Smart and solid sets (I’ve also bought in the series Andrew Cyrille (****1/2 stars) and George Adams (***1/2), boxed in clam-shell, individual CDs in cardboard slip-cases, though no booklet and bonus tracks. Who cares? The music is often sublime. ‘Parallel Worlds’ (1993 – ***1/2), has some great moments – the beautifully sustained Weill piece, for instance, where Dave sounds like a hybrid of Clifford and Miles AND Wadada and ‘On Your Leaving’, self-penned, and Stravinsky’s ‘Grand Choral’ are very moving – though it doesn’t really fall together overall. A sometimes dry run through for what came next. ‘Five’ (1995 – ***** of course) is a revelation, strident and keening, plenty of wonderful interplay between the players. ‘Going, Going’ and ‘Actualities’ are real beauts. The rhythm section of Drew Dress and Michael Sarin are top-notch on this date and magnificent counterparts to the violin and cello. In fact, in places the record comes across eerily as two eras in one and melding effortlessly, like some kind of Weimer jazz combo fronted by a modern-day trumpeter. Marvellous. ‘Convergence’ (1998 – *****) is a continuation, exceptionally well-played and thought out, fantastic covers and compositions, in particular ‘Desseins Eternals’ and ‘Goodbye Tony’ the latter of which is one of Douglas’ major statements for sure. I’ll be intrigued to know what they do with ‘John Coltrane’s Ascension’ (1995) released under the ‘supergroup’ tag ROVA – haven’t played it yet, will need a stiff drink before I do. (It’s got Larry Ochs on the ‘additional’ opener ‘Welcome’ which can be no bad thing.) Superb remastering – and they obviously have been remastered to these ears at least judging by my first gen CDs (I tried out for comparison Andrew Cyrille’s ‘Metamusician’s Stomp’ and Dave’s ‘Convergence’) – dynamic, crystal clear, close but not claustrophobic. (The original masters in most cases were pretty good all the same.) One reviewer has argued in his review of the Muhal Richard Abrams set that these are not the ‘complete’ recordings. True, Abrams has, what, thirteen albums on the label. But here’s the thing (and notwithstanding the fact that there will probably be a second volume a la David Murray) this is the ‘Complete Recordings On Black Saint and Soul Note’ and not the ‘Complete [insert name here] Recordings On . . .’ The guys at CAM Jazz are obviously on the ball and are gearing up (are they?) to reissue everything on the labels (over 500 albums my friends) and are selecting and grouping albums judiciously. Take this box set – the final two albums are led dates by others: ‘Bounce’ (1997 – ****1/2) was originally a John Lindberg Qt offering and ‘Force Green’ (1994 – ****) was issued under Mark Dresser’s name. Both sterling sets by the way, engaging and ruminative, wholly satisfying. Dave plays prominantly on both. It fits. Now, case in point, the great bassist Lindberg has a fair few other Black Saint albums (7?) and so when they come to reissue those under the ‘Complete’ moniker I won’t be crying foul. And yes, CAM Jazz people, when will that be? Lindberg is a master. So, all in all, this whole series is hopefully going to be one of the most authoritative programmes ever. (Which label can boast of a better roster through the past thirty-odd years? ECM maaaaaybe.) How many box-sets will that be if they do indeed reissue the lot? 90 plus box-sets?! Be very afraid, jazz freaks, (2,000 plus pounds – quit smoking or be very sweet to your beloved) but be very, well, welcoming. One small niggle: some of the albums do not have track timings as they would have done on the originals – either on the back cover, the inner, or on the CD disc itself. I know it’s a minor quibble, but apart from those albums that have a facsimile of the original back sleeve (with timings), a lot of these have been ‘repainted’ with simpler back covers (the original designs ‘imprinted’ as fades) and without timings; the discs themselves are plain white with the ‘Complete Recordings Of …’ signature at top and only original issue date and title. No track-listing or even mention of the boss man. Once again, ‘proof’ that this is going to be one almighty reissue programme of the entire canon. Don’t sweat it. Enjoy. I’m off to buy the Muhal Abrams and Henry Threadgill and Enrico Rava and Julius Hemphill and Mal Waldron sets . . . and to buy some nicotine patches and a potted shrub for my wife.
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