The Caliph returns...
Freedom, oh freedom... here's a long track - 'Giblets 3' - by Sunny Murray and Arthur Doyle from a session recorded in 2000. Tenor and drums – in the tradition of Coltrane and Elvin Jones – and, later, Rashied Ali. Lots of space for both performers to expand and flow and fill. There's an ease to this music, none of the usual cosmic anguish of the fire musics, just the lines going where the performers take them. Sometimes a sprint, sometimes a more gentle meander. Which does not imply a lack of grit or soul... Doyle is impassioned, but on a personal level, finds phrases and worries at them, always with a vocalised tone – definitely someone whose voiced timbres are not far from the production of his saxophone sound. Conversational... and flowing – howling, garrulous, quizzical, pleading. Strangled high notes, bleary smearing low notes, sometimes querulous runs. Murray is his usual imperious self... the rhythms stop and start, an edgy track this, in places, as if feeling their way round each other. (It's the first on the album but that may be coincidental...). But also as if there is plenty of time. In both senses... He switches to flute after a wild blowing section that deflationarily ends on some corny old tune that I'm sure had something to do with the sand dance as performed by Wilson, Keppel and Betty (and my old and late lamented chum, Ronnie Ross, who used to perform in the middle of the road in Leicester Square opposite the Empire cinema with a large amplifier and tape deck - to the consternation and annoyance of Bow Street Old Bill. 'We may see his like etc. '- dead and gone for a few years now....). His flute playing is as raw as his sax - playful and vocally granular with a slight echo of Roland Kirk. Murray piles into the cymbals to summon an extended steely hissing, punctuated by sudden rolls. Doyle drops the flute and goes into some wahoo wordless singing that demonstrates the seamlessness of his approach - whatever he is playing it comes from the voice in some weird endless conversation. Drums solo... then saxophone returns. Abrupt phrases and honks and smears again as the drums tattoo and crash. The line extends and finally slows down. Ending on a punctuating cymbal smash. No idea what the title refers to – an improvisation about offal? Whatever... I can dig it... (wow – some old school jazz patois... well, it's been a week for nostalgia...)
Opening on a splattering tidal wave of Ali's drums, Coltrane and the band proceed to lay out the theme – the saxophonist dark and almost ponderous as he hits the notes down into place like someone hammering nails in as the piano spins and circles in a rippling dance. Then – off into space. Stellar regions indeed. Ali lays down a poly-rhythmic cluster of layered rhythms, ever shifting, to give Coltrane the spatial complex open-ended ground he needed. The bass is not heard too clearly, a kind of strummed thumping in the background until Garrison switches to arco – a common fault on a lot of these records, unfortunately. Alice steps up and she sounds happy and at home with this music, playing a rhapsodic solo... this is late Coltrane, the questing edge there but also a quieter feeling in places, as if he was happy with the band and the conception he had arrived at, less restless. Having said that – this album was released posthumously years later and may not have been intended for public consumption. Wonderful and inspiring anyway – because anything of 'Trane's is worth the listen. I'm a fan... so shoot me...
... let's dance back a couple of years – to the end of the First Quartet. 'Sunship' absolutely boils with energy – Tyner in stomping, roiling form and the Jones' drums absolutely brutally crisp and wild. Again – there is a bass in there somewhere – but not always easy to pick out. Tyner sounds more engaged here than on some sessions – as if he could really feel what his leader wanted. Still, at times towards the end the piano does drift off a bit into those wandering chords as if unsure of how to back the two-way fire storm between Elvin and Coltrane. Clears the head, this stuff...
Arthur Doyle/Sunny Murray (Tenor saxophone, drums).
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Alice Coltrane: piano; bass; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Rashied Ali; drums).
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Reggie Workman: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).