01. Understanding 3:53
02. Austin Who 5:28
03. Ictus 4:53
04. Snow 6:03
05. Generous 1 3:54
06. Gloria 5:59
07. V.A. 9:11
08. Nital Rock 3:38
Bobby Naughton - Vibraphone, Piano, Clavinet
Perry Robinson - Clarinet
Mark Whitecage - Flute, Basset Horn
Mario Pavone (tracks: 3,4,7,8), Richard Youngstein - Bass
Laurence Cook (tracks: 3,7,8), Randy Kaye - Percussion
Recorded October 30, 1971 in concert at Yale University and at Blue Rock Studio, New York
Engineer Eddie Korvin
Originally produced in USA by Otic Records, a musicians’ cooperative
Self-taught composer-performer Bobby Naughton has been playing the vibraphone professionally since 1966. From silent film scoring to a stint with the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, not to mention a regular spot alongside Leo Smith (see 1979’s Divine Love), Naughton has since developed his craft by way of a unique, eclectic career. In 1971, Naughton and a handful of trusted musicians took a dip into the JAPO pool with Understanding. Recorded both in studio and in concert (with a slight change in roster between each), it documents a singular shuffle of original tunes and those of Carla Bley.
Bley and Naughton’s styles could hardly be more different, making their combination on this album all the more appropriate. Comparing the former’s title track with the latter’s follow-up, “Austin Who,” one finds a shift from the charcoal strokes of drummer Randy Kaye and Naughton’s own balance of melody and affect to a haunting look inward to places of delicate unrest. It is a fascinating diptych. Of the remaining Bley selections, the popular “Ictus” gets a gargling treatment, finding chaos and color in the tactile playing of clarinetist Perry Robinson. In it one can taste sunset and the excitement of evening’s promise. “Gloria” is the glistening heart of the set, a tender and questioning act of impression which, much like the opener, brushes its way into the ear, catching hair cells unawares with its jaggedness, pausing as if inhaling.
Naughton’s compositions unfurl a uniquely uplifting spread of descriptive moods. Sleigh bells, for instance, let us know that “Snow” is on the way. What ensues is not a song of winter’s dread, however, but of its thaw, each touch of percussion another clump rattling from the branches. Laurence Cook’s beautiful cymbal work in “V.A.” sparks an unusual conversation of wind and water, while for “Nital Rock” Naughton breaks out the clavinet for some electric throwback. Mark Whitecage does phenomenal things with the basset horn here, running a hundred errands at once.
This is a pot of water ever on the verge of boiling.