Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet - 1966 - Sound

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet
1966
Sound




01. Ornette 5:22
02. One Little Suite 10:20
03. Sound 21:30

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Recorder – Roscoe Mitchell
Bass – Malachi Favors
Percussion – Alvin Fielder
Tenor Saxophone – Maurice McIntyre
Trombone, Cello – Lester Lashley
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Harmonica – Lester Bowie

Recording at Sound Studios, Inc., October 18, 1966





Sound, Roscoe Mitchell's debut as a leader, was an early free jazz landmark and an enormously groundbreaking album in many respects. Historically, it marked the very first time that members of Chicago's seminal AACM community appeared on record; it also showcased the early chemistry between future Art Ensemble of Chicago members Mitchell, Lester Bowie, and Malachi Favors. Arrangement-wise, it employed a number of instruments largely foreign to avant-garde jazz -- not just cello and clarinet, but the AEC's notorious "little instruments," like recorder, whistle, harmonica, and assorted small percussion devices (gourds, maracas, bells, etc.), heard to best effect on the playful "Little Suite." Structurally, Sound heralded a whole new approach to free improvisation; where most previous free jazz prized an unrelenting fever pitch of emotion, Sound was full of wide-open spaces between instruments, an agreeably rambling pace in between the high-energy climaxes, and a more abstract quality to its solos. Steady rhythmic pulses were mostly discarded in favor of collective, spontaneous dialogues and novel textures (especially with the less orthodox instruments, which had tremendous potential for flat-out weird noises). Simply put, it's an exploration of pure sound. It didn't so much break the rules as ignore them and make up its own, allowing the musicians' imaginations to run wild (which is why it still sounds fresh today). Sound's concepts of texture, space, and interaction would shortly be expanded upon in classic recordings by Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and others; the repercussions from its expansion of free jazz's tonal and emotional palettes are still being felt.

Tackling a cultural watermark like “Sound” is akin to distilling the essence of “Human, All Too Human” into a few crass paragraphs– yes, I’m aware that sounds more pretentious than a John Cage worshiper on peyote with five people giving him/her their undivided attention, but I couldn’t think of a more down-to-earth analogy… my apologies. Awright, fuck it, I’m gonna plow forward even though I find this one of the more daunting tasks I’ve undertaken here...

Then again, who really has tapped into the vein of free jazz using mere words? Lester Bangs at his Romilar D-guzzlin’ best? Nah, he tended to spend as much time rambling on about himself– as entertaining as he was– as the music itself. The academically-inclined yo-yo’s at Down Beat? Need I even answer that? Truth is, verbiage will never accurately convey the organized chaos constructed by Roscoe Mitchell, Alto Saxman Extraordanaire, and his soon-to-be fellow members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Lester Bowie, Maurice McIntyre, Malachi Favors, Alvin Fielder and Lester Lashley). This is music so fulla paradoxes you’ll soon find yer head swimming (and plenty o’ other body parts as well)– beautiful/hideous, playful/terrifying, harmonious/dissonant… I could list ‘em for pages (but I won’t). Instead, here’s a quickie lowdown on two tracks (there’s only five, two of which are alternate takes):

“Sound 1,” is a shining example of what can happen when musicians with extra-sensory chemistry and boundless creativity are unshackled from all known conventional thought. Beginning with some atonal, yet thematic shrieks from Mitchell and Bowie (tenor sax), this 27 minute epic quickly shifts to a less serious tone with Lashley’s entrance: Realizing that trombones create a damn good fart noise, he lingers in infantile territory for a while before being joined in the fun by Mitchell and Bowie. The result is the kinda bizarre interplay you’d tend to associate with Carl Stalling– particularly if he was scoring a scene where Wile E. goes SPLAT!! And then there’s Lester Lashley’s cello “playing.” The Godz had to’ve been spinning this sucker day ‘n’ night, as they are the only artists I can think of who mauled a bowed instrument quite like Les… you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you at first mistake it for a cat being tortured.

“The Little Suite,” also sounds a lot like cartoon music– a rollicking, ever-morphing piece resembling a joyous, inside joke-filled conversation between cello, recorder, flugelhorn and um… gourds. When you start to believe you’ve wrapped your head around what they’ve set out to accomplish… you’re wrong. Ringing bells punctuating the dialog unexpectedly give way to a cacophony of squawking saxes that’d make Keiji Haino wince. Frank “Money in the Bank” Zappa borrowed more’n a few of the ideas featured here (check out “Studio Tan” sometime).

Prince Lasha & Sonny Simmons - 1967 - Firebirds

Prince Lasha & Sonny Simmons 
1967 
Firebirds




01. The Island Song 8:47
02. Psalm Of Solomon 10:45
03. Prelude To Bird 3:53
04. The Loved Ones 5:21
05. Firebirds 10:05


Alto Saxophone, English Horn – Sonny Simmons
Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet [Alto] – Prince Lasha
Bass – Buster Williams
Drums – Charles Moffett
Vibraphone – Bobby Hutcherson

Album Cover And Liner Notes 1968 By Contemporary Records




Essential work from the forgotten men of free jazz.Lasha and Simmons had already created one essential record together The Cry.For this effort they let the full range of their instrumental talents shine playing flutes,alto sax,English horn etc.They also have a true trump card in the form of Vibes man Bobby Hutcherson who was at the peak of his powers at this stage.Again we have the mixture of free horns and vibes played over a more conventional rhythm section of Charles Moffet and Buster Williams.Opener "The Island Song" sets the tone wonderfully and Hutcherson shines straight away.The recording is produced in such a way as Simmons comes from one channel and Lasha the other and they are often playing together at once highlighting their telepathic relationship.The pace and intensity never lets up and the title track,the last of the record,is mindblowing.Jazz at its best and most challenging.

Manfred Schoof Sextet - 1967 - Manfred Schoof Sextet

Manfred Schoof Sextet
1967 
Manfred Schoof Sextet




01. Cadenza                          08:45
02. Gewisse Kristallinische Gebilde  07:51
03. Virtue                           03:06
04. Grains                           09:26
05. Glockenbar                       09:20

Recorded at Rhenus Studio, Koln-Godorf, Germany, 1967

Contrabass – Buschi Niebergall (tracks: A1 to B1)
Cornet – Manfred Schoof (tracks: A2, A3)
Drums – Jaki Liebezeit (tracks: A3, B1), Sven-Åke Johansson
Flugelhorn – Manfred Schoof (tracks: B1)
Flute – Jaki Liebezeit (tracks: A1, A2)
Percussion [Edelblech, Hölzer, Ratsche] – Sven-Åke Johansson (tracks: B2)
Percussion [Glockenbär] – Sebastian Von Schlippenbach (tracks: B2)
Percussion [Metronom, Igelglocke, Kleine Glocken] – Alexander Von Schlippenbach (tracks: B2)
Percussion [Minibecken, Kuhglocke, Schüttelrohr, Duckcall] – Gerd Dudek (tracks: B2)
Percussion [Schwirrholz, Miniglocke, Große Kuhglocke, Gestrichenes Becken] – Jaki Liebezeit (B2)
Piano – Alexander Von Schlippenbach (tracks: A1 to B1)
Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet – Gerd Dudek (tracks: A2)
Tenor Saxophone – Gerd Dudek (tracks: A1, A3, B1)
Triangle, Temple Block, Pandeiro, Flute [Lotus] – Manfred Schoof (tracks: B2)
Trumpet [D] – Manfred Schoof (tracks: A1)

Recorded: Rhenus-Studio, Köln-Godorf, 1967



Here is the next item in my german series. Early Free Jazz from Manfred Schoof and his Sextet.
By the way - I don't think that I am a specialist in this special department of music. I am interested in creative music - primarly coming from the Jazz heritage - and as I live in close to Germany it makes sense to me to try to discover also this tradition. But my (musical) interests are much more global . So - don't be surprised or disappointed if there will be music from other parts of our planet. Off course you won't be...

Manfred Schoof grew up perfecting his innovative jazz style, often practicing on either his jazz trumpet or his flügelhorn. By the time he reached high school, Schoof was composing his own arrangements. In 1955, Schoof decided to purse a musical career, enrolling in the Music Academy (Musikakademie) at Kassel. After studying and performing there for three years, he moved to further his studies at the Cologne Musikhochschule. While there, Schoof took a jazz class by Kurt Edelhagen, a West German bandleader who also had his own radio program. Schoof and Edelhagen established a musical connection, with the pupil contributing to the teacher's Radio Big Band radio show. At the same time, Schoof began touring with Gunter Hampel. In 1965, Schoof created a free jazz quintet with Gerd Dudek and Alex Von Schlippenbach. It would be the foundation for another band he formed in 1969, the Manfred Schoof Orchestra. The group toured throughout Germany and Europe, featuring Evan Parker and Irène Schweizer, among others. In 1969, he joined the George Russell Orchestra and stayed with the band until 1971. Throughout the next two decades, Schoof expanded his musical horizons, recording and performing with several groups, including Global Unity Orchestra and Jasper Van't Hof. He also began composing classical music pieces, often composing them for the Berlin Philharmonic.

Jaki Byard - 1967 - Sunshine of My Soul

Jaki Byard 
1967 
Sunshine of My Soul




01. Sunshine 9:33
02. Cast Away 4:08
03. Chandra 8:06
04. St. Louis Blues 6:03
05. Diane's Melody 6:58
06. Trendsition Zildjian 10:58


Bass – David Izenzon
Drums, Timpani – Elvin Jones
Piano – Jaki Byard

Recorded in New York City; October 31, 1967




In 1967, Jaki Byard turned 45. At that age, some musicians are very set in their ways -- they have a niche, cater to it, and stick with whatever it is they do best. But Byard wasn't becoming complacent; the restless pianist was continuing to experiment and take chances, which is exactly what he does on Sunshine of My Soul. Recorded on Halloween 1967, this unpredictable post-bop/avant-garde effort finds Byard being influenced by a wide variety of pianists. One minute, his lyricism is acknowledging Erroll Garner and Dave Brubeck -- the next minute, he takes it outside and shows his appreciation of Cecil Taylor's free jazz. McCoy Tyner is an influence on original pieces like "Sunshine" and "Cast Away," while W.C. Handy's often-recorded "St. Louis Blues" (the only tune on the album that Byard didn't write) becomes an unlikely mixture of free jazz and stride -- sort of Taylor by way of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. Taylor's influence is especially strong on the very stream-of-consciousness "Trendsition Zildjian," which is among the most abstract pieces that Byard has recorded. And whoever might be influencing Byard at a particular moment -- Taylor, Brubeck, Tyner, Garner, Bud Powell, or someone else -- the Bostonian always sounds like himself. Of course, a musician who is that broad-minded and eclectic needs musicians who are capable of keeping up with him and, thankfully, Byard has that in drummer Elvin Jones and bassist David Izenzon (known for his work with Ornette Coleman in the 1960s). Neither of them have a problem keeping up with Byard on this superb Prestige date, which Fantasy reissued on CD in 2001 under its Original Jazz Classics imprint.

Jaki Byard is one of only a few jazz musicians who can play comfortably in virtually any style. This has made him a valuable sideman for players as diverse as Maynard Ferguson and Charles Mingus, but has rendered his work as a leader as a tad all over the map, lacking any guiding force to tie the disparate elements together. Lacking a sense of focus, his solo work seems like a man trying to fit all his clothes into a carry-on bag. Occasionally though, Byard is able to make everything work throughout an entire album and the results are always amazing; he can pack more into one song than many of his peers can accomplish in an entire session. This is best shown on Sunshine of My Soul, which easily ranks as among the pianist’s best work.
This is largely due to the crack rhythm section of Izenzon and Jones, who can follow Byard on any path he might choose to wander without getting in a tangle. Izenzon, in one of his few recorded performances in a brief career, displays a knack for fidgety bass lines and smooth bowed passages, sharing with Jones a skill at avoiding the obvious and a penchant for avoiding the beat. Both have the devilish task of following Byard’s piano adventures, which range from free jazz excursions like “Trendsition Zildjian” to a fractured reworking of “St. Louis Blues”. Nothing stays in the same place for long, as if Byard is afraid to be associated with any style and for once, this work’s to his advantage; stride passages sit comfortably next to more modern shades, with Izenzon and Jones helping immeasurably to keep the flow. “St. Louis Blues” is a good example of what the group is up to; a relatively conventional head is juxtaposed with thundering tympani and bowed bass dive-bombs.

This is about as coherent as a Byard album gets. Even the freest moments are as jarring as one might expect. Exemplifying one of jazz’s oddballs, this remains one of Byard’s most interesting and accomplished musical puzzles.

François Tusques - 1967 - Le Nouveau Jazz

François Tusques
1967 
Le Nouveau Jazz



01. Coda 4:40
02. Sombre 2:55
03. Dialogue 9:35
04. Cantique Du Diable 7:06
05. Les Sorcières 6:19
06. Dialogue II 5:20


Contrabass – Bernard Guérin (tracks: A2, A3, B1 to B3), J.-F. Jenny-Clark (tracks: A3, B1 to B3)
Drums – Aldo Romano (tracks: A3, B1 to B3)
Piano, Composed By – François Tusques
Tenor Saxophone – Barney Wilen (tracks: A3, B1 to B3)

Recorded at Studios Dovidis on January 16, 1967 (A1, A2) and on February 15, 1967 at Studio La Comédie des Champs-Elysées (A3, B1, B2, B3).




With track titles translating to Song For The Devil and The Witches, Francois Tusques’ rarest commercially released LP casts an early stylistic premonition of the vampire themed improvised soundtracks recorded for director Jean Rollin merely months after its release. Assembling the very same group of musical sorcerers this albums personnel (featuring, amongst others, soprano saxophonist Barney Wilen) reads like a who’s who of France’s early improvised music/free jazz scene resulting in a wholly unique European flavour while preserving the essence of other global inter communal travellers such as Don Cherry and Krzysztof Komeda.

Originally extracted from three separate recording sessions in early 1967, Le Nouveau Jazz opens with themes conjured up for the short film Coda by French jazz documentarist Marc Pauly highlighting the composers adept ability in his multi-disciplined art further aligning him with the aforementioned pioneers. The rest of the album combines frenzied macabre picture music (akin to Detroit’s Wendell Harrison) and emotive piano improvisations (Mal Waldron anyone?) with the sui generis inclusion of a double double bass formation courtesy of Bernard “Beb” Guerin (Sonny Sharrock/Kühn Brothers) and Jean-Francois Jenny Clarke (Enrico Rava/Giorgio Gaslini). As Tusques’ second official album (after the seldom sighted Free Jazz from 1965) this LP expands on this important French musicians vision and follows up Cacophonic’s repress of his mega rare Don Cherry art installation collaboration from 1964 this time introducing extra rhythmic arrangements courtesy of Italian drummer Aldo Romano (Robin Kenyatta).

Housed in the elegant original Witches artwork sleeve by comic illustrator Jean Vern with French liner notes by French psychiatry/beat poet/crime fiction writer Yves Buin this worthy reissue hopes to find a unique uninhabited part of your collection from an era that changed the Parisian underground prior to the important developments of labels like BYG Actuel and Futura Records in the early 1970s.


By Clifford Allen
It is somewhat ironic that, as much as European jazz and free improvisation are nestled squarely within the canon of contemporary music—one has to look only at the worldwide recognition of figures like Germany’s Peter Brötzmann, England’s Evan Parker, or Holland’s Misha Mengelberg and their respective integral scenes—the country with the closest ties to vanguard American jazz in the ‘60s has been almost wholly left out of the picture. France has produced several world-renowned improvisers (for example, clarinetists Michel Portal and Louis Sclavis are among the instrument’s greatest proponents), but the architects of France’s ‘new thing’ have been summarily left by the wayside over the course of the music’s history. Pianist and composer François Tusques, while almost unknown outside his native France, is certainly among the rare few in European jazz, not only as a crucial figure in the development of the music in his sector of the continent, but so crucial that he was able to record the first true French free jazz record (Free Jazz, reissued by In Situ)—a claim which, Stateside, is not even Ornette Coleman’s.
Born in 1938 in Paris, Tusques migrated with his family to rural Brittany shortly thereafter, though as his father was a crucial figure in the French Resistance, François and his family moved around quite a bit during and after the War, eventually spending two years in Afghanistan and another two in Dakar before returning to France. As the potential for danger at being ‘outed’ as a member the Resistance was so high, Tusques did not attend any French schools at the time, for fear that he would accidentally divulge his father’s secret to his peers.

This secretiveness, on top of the fact that his family was so mobile, contributed to a difficult childhood, and despite the fact that his mother was an opera singer, poverty and circumstance kept Tusques from beginning musical training until he was eighteen, when he began to study the piano. “I had only one week of lessons; after that, I was on my own—you could say an ‘autodidact.’ I learned to play mostly by ear, especially from the drummers.”

Tusques quickly took to jazz—his worldliness certainly offering exposure to sounds that he would not have heard otherwise during the War—and counts among his early favorites Bud Powell and Rene Urtreger, not to mention subsequent affinities for Cecil Taylor (“but I am not a technical pianist…” says Tusques), Mal Waldron, Monk and Jaki Byard. At the start of the 60s, there was a significant scene of American expatriate improvisers in Paris—Bud, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Clarke, and traditionalists like Bechet—and a handful of young French players ready and willing to sit in, like saxophonist Barney Wilen and bassist Pierre Michelot. Certainly, as in England and elsewhere in Europe, French jazz of this nascent period was almost entirely beholden to the American post-bop model, and quite a few players who could stand alongside their American peers and run the changes.

Nevertheless, there was also a coterie of French improvisers for whom American-derived bebop was not the end, if even the means. Composer, arranger and sometime pianist Jef Gilson (who eventually began the famed Palm Records) was one of the ringleaders of the Parisian new jazz scene, mentoring young players like trumpeter Bernard Vitet, tenorman Jean-Louis Chautemps, drummer Charles Saudrais, bassist Beb Guerin and other soon-to-be leading lights. Tusques, though, was the only pianist at the time in Paris willing to extend those steps into the demanding compositional sound-world of ‘free jazz,’ and those who saw a continuous upward- and outward-mobility with this music looked to Tusques as a fulcrum.
By 1965, Vitet, Chautemps, Saudrais, and Portal (then primarily a classical clarinetist) had asked Tusques to compose a number of loose springboard-pieces to work on as a group, which led to the recording of Free Jazz for poet Marcel Moloudji’s tiny Moloudji label. In company with German vibraphonist-reedman Gunter Hampel’s Heartplants (Saba, 1965) and trumpeter Manfred Schoof’s Voices (CBS, 1966), Free Jazz is among the very earliest documents of a wholly European improvised music, one which springs more greatly from regional influences than those from across the Atlantic.

Free Jazz was followed in 1967 by Le Nouveau Jazz (Moloudji), which joined Tusques with Wilen in the saxophonist’s first recorded entrée into free playing (he would continue somewhat in this vein over the next several years), backed by Guerin and itinerant Italian drummer Aldo Romano, a fixture in Steve Lacy and Don Cherry’s ensembles of the period. Both Moloudji recordings are among the rarest documents of European jazz and were limited to a pressing of only 200 copies apiece—nevertheless, it was Tusques’ wherewithal that led to the first recorded examples of avant-garde French jazz.

By the mid- to late-60s in France, improvisation took on a political edge not dissimilar to that which it had in the States. France’s involvement in Vietnam at the start of the decade, not to mention governmental maltreatment across class lines of both workers and liberalist academics at the university level, led to the revolts of May 1968 and subsequent unrest, and the New Left found sympathetic ears among the jazz vanguard. Expatriate African-American and African artists, their struggle against racial oppression viewed by the Left with a similar lens to the proletarian struggle, led to a period of broader acceptance of free jazz in the liberal French public.

Tusques, though now looking at this period as “a reflection of the attitudes and ideas of the time,” was nevertheless one of the most notoriously political of the new French jazzmen—titles for his compositions like “L’Imperialisme est un Tigre un Papier,” “Les Forces Progressistes,” “Les Forces Reactionnaires,” and Black Panther-themed works like “Portrait of Erika Huggins,” “Right On!” and “Power to the People” belie a decidedly anti-establishment sensibility. The second volume of his Piano Dazibao series on Futura featured a cover with drawings of Mao, Lenin, and Arthur Ashe in addition to Tusques; the back of the third volume of the Intercommunal Free Dance Music Orchestra consists of drawings of the musicians interspersed with Chinese field workers.

Even if these concerns were “of the time” and not something Tusques feels a reflection of his current work, his affinity for a resurging interest in the Vienna School (Webern, Berg, Schoenberg) of composers belies a continuing political sensibility—“they were fighting fascism with their music, much as [improvisers] and artists do today.”

The first ripples of American free players began to show up on the Parisian scene in 1968, primarily due to an extreme paucity of gigs in New York and unwillingness on the part of major record companies to seriously document the music. Drummer Sunny Murray, late of the groups of Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor, was one of the first to make his home in Paris (though saxophonists Marion Brown and Steve Lacy were making a stand as well), and that year formed his Acoustical Swing Unit with both French and visiting free players. Prophetically, its first European incarnation included Tusques, Guerin, Vitet, Portal, Jamaican tenorman Ken Terroade (previously based in London), itinerant West Indian trumpeter Ambrose Jackson, and later added expatriate Americans Alan Silva (cello), Frank Wright, Byard Lancaster, and Arthur Jones (saxophones) and Earl Freeman (bass). Tusques, with his balance of insistent left hand and pointillistic right, helped to reign in the first two official Swing Unit recording dates, two of his three with Murray. These include the eponymous 1968 ORTF concert recording released by Shandar (Sunny Murray) and its companion Big Chief (Pathé, 1969).

By 1969, as a result of offers from French labels like BYG, Musidisc-America and Pathé, a significant number of American free jazzmen had arrived in Paris for gigs and recording contracts; Tusques and his compatriots therefore had the opportunity to work with figures like Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry and trumpeter/trombonist Clifford Thornton. These latter two were of particular importance in Tusques’ development, for as a particularly good ear-learner he fit in perfectly with Cherry’s process-based, ongoing and ear-taught approach to learning the seemingly unending and all-encompassing “Togetherness” suite. Tusques was a frequent collaborator, even assisting Cherry with some of the piano parts on the famed Mu recordings (BYG, 1969)—a series of duets with drummer Ed Blackwell. He also joined up with Thornton, resulting in what might be the valve trombonist’s strongest recording, The Panther and the Lash (America, 1970), with Guerin and drummer Noel McGhie.

It didn’t take long, however, for a significant number of gigs to dry up as the French musicians’ unions began to frown on the large number of perpetually-visiting Americans in Paris. Some, like Murray and Silva, were able to stay on, however, and it was with those two in mind that Tusques assembled his third date as a leader, Intercommunal Music, for Shandar in 1971.

Originally planned as a quartet date for piano, cello, drums and the bass of Beb Guerin, on which a number of Tusques originals would be investigated, kismet and ‘snafu’ turned it into something quite different. “I booked several hours of studio time in advance, Beb and I waited and waited for hours and we were getting very nervous because Sunny didn’t arrive. Finally, there was less than an hour of studio time left, and here come Sunny and Alan with four friends saying ‘OK, here we are, let’s go!’ We only had 37 minutes left, and I couldn’t even teach them the tunes, so what you hear on the record is exactly what happened in the studio with that time.”

What looks like one of the heaviest line-ups of free jazzmen one could conceive of—Murray, Silva, Tusques, Guerin, trumpeter Al Shorter, alto saxophonist Steve Potts (who would later join the Steve Lacy quintet), bassist Bob Reid (of multinational improvising quintet Emergency) and percussionist Louis Armfield—was, in fact, completely unexpected. An insistent, driving and minimal theme is voiced by the ensemble, leading into one of the most memorable ‘free’ alto solos these ears have heard, Tusques alternating between rhythmic repetition, roiling bass soundmasses and anthemic Maoist folk melodies, the unrehearsed group surprisingly empathetic to Tusques’ drive and whims.

Yet Tusques increasingly began to find free improvisation a musical “dead end” and found it necessary to search for other, more integrated approaches to improvisation. In addition to playing and recording a number of solo piano expositions (released to great acclaim on the Futura and Le Chant du Monde labels), Tusques formed the Intercommunal Free Dance Music Orchestra in the early ‘70s, a meeting of French and African musicians that would yield to a “popular appeal,” something that could get both social and artistic concerns out to a number of music listeners of all stripes.

“The name comes from these things: Intercommunal, like French and Africa together; Dance, so people can feel the music; and Free, because it was a free approach to traditional music of the world.” The group included a number of African percussionists, like Sam Ateba, Cheikh Fall and Guem, as well as the great alto saxophonist from Guinea, Jo Maka; French jazzmen like trumpeter Michel Marre; German trombonist Adolf Winkler (“he could play everything—one minute J.J. Johnson, the next minute Tricky Sam Nanton!”) and Spanish orator Carlos Andreu (“he was a revolutionary poet; he would get up and pick random passages from Leftist texts, improvising upon them in concert”).

African and Latin American folk themes yield to lengthy improvisational passages filled with more ebullience than severity in this context—there are even pieces that successfully hedge dub as much as they do Breton music or kwela. The orchestra lasted throughout the rest of the decade in various guises and on into the 1980s, recording nearly ten albums for vanguard French labels including Le Temps de Cerises and Vendemiare (a subsidiary of Palm), before eventually disbanding.

Since the mid-80s, Tusques has co-led a trio with Noel McGhie and Paris bass clarinet wizard Denis Colin, in some ways an heir apparent to the altars of Portal and Sclavis, albeit with an entirely bop-based sensibility that dips into the same spring as Dolphy. This trio recorded Tusques’ Blues Suite for Transes Europeenes in 1998, and it remains his most regular working group (Tusques picks his gigs with the utmost care, so this group might not work as much as followers of his music would like).

Tusques, in collaboration with his partner, actress/vocalist Isabel Juanpera, and members of the Parisian improvisers’ community like Colin and Vitet, has previously expanded upon the “Blues Suite” in works like Blue Phédre (Axolotl, 1996) and Le Jardin des Délices (In Situ, 1992), adding an operatic (and quite possibly cinematic) scale to his already colorful small-group music.

In what might seem a departure, one of Tusques' major projects is in collaboration with architect and visual artist Jean-Max Albert, in which Monk’s compositions are investigated visually. Numbers are applied to thematic fragments, and each number has a corresponding shape—these become surreal diagrams that retain perfectly the gravity and whimsy, the yin and yang of Monk’s music, at times like a painting of Mondrian, at times like a Miró. It his hoped that a concert version of this work can be performed, with Tusques performing the pieces surrounded onstage by the visual images. Such a multifaceted view of Monk is, in many ways, a perfect analogue for the music of François Tusques: an assemblage of insular phrases yields a colorful and multi-directional oeuvre, a never-ending film of freedom, culture, and social engagement. Intercommunal, indeed.

François Tusques - 1967 - La Reine des Vampires

François Tusques 
1967
La Reine des Vampires



01. La Reine des vampires Theme Take 5
02. La Reine des vampires Theme Take  4
03. La Reine des vampires Theme Take 3
04. La Reine des vampires Theme Take 2
05. La Reine des vampires Theme Take 1
06. La Reine des vampires Unused Cue 1
07. La Reine des vampires Rejected Theme 1
08. La Reine des vampires Unused Cue 6
09. La Reine des vampires Unused Cue 11
10. La Reine des vampires Rejected Theme 2
11. La Reine des vampires Unused Cue 9

François Tusques – Piano
Barney Wilen – Tenor Sax
Jean-François Jenny-Clark – Bass
Beb Guérin – Bass
Eddie Gaumont – Violin

All previously unreleased tacks originally composed for "Les Femmes Vampires" - part two of the 1968 French vampire melodrama "Le Viol Du Vampire" directed by Jean Rollin (originally intended to be a longer series).
Allt racks are full length, pre-cut sessions as presented to Jean Rollin and editor Jean-Denis Bonan in 1967. Tracks A1-A5 appear in heavily edited form in the original film that debuted in Paris, May 1968.
Tracks B1-B6 are exclusive unheard demo sessions rejected by Rollin in 1967. Extracts from tracks A1-A4 also appears in the Jean Rollin film "La Vampire Nue", 1970 (without prior consent).
All tracks named in accordance with the working title of the project "La Reine Des Vampires".




In 1967, French avant-garde composer and pianist François Tusques was asked by director Jean Rollin to make the soundtrack for a vampire melodrama, called "Les Femmes Vampires" (the vampire women), then erroneously announced as the first French vampire movie ever. Tusques assembled a band with Barney Wilen on tenor sax, Eddie Gaumont on violin, Jean-François Jenny-Clark and Beb Guérin on bass. As you can expect, the music is eery, haunting, full of dread, anticipation, angst, anxiety and fear. It is ominous, dark, unpredictable, gloomy and sinister. It is equally well-paced, slow, refined, sophisticated, precise and accurate. In contrast to what was the norm at that time, the soundtrack has no clear theme, just sounds full of dramatic tension and effect. The violin, the sax and the bass create long phrases hanging in mid-air, coming from nowhere, not seeming to go anywhere, yet with astonishing presence when they are in the here and now, immensely powerfully.

The album gives the complete recording of the session, even if only parts were used for the soundtrack (think of Mike Oldfield's score for The Exorcist). The A-side presents the full pieces from which some snippets were used in the movie, the B-side brings material that was not used in the movie, even if it is equally strong. When Rollin made his second vampire movie, "La Vampire Nue" (the nude - female -vampire), he re-used the material on the A-side, rearranged it and all this without Tusques' prior consent.

To have this music back, now, after almost fifty years, is amazing. When you watch the movie excerpts on Youtube, the movie looks incredibly dated, real sixties' stuff. And probably the most amazing thing is that when you listen to the soundtrack, it still sounds incredibly modern. It is today's music. Think of the vision and the audacity it must have required then.

Charles Tyler - 1967 - Eastern Man Alone

Charles Tyler 
1967
Eastern Man Alone



01. Cha-Lacy's Out East 12:23
02. Man Alone 11:56
03. Le-Roi 12:55
04. Eastern 10:57

Alto Saxophone – Charles Tyler
Bass – Brent Mckesson, Kent Brinkley
Cello – Dave Baker

Recorded at Feature's Studio, Indianapolis, January 2, 1967.




That Charles Tyler comes out of the school of Albert Ayler is a well-known fact. Listening to Tyler in his quartet on Eastern Man Alone, recorded in January, 1967, his second for ESP, is delving into history. His music is seminal, even more so it seems than either Coltrane’s and Coleman’s was, because it is downright raw. Besides the uniqueness of the sound, additionally innovative in this recording is the prevalence of the strings: David Baker plays cello; Kent Brinkley and Kent McKesson, bass. There are no drums. Tyler is the sole horn player on alto.

Tyler’s alto is altogether searing, staying within a range that does not cover too many extremes. Tyler carves out the shape of the rhythmic choruses, which repeat and fall apart in patterns, eventually to be rediscovered in refreshed form. From the very upbeat first cut, “Cha-Lacy’s Out East,” the strings synchronize with Tyler so that it seems as if the horns have multiplied. Tyler’s tone is not pure; it is reedy and describes so well the era of Ayler when improvisation let loose only to circle round in simply structured choruses to build the body of composition. Both with pizzicato and bowing, the strings seem to monopolize the music in all but the first number, after Tyler lays the groundwork for where the basses can and do go. Only in the last “Eastern,” does Tyler, as does Baker and the other bassist, fold into what the arco bass starts.

Cellist Baker wrote “Le-Roi.” All the instruments are synchronized at the outset; the ascent into the break-out tune loops gradually until one bass finally ushers Tyler to take the reins. The strings have arco drive and a slippery grind. A singular, but not foreign, high-pitched tremolo on the cello stops the music with ethereal strangeness.

"This 1967 recording by the avant-garde saxophonist -- his second for ESP-Disk' -- features Tyler on alto sax with accompaniment from David Baker (cello), Brent McKesson (bass) and Kent Brinkley (bass). The album starts out with 'Cha-Lacy's Out East' which revisits a theme from his first album as leader. The proceedings are heady free-form avant-jazz, reaching into cosmic realms with it's string-heavy backing providing soaring atmospheres. Tyler cut legendary records as a sideman to Albert Ayler, but as a leader, proves to be one of the most advanced, challenging, and exploratory players of the late '60s avant-garde. Newly remastered with original artwork & liner notes by Clifford Allen."-ESP

"Charles Tyler's second session as a leader (it would be seven years before he would have a third chance) has much more playing time than his first effort (48 minutes as opposed to 29) and more of an original concept. The altoist is the lead voice in a quartet comprised of cellist David Baker and both Brent McKesson and Kent Brinkley on basses, coming up with eccentric melodies and sound explorations on four of his originals. This is a worthy effort that is innovative in its own way although not recommended to listeners who feel that bebop is "modern jazz."-Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Santana - 1968 - Santana

Santana 
1968
Santana




01. Santana 14:07
02. Fluency 06:16
03. M. G. 09:30
04. Waiting for Paul 06:31

Irène Schweizer: piano
Peter Kowald: double bass
Pierre Favre: drums

REMARK: SANTANA…continuity/lasting change of smallest particles;
motion which neither starts nor stops/involuntary determination of change; the existence of all things within themselves in unconscious relation to other things…non-existence of time/SANTANA

Recorded (MONO) by Klaus König on October 8th, 1968, in Zürich/Switzerland.



In ’68 Favre was easily breaking away from the American models of free drumming that probably influenced him. Schweizer sounds less assured than she does today but is still remarkable and very potent. Her creative playing with the piano’s insides, a languid penchant for lyricism (mostly clearly heard on 'Paul' very much in the melodic spirit of Mr. Bley’s music) and the jagged lines and textures, which have become more defined with time, are all foreshadowed here. Kowald, large, fat and sometimes lithe lines pulse right through the complexities of the drums and piano creating an effect of a glue helping to make everything stick together. Santana is a vibrant and exciting album – a living document of the infancy of free music.

Here's the *REAL* Santana! A lost classic of European jazz, this early recording by the potent trio of Pierre Favre, Irène Schweizer, and Peter Kowald was waxed in 1968, before Carlos started gigging under his own name. This churning music may contain echoes of Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley, but mainly it's forging a new sonic vocabulary that would inspire European players over the coming decade. Volatile and vital, unpredictable and gorgeous, it's been buried for far too long.

Albert Mangelsdorff - 1967 - Folk Mond & Flower Dream

Albert Mangelsdorff 
1967
Folk Mond & Flower Dream



01. Plakate 7:34
02. Flower Dream 5:18
03. Folk Mond 8:00
04. Mobile 6:48
05. Thema Mal 3 7:58
06. Rib-Degibib-Degibbossé 4:31

Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Günter Kronberg
Bass – Günter Lenz
Drums – Ralf Hübner
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Heinz Sauer
Trombone – Albert Mangelsdorff

Recorded September 6 and 7, 1967 at Tonstudio Walldorf near Frankfurt/Main




For years jazz-collectors have asked why there is not a CD version of this album, recorded in 1967 by the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett. It is one of the most important recordings in the German Jazz-history. It was recorded by the most popular German jazz ensemble at the peak of an era, in which own stylistic developments and extraordinary soloists had emerged mainly in Frankfurt in the post-war scene. For the first time ever German jazz was noted in the world and especially in the USA.

HORST LIPPMANN
(Original Liner Notes from 1968 release):

Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett - Folk Mond & Flower Dream (Nektar)Albert Mangelsdorff tells us: „The title Folk Mond (‘Folk Moon’) arose in the course of a turbulent evening in the Frankfurt “Jazzkeller” (Jazz Cellar). At full moon a special kind of atmosphere prevails – everyone is somewhat hyper. When we played the piece on such a full-moon night for the first time in the cellar, it created a fantastic whirl. We didn’t have a name for it at that stage, but seen folkloristic phrases were used in the particular theme at hand, it was to be something with ‘folk’. And then the word ‘moon’ simply added itself to it automatically on account of the full moon. It is, incidentally, a very casual sort of ‘folk-moon’. Street singers who journey throughout the country with dusty trousers and incessantly thirsty throats represent the standard paradigm. And depending on whether their throats are very dry or already somewhat dampened they sing their songs in this way or that. In the same way we also play the particular theme in question.”

From this topic emerged the ad lib improvisation by Albert Mangelsdorff, Heinz Sauer and Günter Kronberg. What impresses me most about these off-the-cuff improvisations is the strict observance of form and structure on the one hand, and the sheer straightforwardness of it on the other. As a listener you will never lose your way, you know where you are. You won’t see any angry faces breaking sound barriers. The Mangelsdorff musicians are friendly and charming when they embark on a journey in the open countryside, only to return to the street at some stage again. That’s why I maintain that today no other ensemble in the world of jazz exists like the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet. There are groups that play “free jazz” and others that prefer “straight jazz”, i.e. harmonically bound jazz. But there are truly few ensembles that can play both free and harmonically bound improvisations in such a taken for granted way – and they’ve been doing that for years. What fascinates me is the unique and immediately identifiable sound of the quintet. This unique sound is not just determined by the respective instrumentation.

Albert Mangelsdorff QuintettIt is ever-present, even during the solo passages, from the very first to last note of this album. After the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django Reinhardt in the 1930’s, George Shearing in the 1940’s and the “Cool Swedes” in the 1950’s, we can claim to have an European ensemble in our time that has managed to develop a unique and immediately recognizable style. Likewise the originality and diverseness of the compositions are striking and noteworthy. In a particular instance the free, unbound Folk-Moon hobo stands with a charming wink alongside a ballad like “Flower Dream”. I know of no other trombonist in the jazz field who can recount a ballad in such a masterly fashion than Albert Mangelsdorff. There are scarcely any jazz musicians who tell a story when they play a ballad. Ben Webster is one them, and Miles Davis … and Albert too.

But we spoke of diverseness: in the ensemble you’ll find compact “Plakate” accompanied by a hovering “Mobile” that invites you to fly with them. “Thema mal 3” is arranged with utter fulmination. For years now, Albert Mangelsdorff has had a special fondness for polyphonic music-making. „Rib-degibib-degibbossé", actually written in one word, is dedicated to Albert’s friend Franz Eyrich. Franz was regarded as one of the first hippies, at least in Frankfurt, 15 years before people even began to speak of hippies. Franz Eyrich thought up the title.  „Rib-degibib-degibbossé" is no hip language and has no particular meaning, except perhaps for a surreal persiflage of certain jazz interpretations. The Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet has been making music together with the same unchanged instrumentation since 1962. This is the quintet’s third album. It fluoresces in every shade and hue of every musical tone, like “Folk Mond” and “Flower Dream”.
 

Albert says, in reference to „Folk Mond & Flower Dream“ that, compared to its predecessor „Now Jazz Ramwong“, it was a recording without any coherent concept. It is simply a product of what the quintet newly developed and tried out. Horst Lippmann wrote correctly in his liner notes, that this album marks the pinnacle of all the works created by the quintet since having been founded in 1962. The post-war jazz scenery was now over and many German jazz musicians had developed a unique musical language of their own that soon brought forth other forms and styles. For this reason the term “Frankfort style” was coined in areas outside of Germany

But Albert Mangelsdorff was at that time the first German jazz musician who was taken notice of and enjoyed recognition in the home of jazz, the USA. All three albums of his quintet were given a rating of 4 out of 5 possible points each by the American journal “Downbeat”. It was one of the quintet’s LPs, that as a jazz recording from Europe was the first to achieve such a high rating. Gilbert M. Eskine wrote in “Downbeat” at the time:

When something as impressive as a Germanic wind comes sweeping in on the jazz scene, it is quite possible that the most important developments in jazz will transpire abroad.

Albert MangelsdorffWhat Albert Mangelsdorff and his musicians have carved out of the series of German and foreign musicians is their autonomy and sense of self-reliance. The originality has been the result of a musical development that has gone on for years and years, as the musicians have carried it out both individually and, above all, in unison. As a result, Albert Mangelsdorff, who has also frequently played in international instrumentations, felt most comfortably in his quintet. For it was here that he could optimally develop and bring to fruition his musical schemes..

Mangelsdorff shied away from any stylistic categorization of the music of his quintet. Even before Charles Lloyd or John Handy announced their concept of “Total Music”, Mangelsdorff wanted the music of his ensemble to be firmly understood as that of five great individualists. Appellations like ‘free jazz’, ‘progressive’ or ‘new jazz’ were every bit as suspect to him as any categorization with nationalist leanings. Nevertheless, although there was for him no specifically ‘German jazz’, Albert Mangelsdorff had to learn how to live with the fact that the music of his quintet was eulogized all over the world as ‘Jazz – Made in Germany”. Accordingly the “Daily Mirror” wrote after a concert given by the quintet in Manila in 1964:

“Just like the cars produced in Germany, German jazz is a complete and highly reputable product that’s worth exporting anywhere.”

Albert Mangelsdorff„We went for broke“, Albert summed up the years between 1968 and 1970 in an interview with the “Berliner Zeitung” (Berlin Newspaper), “when everything was in transformation anyway. Our music was after all, so to speak, also a form of protest against society, against all those who were having a good time of everything, who were able to report sick and celebrate – while we had to constantly make do with scraps.”

Tentative starts with ‚free jazz’ forms can be heard in „Folk Mond & Flower Dream“. A few years later the group fathomed it uncompromisingly as a quartet. Albert’s polyphonic performances on the trombone and his solo appearances came later on at his concert at the Munich summer Olympic games in 1972.

While Albert Mangelsdorff later coined the term ‘spontaneous composing’, the six compositions of this album from 1967 also live from the peculiarly arranged wind movements with two saxophones and trombones, without the use of piano or guitar. Instead there is just bass and drums, breathtakingly dynamic and melodious. Albert was never dogmatic in terms of certain instrumentations. He did not need the piano as harmonic leader. It just happened that when the band formed no pianist was around. Albert was a very liberal bandleader, giving as much as possible space to solo expressions of anybody. On the other hand he was a severe bandleader without being authoritarian. .

Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet in Antibes“Folk Mond & Flower Dream” was the third and last studio-LP of the quintet with this instrumentation, which at first carried on as a quartet without Günter Kronberg and then broke up in the Seventies.

“Folk Mond & Flower Dream” took off with somewhat of a delay. In the then most important magazine for the German jazz scene, the “Jazz-Podium”, the readers voted it ‘record of the year’ in 1969, Albert was made musician of the year, the world’s best trombonist, the quintet best ensemble and the other musicians received in the individual instrument category likewise first places. Heinz Sauer was given – an unjust – third place.

The six titles of this LP don’t reflect the references suggested in the album title. “Folk Mond & Flower Dream” shows nevertheless with what incredible power and energy the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet managed to make this album a milestone of German jazz history in 1967 in only two recording days amidst both musically and politically turbulent and eventful times..

Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet on tour in the USAHorst Lippmann sold his label L+R Records, that had been originally distributed by the Frankfurt CBS, to Frankfurt Bellaphon in 1986. That was the time where the CD was beginning to replace the vinyl long-plays. The L+R records catalogue had at that point reached a rather sizeable volume and it was to be expected that Bellaphon would not immediately release all the tapes in CD-form. Suddenly “Folk Mond & Flower Dream” no longer appeared on any lists or in any catalogues. The album recorded in September 1967 was released in 1968, then distributed through CBS and then disappeared from the market. For about 25 years the album existed neither in vinyl form nor as a CD. Albert Mangelsdorff regretted this very much and eagerly yearned for a re-release.

After enquiring at Bellaphon it turned out that nobody could even remember the record and as well as that had neither relevant documentation nor material. It’s no wonder that such high prices are offered for unblemished vinyl pressings on the internet!

One of Horst Lippmann’s daughters, Sylvia Lippmann, was persuaded to fine-comb all shelves and cabinets in the existing studio of her father, who had died in 1997. In early 2007 the recordings were found.

In the meantime in May 2005 at the Jazzgass’ (jazz alley) in Frankfurt the Horst Lippmann Place had been inaugurated. That was filled with an intense load of memories brought by many companions and contemporaries of the jazz scene on that same day.

Among them was also Albert Mangelsdorff, who appeared for the last time in public, then. He died 25th July 2005.

Sunny Murray - 1969 - Homage to Africa

Sunny Murray 
1969
Homage to Africa




01. Suns Of Africa - Part 1 15:15
02. Suns Of Africa - Part 1 2:40
03. R.I.P. 10:35
04. Unity 6:55

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Roscoe Mitchell
Bass – Alan Silva
Cornet – Clifford Thornton
Drums – Sunny Murray
Gong, Tambourine, Bells – Arthur Jones (tracks: A1, A2)
Photography By – Jacques Bisceglia
Piano – Dave Burrell
Tenor Saxophone – Archie Shepp (tracks: A1, A2)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Kenneth Terroade
Timpani [Tympani], Bells – Earl Freeman (tracks: A1, A2)
Trombone – Grachan Moncur III
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Lester Bowie (tracks: A1, A2)
Voice, Bells – Jeanne Lee (tracks: A1, A2)
Xylophone [Belafon], Bells – Malachi Favors (tracks: A1, A2)

Recorded August 15, 1969, Paris.



There are probably arguments that could be made against this claim, but Sunny Murray is free jazz’s first truly free drummer. Instead of simply keeping time, Murray’s playing is purely expressionistic, pouring his entire being into a cacophony of textural percussion. Considering his place in the free jazz pantheon, it is unsurprising that he cut his teeth in the Cecil Taylor Unit and then in the Albert Ayler Trio and Quartet, three of the most important groups in free jazz’s development. While his playing on albums by these groups, and especially on the Albert Ayler Trio’s fiery Ghosts, is rightfully lauded by fans and critics, his work as a bandleader is too often overlooked. He recorded two great ESP-Disks—1965’s Sunny’s Time Now and 1966’s Sunny Murray—while still a member of Ayler’s band—along with the transitional Big Chief for EMI/Pathe in 1968 between his stint with Ayler and Archie Shepp’s invitation to join him at the Panafrican Festival at the start of the next summer. While Murray’s first three albums as leader are very good, Murray’s voice is still very much tied to his work with Ayler. Murray’s time with Shepp and his experiences recording for BYG Actuel freed him of these stylistic constraints and allowed him to find his own voice as a writer.

Hommage to Africa is the first of three albums Murray recorded for Actuel, and it is the first of that label’s records to truly embody the communal and exploratory spirit of that Paris summer in 1969. Side one, which consists of the piece “Suns of Africa” in two parts, features a whopping thirteen musicians. Shepp’s entire sextet makes up the backbone of the ensemble, along with Earl Freeman on tympani and bells, Kenneth Terroade on flute and tenor saxophone, Arthur Jones on gong, tambourine, and bells, and Art Ensemble of Chicago collaborator Jeanne Lee on vocals and bells. Most importantly, three of the four members of the Art Ensemble play on this record (Joseph Jarman is the only absent member), and this marks the first collaboration between the New York and Chicago free jazz camps. With a decade’s worth of recording and publicity, as well as luminaries like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Taylor, and Ayler to follow, many of the New York players were starting to find themselves in a bit of a rut by the end of the sixties. Great records and performances were still happening, but sonic and compositional advancements weren’t terribly forthcoming. Enter the AACM in Chicago, whose members were quietly upending free jazz dogma with their use of little instruments and focus on negative space and sparse compositions. The arrival of the Chicago musicians (along with several equally iconoclastic players from St. Louis) in Paris and then in New York a few years later revitalized free jazz as a whole and sparked the underappreciated loft jazz scene on the 1970s. As far as recorded documents go, that all started here on “Suns of Africa.”

A chorus of bells and Murray’s cymbals open the track and provide most of the texture for the first half of the piece. They are soon joined by Kenneth Terroade and Roscoe Mitchell on flutes. These two seem to switch back and forth between snaking around each other’s sounds and actively sparring. This first movement in Part 1 is allowed six or seven minutes to slowly and loosely develop, and it would have made for a memorable piece on its own. Murray’s role in this movement is strictly complimentary, hanging back and allowing himself to blend in with the sea of percussion while the two flautists take the lead. As bandleader, Murray is content to hang around the background and provide anchoring textures, that is until Dave Burrell arrives like a set of asteroids, blasting the surface of the song with two quick and startling runs forcing Murray to take a more active role in the piece. After this initial appearance, Burrell joins in with the other seven musicians improvising with a much lighter touch than he would later employ on his Actuel masterpiece Echo. With Burrell in tow, the band builds ecstatically to herald the arrival of Jeanne Lee on the microphone. Her vocal part consists of a brief, repetitive, wordless melody that serves as the song’s centerpiece. Burrell quickly locks into his own counterpoint melody after a short stretch focused on Lee’s interactions with Malachi Favors’ balafon and Alan Silva’s bass.

And then the horns come in. Roscoe Mitchell’s first notes on the alto sax are the most gorgeous fifteen seconds of this song, and five more quickly join him in Lee’s melody—filling in for Lee while she takes a break to focus on her bells. Mitchell, Shepp, Terroade, Clifford Thornton, Grachan Moncur III, and Lester Bowie take turns, in no particular order, breaking away from the melody to solo, and at times five seemingly unrelated solos nearly drown out the melody held by a lone horn. Lee’s vocals return briefly, and she moves in and out as needed. Burrell continues to anchor the piece with his piano melody, and the horns build and build until they reach a peak, and then all of the sounds bleed away. Lee returns unaccompanied for the brief Part 2, and when she’s rejoined by the horns, it’s for a melancholy new melody devoid of solos. Bells and Burrell’s piano make occasional appearances like specters haunting the background of the piece. After all of the joy the band finds in Africa for most of “Suns of Africa,” they can’t fully escape the horrors in the continent’s history and their own detachment from the culture as a result of slavery. After gleefully basking in the continent for fifteen minutes, it is fitting that they would end things resigned to their psychological, physical, and cultural distance from it.

“Suns of Africa” is one of the high watermarks of the BYG Actuel catalog, and it is one of the great examples of free jazz at its least abrasive.[1] Unfortunately, it sets the bar prohibitively high for side two. “R.I.P.,” the first of two songs on the latter side, doesn’t quite match up to these high standards, but it works as both a continuation of the melancholy of “Suns of Africa Part 2” and a nice warping of Albert Ayler’s frighteningly unhinged marching songs. The bells from side one are absent here, as are most of the Art Ensemble members. Instead, we’re left with the Archie Shepp Sextet with Mitchell and Terroade replacing Shepp on sax. Like “Suns of Africa,” “R.I.P.” is built around a recurring melody during which the horns break away for frequent solos seemingly without a predetermined order. The melody here is rather ugly, and the ten and a half minutes the listener has to spend with it is a bit too long. Still, the soloing, and especially the interplay between Mitchell and Terroade,[2] is just as impressive as on “Suns of Africa,” and Burrell’s playing, which points toward his own future work as leader, is amazing. Unfortunately, Alan Silva’s bass is almost completely submerged under the horns. For a band that was so good on the previous side at providing space for every musician, even when there were thirteen of them, Silva’s inaudibility is the major disappointment of this song. Still, while Silva doesn’t get to play much of a role, Murray steps up on this song and takes a much more assertive role throughout. The song also ends with Murray’s only solo on the record. It’s not Murray’s best solo of his recording career, but it is a great example of how he was able to eschew rhythm in favor of pure sonic expressionism. He’s also able to play extremely quickly without raising his volume at all. Not many drum solos are able to feel understated, but Murray pulls that off here. It’s a credit to Murray that he seemingly felt no need to dominate the proceedings when the pieces he wrote called for him to provide texture rather than outplay everyone else.

The drum solo leads right into “Unity,” a song that is much more in line with the understated beauty of “Suns of Africa” while maintaining the gloomy feel that has dominated the record since Part 2 of that piece. As on the other songs, the standout performance here is not by Murray. Instead, Clifford Thornton’s cornet balances beauty and sorrow better than any other performer on this song. Even when the song’s melody disappears entirely, the relationships fostered by most of the players’ time in Shepp’s band allows them to maintain an almost telepathic ability to play off of one another. Considering the Pan-African focus of much the Actuel musicians’ music, it is initially strange that such an unhappy song would be titled “Unity,” but considering the anticolonial and intertribal strife that dominated and still dominates much of Africa, true unity is an improbable goal at best. In spite of his ideals, Murray seems aware that this ideal is unattainable, but he closes the book on these negative thoughts, and on the record, with a lone cymbal crash at the end. The ideal of a Pan-African community, and a truly communal Black artistic environment, would live on in these musicians even after this piece. The latter at least was attainable for those brief few months at the BYG studios in the second half of 1969, where musicians who had never played together before could come together in the name of a common musical ideology.


[1] Dave Burrell and Alan Silva handle abrasiveness with aplomb on their own Actuel records.
[2] It’s a shame that Terroade only recorded one album as leader during his entire career. While BYG may not have been very consistent at paying musicians, they must be credited for giving people who would never before or since have an opportunity to lead, Terroade included, the studio time and supportive atmosphere to do so.