Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1978 - Lifea Blinec

Muhal Richard Abrams
Lifea Blinec

01. Bud P.(Dedicated To Bud Powell) 7:52
02. Lifea Blinec 10:02
03. Ja Do Thu (Dedicated To Jarman, Douglas & Thurman) 8:19
04. Duo 1 8:18
05. Duo 2 5:01

Clarinet [Bb, Bass], Flute, Bassoon, Saxophone [Soprano, Alto, Tenor], Flute [African], Percussion, Voice – Douglas Ewart
Drums [Trap], Percussion, Marimba, Timpani, Bells – Thurman Barker
Piano, Percussion, Voice – Amina Claudine Myers
Saxophone [Soprano, Alto, Bass], Voice, Bassoon, Clarinet [Alto], Flute, Percussion – Joseph Jarman

Recorded and mixed at Streeterville Recording Studio, Chicago--February, 1978

Muhal Richard Abrams headed one of his finest small combos on this intense quintet session from 1978. Joseph Jarman provided riveting bass saxophone and bassoon contributions in addition to playing alto clarinet, flute, soprano sax, percussion and vocals. His multiple contributions were matched by Douglas Ewart on an equal array of reed instruments, including bass and soprano clarinet, bassoon, alto and tenor sax and percussion. Abrams divided his time between keyboards, conducting and percussion, while Amina Claudine Myers was also on hand adding vibrant, bluesy riffs and statements. Thurman Barker took care of drum duties and doubled on percussion.

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1978 - 1-OQA+19

Muhal Richard Abrams

01. Charlie In The Parker 9:05
02. Balladi 9:07
03. Arhythm Song 8:53
04. OQA 6:58
05. RITOB 7:49

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Voice [Right Channel] – Henry Threadgill
Bass, Voice – Leonard Jones
Drums, Percussion, Voice – Steve McCall
Piano, Voice, Synthesizer – Muhal Richard Abrams
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Voice [Left Channel] – Anthony Braxton

Recorded in November-December 1977 at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.

Muhal Richard Abrams hasn't presided over many small combos with a more imposing lineup than on this 1977 session. Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill played numerous instruments from alto, tenor and soprano saxes to flutes and clarinets, even adding background vocals. Fiery percussionist Steve McCall and bassist Leonard Jones, who also added some vocals, completed the lineup. The unit made demanding, harmonically dense and rhythmically unpredictable material, with Braxton's scurrying solos ably matched by Threadgill's bluesier lines and Abrams' leadership and inventive blend of jazz, blues, and other sources holding things together.

Chicago-born pianist Muhal Richard Abrams was already 47 when this LP was recorded in New York in the deep midwinter of 1977, and it showcases a musician for whom the phrase scarily multi-talented barely scrapes the air floating above the very toppermost of the surface. Largely self-taught, his compositions are able to be utterly beautiful while existing on the very edge of extreme chaos. If you had to categorise 1-OQA+19 you'd say it was free jazz, but you might as well say it was inspired by the sound of a terrified wolf fighting an angry badger, or a man with trumpet stuffed up his jumper falling face-first down a glass well: none of it means anything, really.

What is clear is that there is an exultant, endlessly expressive energy at work here and, really, the best any of us can possibly hope to do is press play on the opening track Charlie in the Parker and try to hold onto something solid as every instrument explodes into life simultaneously. Arhythm Songy takes a Thelonious Monk-like piano melody and smashes it to pieces just because it can – it's like someone unlearning everything they've ever been taught about music in an attempt to get back to what it was about the art form they liked in the first place. You can't do anything to 1-OQA+19: don't try and stick it on before you pull the Marigolds on and get stuck into the washing up, not unless you want to have a lot of broken crockery and bent forks on your hands. Ritob dances with a fiery exuberance, its hips disintegrating and dislocating wildly as it goes; then there's Oqa which considers how "laws are connected with the motion of the cosmic body, the sun, the planets and the signs of the zodiac", which we all knew anyway, right? But it's nice to have someone layer it on with rumbling bass and acidic, shape-shifting analogue synth whispers. If you were looking to score a short film called Oh Dear, I Appear To Have Lost the Delicate Balance of My Mind then, frankly, this would be a great place to start.

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1976 - Sightsong

Muhal Richard Abrams

01. W. W. 4:57
02. J. G. 5:35
03. Sightsong 6:18
04. Two Over One 6:16
05. Way Way Way Down Yonder 5:28
06. Panorama 5:59
07. Unity 5:14

Bass, Percussion, Vocals – Malachi Favors
Piano, Composed By – Muhal Richard Abrams

1 - Dedicated to Wilbur Ware
2 - Dedicated to Johnny Griffin
7 - Dedicated to the AACM

Recorded October 13-14/1975 at Generation Sound Studios, New York.

The reputation of members of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), of which Abrams is a founding member, has long been one of adventurous, dangerous, and difficult music. But in fact, much of the music created out of this organization shows enormous appreciation of the blues and earlier jazz forms. Sightsong is a splendid case in point. The album opens with four duets (two dedicated to Chicago legends Wilbur Ware and Johnny Griffin) which have a swing, a groove, and a delicacy that no fan of "straight-ahead" jazz could ignore. Favors, always one of the great underrated bassists in the music, provides a thick, soulful pulse and solos with huge imagination while Abrams always stays within the song's parameters which provide ample room for his creativity. As fine as these more "traditional" numbers are, the standout piece is perhaps Favors' solo feature, the wonderfully titled "Way Way Way Down Yonder." Opening with what sounds like the riffled pages of a book, Favors then states the deep, bluesy theme with strutting authority and proceeds through one of the richest investigations of the string bass the listener is ever likely to hear. Sightsong is one of Abrams's finest recordings and is also perhaps the best showcase for Malachi Favors' talents outside of his seminal work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

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

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1975 - Afrisong

Muhal Richard Abrams 

01. Afrisong 5:03
02. The Infinite Flow 5:55
03. Peace On You 7:35
04. Hymns To The Last 4:30
05. Roots 3:56
06. Blues For M. 3:44
07. The New People 10:11

Piano, Composed By – Muhal Richard Abrams

Recorded September 9, 1975 at Universal Recording Studios, Chicago. Comes with pictorial insert in Japanese

One of the most beautiful albums ever recorded by this legendary AACM pianist! The album was a rare Japanese-only session from 1975, but recorded in Chicago — and it features Muhal playing solo in beautifully warm spiritual tones that are very different from his playing on many other albums from the time. The work is wonderfully introspective, showing a whole new side to Abrams’ genius the sensitive, contemplative keyboardist who occasionally emerges during some of Abrams’ larger group sessions, but who usually gets pushed back in the fray of larger instrumental interplay. The whole album’s extremely beautiful, and it’s darn near impossible to find in the original! Tracks include “Afrisong”, “The Infinitive Flow”, “Hymn To The East”, “Roots”, and “The New People”.

Muhal Richard Abrams seamlessy blended elements of stride, bebop, blues, and free music on this collection of solo piano pieces recorded in 1975 for the Japanese label Trio/Whynot. It was also available briefly on India Navigation. Top numbers included “Hymn to the East,” “Blues For M” and the title track. It was also a chance for Abrams to display his instrumental facility and underrated keyboard skills, which often take a back seat to his arranging, compositions and bandleading.

Muhal Richard Abrams - 1970 - Young At Heart & Wise in Time

Muhal Richard Abrams
Young At Heart & Wise in Time

01. Young At Heart
02. Wise In Time

Alto Saxophone – Henry Threadgill
Bass – Lester Lashley
Percussion – Thurman Barker
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Leo Smith
Piano – Richard Abrams

Recorded at Sound Studios in 1969.  usa

The spring of 1969, when this album was recorded, was at the end of a most intense period for Muhal Richard Abrams and his associates. Four years earlier they had formed the cooperative Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The AACM's initial objective was simple enough: To produce concerts, at a time when the jazz world in general and in Chicago in particular were struggling through an economic recession. Very quickly, it was clear that something larger was happening, for these were exceptional musicians whom Abrams had taught, nurtured, goaded. It's as if the jazz revolution begun by Ornette Coleman had lit a fuse that stretched a thousand miles, from New York to the south side of Chicago, to set off four years of fireworks.

Muhal Richard Abrams, as the founder of the AACM in Chicago, has been one of the unsung leaders of the avant-garde ever since the mid-'60s. A versatile pianist, Abrams is heard in two different settings on this, his second session as a leader. "Young at Heart" finds him stretching out on a solo piano performance that hints at earlier styles while exploring the potential sounds and silence of free jazz. Wise in Time has Abrams functioning as part of an explorative quintet with trumpeter Leo Smith and altoist Henry Threadgill, both of whom were unknown youngsters at the time. Fascinating music, it is recommended strictly for the open-eared listener who does not demand that all jazz swing conventionally.

Muhal Richard Abrams has never really gotten the attention nor respect he deserves, at least outside of the Chicago jazz scene. Maybe it's because he's so difficult to pigeonhole, leaping as he does from numerous camps and mixing everything from late modernism to gospel into one glorious whole. Maybe it's his steadfast refusal to sell out and dumb down his compositions. Maybe, as critic Gary Giddins has surmised, it's his somewhat exotic first name that frightens people off. Whatever the case, the man is a giant and deserves the reputation so many contemporary jazz artists grant him. This 1969 album consists of only two tracks, both lengthy explorations of opposite ends of the New Sound in jazz. 'Young At Heart' is a thirty minute improvistion on solo piano, in which Abrams touches upon ragtime and stride along with the louder bursts of atonality and lyrical passages of great beauty. It's an amazing accomplishment. 'Wise In Time' is a bit more difficult, a twenty-minute explosion of noise, featuring two players who would go on to become giants in their own right - Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet (here just going as Leo Smith), and Henry Threadgill on alto. A truly wonderful album, blessed with intelligence, energy, beauty and variety.