A great part of the fun involved in this type of blog is in attempting to write about disparate kinds of music, attempting to capture something of the essence of the track... An impossible task, perhaps – but, like I said, fun...
From the classic album 'The Panther and the Lash,' a long track: 'Huey is free' by Clifford Thornton and a band he put together in Paris for a live date in 1970. Thornton was a teacher, musician and political as well as musical radical who died in relative obscurity in Geneva, 1983, unusual because he doubled – succesfully – on trumpet and trombone. The album title refers to Langston Hughes' collection of poetry.
Opening on a swinging bass vamp before piano, drums and Thornton's muted trumpet come in. Removing the mute, he plays open horn in declamatory style. Held up by a boiling rhythm section – scampering piano from François Tusques, tough bass from Beb Guérin and powerhous drums from Noel McGhie. The pianist takes a hurtling solo, at full throttle. The bass steps up next, framed by rattling, insistent percussion from McGhie. Recorded in 1970, free jazz had come of age by now – here you have music that is open, fiery, passionate - yet linked by a strong cultural hawser to the traditions it came from. And one must remember the strong political undercurrents in coming fresh to this music – Thornton was banned from France for his alleged links to the Black Panthers and this track especially wears its colours proud and strong – Huey being Huey Newton... Right on... Be warned – this track cuts off sharply from the bass solo...
'You know, the idea that art has to have a political basis seems a little too much like preaching to other people about what they should be doing. On the other hand, seeing artists as political seems almost intrinsic because of what you have to go through to get art before the public, or to make a space in which it can be interpreted or understood, thought about or debated.' (From an interviewhere...).
The above quote comes from George Lewis – heard here as part of a recent trio of old hands – with plenty of surprises still up their collective sleeves. The politics are more 'intrinsic' perhaps... Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell have put some time in and ranged far and wide – their main link, I suppose, in the public eye at least, being membership of the AACM:
'The Chicago musicians have used just about every instrument imaginable to explore all possible textures of sound rather than relationships of pitch and tonality.' (From p113, 'As Serious as your Life,' Val Wilmer).
They play: 'Streaming,' title track of the 2005 album. All the music was freely improvised and indeed explores 'all possible textures of sound.' Starts with sonorous bass pounding on piano soon joined by percussion and going into a swaying circle dance as electronics(?) twitter: a long and fascinating journey ensues. Mysterious noise/sounds cued from Lewis's laptop around the core of the piano's well-recorded sonorities – many of the sound sources are hard to place – extended technique or electronic? - as tinkering percussion – bells and small instruments in the main – colour the field being inscribed and expanded. Swooshs, scrapes, amplified breath pulses – a move from the identifiable keyboard sounds through a mysterious landscape to end on a soft repeating figure that goes out to silence. As Creeley had it: 'FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT.' (Famously quoted by Charles Olson in 'Projective Verse.') 'There it is, brothers, sitting there for USE,' (ibid) as Olson goes on to gloss the statement. Lewis, Mitchell, Abrams: three figures of Outward, then...
Toshinori Kondo played with Brotzmann in his Die like a Dog band. Here he is, on imperious form, with a solo album – 'Fukyo.' Indeed. A good review of which here...
This is the longest track – 'Ungetsu,' clocking in at 6 minutes plus – most are short, sharp stabs of icy brilliance. Commencing on swooning, liquid figures as a gorgeous melody unfolds. Echoes of Electric Miles, perhaps - and Bill Dixon - if you want to hunt the influences - but very much his own man. Scattering off among a flock of echo/delay splinters. One of my favourite contemporary musicians who amply demonstrates (as George Lewis does) what electronics can add to improvised music – forget fusion (in the main)...
Stomping backwards to one of Ornette's best line-ups, pre-Prime Time- a three horn bust-out with Dewey Redman and Don Cherry, girdered by Charlie Haden as a very young Denardo learns the ropes. 'Space Jungle' from the hard-to-get album 'Crisis,' a recorded live in 1969 but not released until 1972, I believe. Fast, swirling, ecstatic, on a cold, wet day here in God's Little Acre, this lights fires in the heart and soul... Ornette is diamond-hard, cutting through the front-line as Redman roars gutbucket tenor underneath, Cherry is there somewhere (an echoey mix) and Denardo acquits himself surprisingly well... Haden rock solid, the booming heart of the band. Collective improvisation that references backwards - and forwards... Really the blues...
In the Videodrome...
Just came across this band and dig them mightily - Blues Control...
Muhal Richard A live last year...
George Lewis with Derek
The other George Lewis playing his classic 'Burgundy Street Blues.'
Roscoe Mitchell explores Sound and Space...
Ornette last year...
Clifford Thornton (cor, shn, v-tb, p, maracas) François Tusques (p, cel, balafon, maracas)Beb Guérin (b) Noel McGhie (d, perc)
Huey is Free
Muhal Richard Abrams (p, bell, bamboo fl, taxihorn, perc) George Lewis (tr, laptop)
Roscoe Mitchell (ss, as, perc)
Don Cherry (cor, Indian fl), Ornette Coleman (as, tp, vln), Dewey Redman (ts, cl),
Charlie Haden (b), Denardo Coleman (d)