The comments on my blog are always welcome especially as they enable me to feed back music if I can lay my hands on it.. Sparked by a comment from godoggo, I searched for Byard Lancaster – found a couple of tracks from some live sessions in 1976 and also on a Sunny Murray album from 1966 – and also found some obscure musicians worthy of attention. The trumpeter Jacques Coursil, for one. (Scroll down). The alto player Jack Graham appears to be even more obscure... if anyone any information about him, I would be interested in seeing it.
In chronological order...
This eponymous Sunny Murray album is a wonderful document of the bustling avant-garde in 1966 when all options must have seemed open and Murray was fine-tuning his revolutionary skills on drums. 'Hilariously' opens with a unison stretched out theme that Silva's arco bass slides in and out of, followed by alto solo, underpinned by the rolling surging drums of Murray, timbrally moving from high to low via his insistent cymbal work and the bass and tom tom with his marching band rat tat snare in the middle. The first alto solo starts high and proceeds with alternate querulous low register squark to high register scribble. A touch of Ayler... Trumpet enters worrying at a phrase, circling and pouncing back. Cat plays with mouse... finally tailing away as the second alto enters, recorded back in the mix and blurred at times by Murray's drums – which suddenly drop back before the return of the theme unison. Silva is not always easy to pick out of the mix – probably because of the deeper timbres of the rolling, almost oceanic drums. An interesting snapshot of free jazz a year before Coltrane died, four before Ayler's demise.
By the seventies, the avant-garde (and much of the mainstream in jazz)was in a period of severe retrenchment. Yet, behind the scenes, musicians were still playing, often using the loft spaces of New York as rehearsal area and club. One of the most famous was Studio Rivbea – owned by Sam Rivers and his wife. The next two tracks are from sessions recorded there in May 1976 – on the cusp of punk interestingly - and released on the 3 cd set Wildflowers (reviewed here... scroll down). These recordings provide a fascinating glimpse into a largely undocumented era. On the first selection, in a band led again by Sunny Murray, Byard Lancaster on alto plays a gorgeous, straight reading of 'Over the Rainbow' in tandem with David Murray on tenor. The second is by a band collectively called Flight to Sanity - Lancaster here is playing tenor sax. A long, loping modal track, flavoured by bass ostinatos, pattering congas and thrusting piano from Sonelius Smith. Lancaster solos after Art Bennett on soprano sax and the pianist, thoughtful, restrained, a small echo of Coltrane in his slightly keening timbre. Ironically, both these tracks are almost conservative by comparison to the Murray album from a decade earlier...
Anthony is a big James Chance fan – here he is playing the wild Michael Jackson cover: 'Don't stop till you get enough.' Frenetic punk nihilism, fed by the energies of the rock scene sourced in the heady days of CBGB's etc colliding with Siegried/Chance/Black's freejazz aspirations.
I thought it might be interesting to compare Chance with Joe Bowie's Defunkt, coming from a different angle – very much more aligned with Ornette's harmolodics yet with his own distinct take on how to bang 'social' rhythms next to free form scrawling.
And a last thought – here's a polemic that states punk was birthed from radical jazz – which in a way brings all of this round in a circle...
(Jacques Coursil-trumpet; Jack Graham-alto saxophone; Byard Lancaster-alto saxophone; Sunny Murray- drums; Alan Silva-bass)
Sunny Murray and the Untouchables
(Murray- drums; Byard Lancaster- alto saxophone; David Murray- tenor saxophone; Khan Jamal- vibes; Fred Hopkins- bass )
Over the Rainbow
Flight to Sanity
(Harold Smith- drums; Byard Lancaster- tenor saxophone; Art Bennett- soprano saxophone; Olu Dara- trumpet; Sonelius Smith- piano; Benny Wilson- bass; Don Moye- conga )
The need to Smile
Taken from 'Wildflowers'
The Razor's Edge
James Chance and the Contortions
Don't stop till you get enough
And some video footage of James Chance
Defunkt to finish with