Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1975 - Things To Come From Those Now Gone

Muhal Richard Abrams
Things To Come From Those Now Gone

01. Ballad For New Souls 4:32
02. Things To Come From Those Now Gone 4:03
03. How Are You? 4:33
04. In Retrospect 3:41
05. Ballad For Lost Souls 5:50
06. 1 And 4 Plus 2 And 7 9:58
07. March Of The Transients 6:09

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Edwin Daugherty (tracks: A2, B2)
Bass – Reggie Willis (tracks: A2, B2), Rufus Reid (tracks: A3, A4, A5)
Drums – Steve McCall (tracks: A2, B1), Wilbur Campbell (tracks: A2, B2)
Flute, Alto Saxophone – Wallace McMillan (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Piano, Composed By – Muhal Richard Abrams
Tenor Saxophone – Richard Brown (tracks: A4)
Vibraphone – Emanuel Cranshaw (tracks: A3, A5)
Vocals – Ella Jackson (tracks: A3)

Recorded October 10 & 11, 1972 at P.S. Studios, Chicago

Muhal Richard Abrams is the grand patriarch of the AACM. He set-up shop on the ground floor as a co-founder of the Association in 1965 and has since served as one of the guiding forces behind its direction and longevity. Things To Come From Those Now Gone was Abrams third album for Delmark. It’s the last to be reissued by the label and remains one of Abrams most eclectic offerings. As if in deference to his position as educator the gathering of players on hand for the date is largely made up of AACM students. Abrams makes use of the musicians’ blossoming talents in a broad variety of harmonic and melodic ways. The poignant “Ballad For New Souls” merges his plaintive keys with McMillian’s ethereal flute in a reverie, which is both soothing and seductive. The title piece charges the collective batteries in a different manner thanks to McCall’s rolling mallets and the one-two punch of Daugherty an McMillian’s saxophones.
“How Are You?” shifts emotional gears once again wedding Jackson’s keening soprano wails to Abrams’ lyric chordal movements. Jackson’s command over her vocal tract is at times suspect, but artistry of the tune remains intact nonetheless. Brown moves from fluttering grace to emotive stridency over the space of “In Retrospect” as Abrams metronomic clusters keep time. On “1 And 4 Plus 2 And 7,” a duet which spreads across nearly a quarter of the disc’s duration Abrams makes the dubious decision to switch to synthesizer half-way through. His electric apparatus ends up sounding akin to a harpsichord and is actually quite an intriguing change from his acoustic keyboard. Unfortunately the interaction characteristic of the piece’s first half is largely absent in the second and it sounds frequently like Abrams is feeling out his instrument rather than employing it with assurance. “March Of the Transients,” a vehicle fueled on high octane hard-bop, closes the set out with spirited solos by the saxophonists and the leader. Overall, though a mixed bag both in terms of content and quality this disc still packs an appreciable artistic wallop and is a welcome return to circulation.

The intriguingly titled Things to Come From Those Now Gone is a hodgepodge of an album with varying combinations of musicians producing work that ranges from the weirdly bad to the astonishingly beautiful. Abrams is often at his best when he simply allows his deep melodic sense to take over and, on the opening duo with flutist Wallace McMillan as well as "Ballad for Old Souls," a trio for piano, bass, and vibes, the haunting, nostalgic effect is lovingly realized. Following a brief, delirious horn blowout is one of the oddest things Abrams ever recorded, a feature for singer Ella Jackson, who wavers off pitch so aggravatingly that it can make the listener leap for the volume control. Then again, it's possible that she's merely singing the piece the way the composer intended. If so, it's a lugubrious art song indeed. "1 and 4 Plus 2 and 7" is the kind of overly dry, academic sounding exercise that Abrams would return to often in his career. But then comes the closer, "March of the Transients." There may not be a single better example of "freebop" as practiced by members of the AACM than this amazing composition. A rip-roaring head, strutting proudly for all it's worth, is fleshed out by a string of utterly outstanding, on-the-mark solos, all impelled onward by the glorious drums of Wilbur Campbell. It's a performance that any bop master would be proud of and brought off with a sparkle and energy sorely lacking in most mid-'70s boppers. This track alone makes the album a must-buy; were the remainder of the disc as great, Things to Come From Those Now Gone would be an all-time classic.

I have often found the work of Muhal Richard Abrams uneven. The best of it floors me and some of it goes right by, but it is almost always engaging and the musical intelligence and integrity involved are impeccable. Things to Come From Those Now Gone has a lot of variety, from the opening duo between Abrams’ piano and Edwin Daugherty’s flute to a couple of high-energy quintet killers. Abrams’ impressionistic side is in evidence on a few tracks, and it’s this aspect of his music I have grown to appreciate over the years. The differing styles and approaches balance each other convincingly. The one track I don’t care for is the vehicle for singer Ella Jackson, but overall this one ranks with Abrams’ best

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