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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
There are moments in artistic history where time, place and people all combine to create something unique and almost legendary. You could think of Florence or Venice in Rennaissance painting, the Bloomsbury group in England, the Second Viennese school in 30th century music, the list could go on. This CD documents one such time, though one that has not gotten the coverage outside of jazz circles that it deserves....The 22 tracks on this recording, recorded by some of the biggest names in avant-garde music as well as some who have remained obscure, document this period of intense creative ferment as nothing else does.
This recording, originally released on the Douglas label as a 5 album set, was recorded over a weekend festival in Sam Rivers loft, Studio Rivbea. Many great names are here, Anthony Braxton, Rivers, Jimmy Lyons, Air, Randy Weston, Marion Brown. And many people on this album have disappeared on record...Michael Jackson (no, not that one) gives a terrific performance, yet he remains almost unknown today. Not all of the music on this collection is equally inspired. Some of it wanders, some is less than compelling. But what works is electric. Highlights include the terribly underrecorded Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre doing his composition Jays...avant-garde meets Sly Stone, one of the first really successful applications of Ornette's Prime Time concept. (It's important to remember that, though Prime Time's first album was released in 1977, Ornette had recorded the material several years earlier and had been performing at his own loft frequently.) Sam Rivers is characteristically searing on Rainbows, a marvelous trio performance. Sunny Murray's ensemble, The Untouchable Factor, features the miraculous Byard Lancaster on alto, performing on two cuts, including a haunting version of Over the Rainbow. Sun Ra trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah leads a groups with another underated performer, Charles Brackeen on Blue Phase. Julius Hemphill's funky ensemble features Prime Time guitarist Bern Nix in an extension of the harmelodic concept that would eventually morph into the 80s no-wave style. Roscoe Mitchell shines in a trio setting with two drummers. And Hmmiet Bluiett leads a septet featuring Ola Daru on an almost New Orleansian slow blues...you can feel the ghost of Sidney Bechet in Bluiett's clarinet.
The music is marvelously diverse. For those who think of the Avant-garde as uniformly chaotic, this disc challenges that notion. Randy Weston plays a marvelous boppy tribute to his father. Dave Burrell is also suitably traditional. Some of the guitar based groups show the influence of jazz-rock, but with a rawness that the more mainstream groups never achieved. (Abdullah's Blue Phase particularly impresses as something you wish Freddy Hubbard had tried, rather than his warmed over funk.) And for fans of New York Energy playing, there's Andrew Cyrille's group which is as frenetic as any set by Cecil Taylor.
This time in jazz unfotunately didn't last. ...And, with the advent of the Marsalis Mafia, most of these players retreated from general public view. This is really a shame, since much of this music is really commercially viable...unlike late Coltrane or the "free" music of the 60's, 70s avant-garde is much more varied, modal, and structured. The "skronk" factor is less strong, or at least less chaotic, and yet the creativity is intense.
So this disc is essenstial to anyone willing to re-evaluate this period in music. There are unexpected delights all over the disc. And as a time capsule, it's unique...comparable to the early bop bootleg recordings or the Coltrane Vangard sessions. It captures more than just the music...it captures the entire ambiance of the time. Would that we could recapture some of that creativity in this era of warmed over Art Blakey licks!