up against the trombonist’s blats. Their rapport is developed from equal parts aggressive interplay and comely partnership. “Olobo,” which closes the original LP, is in fact completely given over to Lewis’ unaccompanied playing and concentrates Mitchell-like on repeated cells that explode into paint-peeling shouts, multiphonics and measured density.

“Cards” is a piece that Mitchell has done for both small group and orchestra; each player is given six cards with musical notation that can be arranged by the player in any order and any tempo. Something of a “directed improvisation,” this early iteration of the piece is ruggedly pointillist, slushy brass and terse, acrid alto brays ricocheting off Abrams’ clusters and filigree. Barefield’s contributions include brief, folksy interludes and arcing, reverbed electricity. It’s hard to say who’s responsible for the occasional whirs of a power drill, but they provide Cageian levity to these sharp ten minutes.

Moment's Notice:
http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD44/PoD44MoreMoments5.html


Listening to this exquisite LP is, without a doubt, demanding but it is also a rewarding and thrilling aural and intellectual ride.


50 Years of AACM - Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians



If you find it, buy this album!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

CLIFFORD THORNTON – Ketchaoua (Actuel – 23 / LP-1969)




Label: BYG Records – 529.323
Series: Actuel – 23
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: France / Released: 1969
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded – August 18, 1969 in Paris, France
Composed By, Arranged By – Clifford Thornton
Coordinator [Coordination] – Jacques Bisceglia
Engineer – Claude Jauvert
Executive-Producer – Claude Delcloo
Photography By – Jacques Bisceglia
Producer – Jean Georgakarakos, Jean-Luc Young

A1 - Ketchaoua ...................................................................... 12:22
         alto saxophone – Arthur Jones
         bass – Beb Guerin
         congas, gong, percussion – Earl Freeman
         cornet, congas – Clifford Thornton
         drums – Sunny Murray
         piano, bells – Dave Burrell
         soprano saxophone – Archie Shepp
         trombone – Grachan Moncur III

A2 - Pan African Festival ....................................................... 7:50
         alto saxophone – Arthur Jones
         bass – Beb Guerin, Earl Freeman
         cornet, congas – Clifford Thornton
         drums – Sunny Murray
         piano – Dave Burrell
         soprano saxophone – Archie Shepp
         trombone – Grachan Moncur III

B1 - Brotherhood .................................................................. 10:43
         alto saxophone – Arthur Jones
         bass – Beb Guerin, Earl Freeman
         cornet – Clifford Thornton
         drums – Claude Delcloo

B2 - Speak With Your Echo (And Call This Dialogue) ........... 9:05
         bass – Beb Guerin, Earl Freeman
         cornet – Clifford Thornton

23rd volume in the BYG Actuel series; gatefold sleeve, 180 gram vinyl. This album was recorded in Paris on August 18, 1969 by Clifford Thornton (cornet and conga drums) with Grachan Moncur III (trombone), Archie Shepp (soprano saxophone), Arthur Jones (alto saxophone), Dave Burrell (piano), Sunny Murray (drums), Beb Guerin (bass), Earl Freeman (bass) and Claude Delcloo (drums).
"Clifford Thornton was a player and a composer whose obscurity was offset by the high esteem in which he was held by his fellow musicians... like Shepp, Thornton was actively involved in advancing the ideology of the black  movement... and all of his recordings are intense and important about those matters that were close to his heart -- liberation, communication and unity."
_ Byron Coley




Clifford Thornton's only Actuel date as a leader is, like many of the others in this BYG series, an all-star blowing session highly indicative of the times. For some, it will be difficult to tell whether taking credit for composing these pieces is a lost cause. This is some very free music and, save for a handful of scored passages, almost wholly improvised. A number of the scene's top players make appearances here in different groups.
Otherwise, "Brotherhood," a piece for quintet, is performed by Thornton, Jones, Guerin, Freeman, and this time, drummer Claude Delcloo, while on "Speak With Your Echo" only the two bassists (Guerin and Freeman) accompany Thornton's cornet. This piece in particular is especially enjoyable and reminiscent perhaps of Arthur Jones' fantastic ballad, "Brother B," from his own Actuel LP, Scorpio. At times the ensemble pieces sound like a Pan-African Morton Feldman, and at others, hazy, psychedelic post bop. Fans of brooding and contemplative improvised music will find a great deal to enjoy here. In fact, many would argue that this is the best LP under Thornton's leadership...

1969's Ketchaoua leaps through many styles in a way that reminds me of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and also Archie Shepp in this era—Shepp appears on half of the album.  Side A contains two long tracks that feature large ensembles and a lot of simple, interweaving percussion.  Both tracks gradually evolve into brief periods of recognizable jazz styles before floating back into more abstract terrain.  The opening title track might be the least prominent appearance from drummer Sunny Murray, who blends into the massed percussion.  The two tracks on side B are opposite extremes, though both feature smaller groups.  "Brotherhood" draws from New York energy jazz, with Claude Delcloo's percussion prominent in the mix.  "Speak with Your Echo" ends the album with its sparsest arrangement, featuring only Thornton and two bassists.  The recording quality varies, with the large groups sounding better than "Brotherhood", where the explosive percussion reverberates awkwardly in a boxy room. Who cares, it still sounds great.

Yes, definitely raw, awesome, volatile and atmospheric. Brilliant!



If you find it, buy this album!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

WILDFLOWERS 1 – The New York Loft Jazz Sessions (Douglas / LP1-1977)




Label: Douglas – NBLP 7045
Series: Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions – 1
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded May 14 thru May 23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, 24 Bond Street, New York.
Engineer [Assistant] – Les Kahn
Engineer [Chief] – Ron Saint Germain
Engineer [Remote Assistant] – Matt Murray
Executive-producer – Harley I. Lewin
Liner Notes – Ross Firestone
Mastered By – Ray Janos
Photography By – Peter Harron
Producer – Alan Douglas, Michael Cuscuna, Sam Rivers

A1 - Kalaparusha – Jays ...................................................................................... 6:00
        Bass, Electric Bass – Chris White
        Drums – Jumma Santos
        Tenor Saxophone – Kalaparusha (Maurice McIntyre)

A2 - Ken McIntyre – New Times .......................................................................... 7:25
        Alto Saxophone – Ken McIntyre (Makanda)
        Congas – Andy Vega
        Percussion [Multiple] – Andrei Strobert
        Piano – Richard Harper

A3 - Sunny Murray & The Untouchable Factor – Over The Rainbow ................. 5:30
        Alto Saxophone – Byard Lancaster
        Bass – Fred Hopkins
        Drums – Sunny Murray
        Tenor Saxophone – David Murray
        Vibraphone – Khan Jamal

B1 - Sam Rivers – Rainbows ............................................................................. 10:00
        Bass – Jerome Hunter
        Drums – Jerry Griffin
        Soprano Saxophone – Sam Rivers

B2 - Air – Usu Dance ............................................................................................ 7:45
        Alto Saxophone – Henry Threadgill
        Bass – Fred Hopkins 
         Drums, Percussion – Steve McCall

In the mid-1970s, a jazz renaissance blossomed in large New York loft spaces that the musicians had reclaimed from the depressed blocks of the trendy Soho and Noho areas. The Wildflowers sessions, originally released on Douglas on five LPs, captured performances by almost 100 musicians in numerous configurations. The recordings were made over two weekends at the most famed of the lofts, Studio Rivbea, the home and workspace of saxophonist-flutist-composer Sam Rivers and his wife, Beatrice. Rivers orchestrated the lineup, played host to patrons, and performed as well. The sessions featured many figures well-established in New York, including Rivers, drummer Andrew Cyrille, and pianist Randy Weston, but they also attracted players from the seedbed of so much African American aesthetic jazz exploration in the 1960s and '70s, Chicago.

In addition, Rivers invited to town some key players from Philadelphia and New Haven; there were several newcomers to New York, too, including, from out West, a very young David Murray. The music all had immediacy and urgency fitting to the aesthetic task at hand--to consolidate the gains of the free-jazz and New Thing movements of the 1960s. Indeed, many of the players remain key figures today in that project: Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and Leo Smith among them. In addition to their performances, highlights of the package include Rivers's radiant meandering over his composition "Rainbow"; pianist Weston's impassioned homage to his father; and performances by important, but often under-recognized innovators, including saxophonist Ken McIntyre and pianist Dave Burrell. Here is a seminal document in American music...



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WILDFLOWERS 2 – The New York Loft Jazz Sessions (Douglas / LP2-1977)




Label: Douglas – NBLP 7046
Series: Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions – 2
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded May 14 thru May 23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, 24 Bond Street, New York.
Engineer [Assistant] – Les Kahn
Engineer [Chief] – Ron Saint Germain
Engineer [Remote Assistant] – Matt Murray
Executive-producer – Harley I. Lewin
Liner Notes – Ross Firestone
Mastered By – Ray Janos
Photography By – Peter Harron
Producer – Alan Douglas, Michael Cuscuna, Sam Rivers

A1 - Flight To Sanity – The Need To Smile .................................................. 10:47
         Bass – Benny Wilson
         Congas – Don Moye
         Drums – Harold Smith
         Piano – Sonelius Smith
         Soprano Saxophone – Art Bennett
         Tenor Saxophone – Byard Lancaster
         Trumpet – Olu Dara

A2 - Ken McIntyre – Naomi ............................................................................ 6:00
         Congas, Percussion – Andy Vega
         Flute – Ken McIntyre
         Percussion [Multiple] – Andrei Strobert
         Piano – Richard Harper

B1 - Anthony Braxton – 73°-S Kelvin ............................................................. 6:30
         Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Contrabass Saxophone – Anthony Braxton
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Barry Altschul
         Guitar – Michael Jackson
         Piano – Anthony Davis
         Percussion – Phillip Wilson
         Trombone – George Lewis

B2 - Marion Brown – And Then They Danced ............................................... 7:00
         Alto Saxophone – Marion Brown
         Bass – Jack Greg
         Congas – Jumma Santos

B3 - Leo Smith & The New Delta Ahkri – Locomotif N°6 ............................. 6:00
         Alto Saxophone – Oliver Lake
         Bass – Wes Brown
         Drums – Paul Maddox, Stanley Crouch
         Piano – Anthony Davis
         Trumpet – Leo Smith

Note:
A1. Due to technical live recording problems, the beginning of "The Need To Smile" was not properly recorded. The producers felt the performance strong enough to include it with a logical beginning at the soprano saxophone solo.
B1. "73°-S Kelvin" is an excerpt of a continuous performance.
B2. "And Then They Danced" is presented here in its entirety. It fades rather than ends with applause because it was part of a continuous set where one composition followed into the next.

... Free jazz being almost synonym of Jazz during short period of late 60s-early 70s disappeared from American jazz scenes blown away by fusion.Yesterday stars trying to survive changed their music to more accessible (as Archie Shepp)or moved to Europe where free jazz stayed alive founding its niche in small clubs for years.In late 70s though American free jazz experienced some renaissance in a form of so called "loft jazz scene" - avant-garde jazz musicians activities based around New York Soho district former industrial lofts, refurbished to musicians studios. One of central such studio was Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea. Lot of concerts took a place there and some cult albums were recorded as well...

The second volume in this seminal series from the mid 70s – one that did a great job of documenting some of the formative underground playing that was happening in the New York loft scene, almost more creative work than in previous generations, thanks to a lack of commercial venues, and hence, commercial constraints on the music. Tracks include "And Then They Danced" by Marion Brown, "Locomotif" by Leo Smith, "Naomi" by Ken McIntyre, and "The Need To Smile" by a group with Byard Lancaster, Sonelius Smith, Don Moye, and Olu Dara.



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WILDFLOWERS 3 – The New York Loft Jazz Sessions (Douglas / LP3-1977)




Label: Douglas – NBLP 7047
Series: Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions – 3
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded May 14 thru May 23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, 24 Bond Street, New York.
Engineer [Assistant] – Les Kahn
Engineer [Chief] – Ron Saint Germain
Engineer [Remote Assistant] – Matt Murray
Executive-producer – Harley I. Lewin
Liner Notes – Ross Firestone
Mastered By – Ray Janos
Photography By – Peter Harron
Producer – Alan Douglas, Michael Cuscuna, Sam Rivers

A1 - Randy Weston – Portrait Of Frank Edward Weston ............................... 8:50
         Bass – Alex Blake
         Congas – Azzedin Weston
         Piano, Written-By – Randy Weston

A2 - Michael Jackson – Clarity ....................................................................... 5:15
         Acoustic Guitar, Written-By – Michael Jackson
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Oliver Lake

A3 - Dave Burrell – Black Robert ................................................................... 6:30
         Bass – Stafford James
         Drums – Harold White
         Piano, Written-By – Dave Burrell

B1 - Abdullah – Blue Phase .......................................................................... 12:37
         Double Bass – Rickie Evans
         Drums – Rashied Sinan
         Electric Bass – Leroy Seals
         Guitar – Mashujaa
         Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Charles Bracken
         Trumpet, Written-By – Ahmed Abdullah

B2 - Andrew Cyrille & Maono – Short Short .................................................. 7:30
         Bass – Lyle Atkinson
         Drums, Written-By – Andrew Cyrille  (Rights Society: ASCAP)
         Tenor Saxophone – David Ware
         Trumpet – Ted Daniel

...The jazz of the 1970s, particularly in New York, was a vital and searching music, just as the best jazz has always been. Musicians like Sam Rivers, David Murray, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the World Saxophone Quartet, Cecil Taylor and many others worked tirelessly, expanding their tonal vocabularies and creating shimmering and brilliant soundscapes for whoever was still listening. The audiences were, indeed, smaller. But the scope of the artistic achievement was as grand as ever.

This is an astonishing document, sonically wide-open to anyone with an ear for music of the spirit. The performances are varied enough, and sequenced in such a manner, that the most palatable, groove-oriented works will draw the listener in that he or she may appreciate the more abstract, experimental works as well. This music’s vitality is timeless; these recordings should be heard by anyone with anything more than a glancing interest in jazz...



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WILDFLOWERS 4 – The New York Loft Jazz Sessions (Douglas / LP4-1977)




Label: Douglas – NBLP 7048
Series: Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions – 4
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album / Country: US / Released: 1977
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded May 14 thru May 23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, 24 Bond Street, New York.
Engineer [Assistant] – Les Kahn
Engineer [Chief] – Ron Saint Germain
Engineer [Remote Assistant] – Matt Murray
Executive-producer – Harley I. Lewin
Liner Notes – Ross Firestone
Mastered By – Ray Janos
Photography By – Peter Harron
Producer – Alan Douglas, Michael Cuscuna, Sam Rivers

A1 - Hamiet Bluiett – Tranquil Beauty ....................................................... 6:30
         Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Hamiet Bluiett
         Bass – Juney Booth
         Drums – Charles Bobo Shaw, Don Moye
         Guitar – Billy Patterson, Butch Campbell
         Trumpet – Olu Dara

A2 - Julius Hemphill – Pensive ................................................................. 10:00
         Alto Saxophone – Julius Hemphill
         Cello – Abdul Wadud
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Guitar – Bern Nix
         Percussion – Don Moye

B1 - Jimmy Lyons – Push Pull ................................................................... 5:20
         Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
         Bass – Hayes Burnett
         Bassoon – Karen Borca
         Drums – Henry Maxwell Letcher

B2 - Oliver Lake – Zaki .............................................................................. 9:30
         Alto Saxophone – Oliver Lake
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Electric Guitar – Michael Jackson

B3 - David Murray – Shout Song ............................................................... 2:30
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Stanley Crouch
         Tenor Saxophone – David Murray
         Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Olu Dara

...The common critical consensus is that the 1970s, particularly the latter half of the decade, were the historical low point for jazz in America. Very few albums survive from that era, compared with the avalanches of reissues and vault clearing box-sets of 1950s and 60s groups. Part of this is, of course, due to the short shrift granted the avant-garde by most jazz historians. The music of the so-called "New Thing," which by rote doctrine had burned itself out by 1968, in fact continued throughout the 1970s, expanding to Europe in search of audiences and growing and evolving artistically to astonishing levels of power and beauty...

The 5-LPs set Wildflowers documents one small part of this forgotten music scene. Recorded over ten days in May 1976 at Sam Rivers’s Studio RivBea, this set contains an overwhelming amount of truly beautiful jazz performances, by names recognizable to almost anyone with a serious interest in the music. Saxophonists include Sam Rivers, David Murray, David S. Ware, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Byard Lancaster, Oliver Lake, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill and Henry Threadgill. Drummers include Sunny Murray, Don Moye, Steve McCall, Andrew Cyrille, and Stanley Crouch. Bassist Fred Hopkins is practically omnipresent here...



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