Monday, July 31, 2017

Julius Hemphill - 1978 - Raw Materials and Residuals

Julius Hemphill 
1978 -
Raw Materials and Residuals



01. C
02. Mirrors
03. Long Rhythm
04. Plateau
05. G Song

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Julius Hemphill
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Percussion – Dougoufana Famoudou Môyè (Don Moye)

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



One of the great titles in the modern jazz chronology, Hemphill utilizes raw materials of iron-wrought bop, hard-edged but swinging rough-cut diamonds, and the red clay of improvisation, which produce a residual effect going well beyond the mainstream of jazz, but stay this side of chaotic inflammations. Hemphill calls it "vigor to reflection to vigor," an apt description for the deep well of unfiltered ore mined by the alto saxophonist, cellist Abdul Wadud and multiple percussionist Famoudou Don Moye on this set. These five tracks, all composed by Hemphill, breathe with the vitality of a raging bull, yet are smart and centered in traditional jazz language. The supercharged free bop opener "C" roars with delight, as Hemphill adopts a stance quite reminiscent of Charlie Parker in its fluidity, originality and unabashed viscosity, never breaking down. Washes of cymbals, louder than the other two musicians, take "Mirrors" into a different realm altogether, cello and sax fighting for their space, and succeeding especially as it initiates a free excursion. A unison line during "Long Rhythm" leads to an easy swinging theme, and showcases Hemphill's tart, sweet sound while a forward-moving idea is pushed by Moye. More serene and spatial is "Plateau," with many themes ebbing and flowing in and out, accented by some overblown harmonics from Hemphill. The leader switches to soprano for "G Song," which features a bluesy cello groove by Wadud, flavored by Oriental modalities and a sweeter sound from Hemphill. Moye's arsenal of "little" percussion instruments -- bike horns, duck calls, woodblock, bells, whistles, etc. -- is displayed in a free section that has to be heard; there's no apt way to describe the pure, unadulterated improvisation that is also eminently listenable and in a way, quite humorous. This could be the best Hemphill recording, save perhaps Blue Boye. The economy of the trio, and their utter brilliance, brings out the best in Hemphill, and stands as a landmark recording in the second wave avant-garde movement of the '70s.

Julius Hemphill - 1977 - Blue Boye

Julius Hemphill 
1977 
Blue Boye



01. Countryside 10:07
02. Hotend 12:30
03. OK Rubberband 9:23
04. Antecedent 8:16
05. Kansas City Line 8:43
06. C.M.E. 11:31
07. Dirty Row 7:52
08. Homeboy Tootin' At The Dog/Star 9:11

Julius Hemphill, alto and soprano saxophones, flute, percussion

Recorded January 1977 at Mayhew Street Studios, Larchmont, NY


Julius Hemphill was the original leader of the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ). He is also remembered for his extraordinary recordings with his own sextet, and for his work with the cellist Abdul Wadud to mention only some of his accomplishments. Hemphill died of diabetes in 1995.

Screwgun Records, a small label operated by the saxophonist Tim Berne, has recently released an early recording (1977) of Hemphill's entitled: Blue Boye.
This is a 2CD set of solo, and layered solo work, of this master musician/composer who accompanies himself on a variety of instruments. Hemphill is most known for his alto and soprano saxophone work. On this CD he also plays flute, and at times accompanies himself with clapping, hand percussion, and voice. "Accompanies" doesn't do justice to the duet and sometimes small ensemble feel of the music.

It is likely that Hemphill will ultimately be recognized as a major 20th century jazz musician and composer. With this in mind, "Blue Boye" is an invaluable addition to recorded jazz, but Screwgun Records can be thanked for releasing this CD set for more than historical reasons. Not only is it a quirky portrait of an American master early in his career, but it is also startling jazz.

Those who are familiar with Hemphill?s saxophone virtuosity ranging from blues to bebop and far beyond will be on familiar ground. But the listener will also be treated to a flute/voice solo that slides jazz into slapstick comedy. The opening solo, alto cut on the second disc, 'Kansas City Line,' is alone worth the price of admission. Soulful, bluesy, subtle, and complex are adjectives I associate with Hemphill and this wonderful disc set only deepens my admiration for one of the truly great figures of modern jazz.

By Mike Neely (All About Jazz)

Julius Hemphill - 1975 - Coon Bid'ness

Julius Hemphill
1975
Coon Bid'ness



01. Reflections 2:30
02. Lyric 7:24
03. Skin 1 10:07
04. Skin 2 2:28
05. The Hard Blues 20:07

Alto Saxophone – Black Arthur Blythe (tracks: A1 to A4)
Alto Saxophone, Composed By – Julius Hemphill
Baritone Saxophone – Hamiet Bluiett
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Congas – Daniel Ben Zebulon (tracks: A1 to A4)
Drums – Barry Altschul (tracks: A1 to A4)

The Hard Blues:
Drums – Philip Wilson
Engineer – Oliver Sain
Producer – Julius Hemphill
Trumpet – Baikida E. J. Carroll

Side A recorded on January 29,1975 at C.I. Studios, New York City.
Side B recorded in February 1972 at Archway Studios, St. Louis, Missouri.



Takes a little bit to get going, but once it does, you're dealing with some furiously playful avant-garde jazz. On side one, Hemphill fronts a sextet that includes Arthur Blythe (playing alto sax but only in the left channel, Hemphill's alto is in the center), Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax, ABdul Wadud on cello, Barry Altschul on drums and Daneil Ben Zebulon on congas. Together, they can make quite a racket. "Reflections" and "Lyric" start the LP off with some loosely intertwined saxophones. There's no rhythm, and it's hard to tell how much was composed and how little direction was given beforehand, but it holds my interest alright. They feel a little like a warm-up for the last 3/4 of the record, which feature some flat out amazing ensemble performances. "Skin 1" and "Skin 2" are both incredible compositions. The low-end is taken up entirely by Wadud's cello, which is both bowed and plucked throughout and lays down a sick groove with Altschul in the beginning (someone should sample it if they haven't already) and the heads are like off-kilter dissonant saxophone harmonies that bring to mind Zappa with a pinch of RIO blended with jazz. There's lots of collective improv and total freedom and all that good stuff, and then side two is taken up by "The Hard Blues" (apt title), a recording from 1972. The lineup is different (Hemphill, Wadud, and Bluiett remain, Philip Wilson replaces Altschul on drums and Baikida E J Carroll plays trumpet) but it's just as impressive as the other group. It's a slow but exciting take on the blues, with more awesome repeated cello 'riffs' and individual solos taking place, unfortunately the recording quality is quite poor. Excellent stuff, comes highly recommended for anyone interested in avant-garde jazz.

Julius Hemphill - 1972 - Dogon A.D

Julius Hemphill
1972 
Dogon A.D.



01. Dogon A.D. 14:30
02. Rites 8:07
03. The Painter 15:00
04. The Hard Blues 20:07

Cello – Abdul K. Wadud
Percussion – Philip Wilson
Saxophone, Flute – Julius Hemphill
Trumpet – Baikaida Yaseen
Baritone Saxophone – Hamiet Bluiett on track 4

Recorded at Archway Studios, St. Louis, MO in February 1972.



Julius Arthur Hemphill (January 24, 1938 – April 2, 1995) was a jazz composer and saxophone player. He performed mainly on alto saxophone, less often on soprano and tenor saxophones and flute

Hemphill was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and attended I.M. Terrell High School (as did Ornette Coleman). He studied the clarinet with John Carter, another I.M. Terrell alumnus, before learning saxophone. Gerry Mulligan was an early influence. Hemphill joined the United States Army in 1964, and served for several years, and later performed with Ike Turner for a brief period. In 1968, Hemphill moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and co-founded the Black Artists' Group (BAG), a multidisciplinary arts collective that brought him into contact with artists such as saxophonists Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett, trumpeters Baikida Carroll and Floyd LeFlore, and writer/director Malinke Robert Elliott.

Hemphill moved to New York City in the mid-1970s, and was active in the then-thriving free jazz community. He gave saxophone lessons to a number of musicians, including David Sanborn and Tim Berne. Hemphill was probably best known as the founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, a group he formed in 1976, after collaborating with Anthony Braxton in several saxophone-only ensembles. Hemphill left the World Saxophone Quartet in the early 1990s, and formed a saxophone quintet.

Hemphill recorded over twenty albums as a leader, about ten records with the World Saxophone Quartet and recorded or performed with Björk, Bill Frisell, Anthony Braxton and others. Late in his life, ill-health (including diabetes and heart surgery) forced Hemphill to stop playing saxophone, but he continued writing music until his death in New York City. His saxophone sextet, led by Marty Ehrlich, also released several albums of Hemphill's music, but without Hemphill playing. The most recent is entitled The Hard Blues, recorded live in Lisbon after Hemphill's death.

A source of information on Hemphill's life and music is a multi-hour oral history interview that he conducted for the Smithsonian Institution in March and April 1994, and which is held at the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

A seminal session from the St Louis scene of the early 70s – one that was humming nearly as much as Chicago was with the AACM at the time! As with the larger organization in the Windy City, St Louis had the Black Artists Group – of which Julius Hemphill was a key member, forming fresh new ideas in improvisatory jazz with players who went onto have an undeniable impact on the global scene as well. This album's one of the standout recordings of the Black Artists era at its best – a record produced by Hemphill, but equally balanced between his own alto and flute, the trumpet of Baikida Carroll, cello of Abdul Wadud, and drums of Phillip Wilson – plus a bit of added baritone from Haimet Bluiett. The rhythms are quite open, but there's also a nice sense of structure to the record too – a bridge between spiritual and free jazz that prefaces the impact that both Hemphill and Bluiett would have on the New York loft jazz generation. 

From the very first notes of this album, you know that something special is taking place. The cello of Abdul Wadud brings a repetitive theme, supported by some energetic drumming by Philip Wilson, with Hemphill and Baikida Carroll on sax and trumpet playing the main theme. After a minute or so Carroll drops away and Hemphill starts with a magical sax solo. Wadud and Wilson relentlessly continue with their hypnotic basis, sometimes only playing parts of it, yet keeping it implicitly present at all times. After about 13 minutes the piece changes and the contrapuntal interplay between the cello on the one hand and the sax and trumpet on the other hand leads to a climactic finale. "Dogon A.D." is phenomenal in the simplicity of its form and the power and creativity of its performance. "Rites", the second number, starts with strong interplay of the four band members, who quickly pursue their own lines without loosing focus of the whole. "Painter" brings Hemphill on flute. This CD is an absolute must for all jazz fans. It is unfortunately impossible to get in stores anymore, and it is very hard to understand that it was never brought out on CD.

Hüseyin Ertunç Trio - 1970 - Mûsikî

Hüseyin Ertunç Trio 
1970 
Mûsikî


01. Creator Spaces                             08:45    
02. More Beautiful Vibrations From The Creator     12:45    
03. Space On Space                             20:45

Recorded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1970.

Michael Cosmic, alto & sopranino saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, piccolo, organ, percussion
Phil Musra, tenor & soprano saxophone, flute, zurna, clarinet, percussion
Hüseyin Ertunç, drums


Monster free jazz private press lp entitled Musiki by The Huseyin Ertunc Trio.It is an original pressing on Intex Records out of Bayside New York.This is a Classic Cosmic free jazz improv lp from the mid 70s and has never been legitimately reissued in any format! Truly Killer Out There jams!Has at times an arabic trance vibe. 

To give you an idea as to where these guys where coming from;here's a taste of the liner notes: 'In now listening shant's moving those whom hear lights outside too's numerous willing towards all spirits roundm's form above thy one's insides space carry animal't surface in reflect placement..."

A new world of improvisational freedom opened up for me when I first heard drummer Huseyin Ertunç's 1970 LP Musiki (Intex), with reedmen/multi-instrumentalists/brothers Phill Musra and Michael Cosmic. Ertunç returned to his native Turkey about twenty years ago (and performs with the Konstrukt collective), but Musra - this tune's composer - now resides in Los Angeles and, as regular readers of this blog know, is still active in music. Although I initially assumed that Musiki and Musra's companion LP The Creator Spaces were recorded at the same session, in truth Musiki was recorded months earlier. The Creator Spaces is a bit more spacious than Ertunç's date, though both are quite intense documents of self-produced and spiritually-directed improvisation. Knotty and weird, there's a folksy unhinged-ness that really spoke to me in a way quite different from Albert Ayler, the AACM, and other music I was spending time with when I dropped the needle on the trio's debut album. Ertunç's percussion work really shocked me and it's still absolutely fascinating (as you'll hear below), and Cosmic's organ playing behind/around Musra's tenor is just... something else. A CD reissue was floating around a few years ago and can probably still be procured.

Echo Del Africa National - 1976 - Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso

Echo Del Africa National 
1976 
Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso


01. Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso
02. Récit Historique De Bobo Dioulasso Suite


Epic and political story of the former Upper-Volta -now Burkina Faso- region of Bobo Dioulasso from its historical origins to the Independence. Told in French, Dioula and Bambara by Youssouf Diara accompanied by the Echo Del Africa band, one of the best bands of the time. Tracks are not listed but the styles range from deep Manding blues to some wild rockin' Voltaique tracks. Hard to find in good condition!

As strong as any single in Echo Del Africa’s catalog might have been, they would collectively serve as training for the group’s magnum opus, Récit Historique de Bobo-Dioulasso. Inspired by Bembeya Jazz National’s Regard Sur Le Passé, Echo Del Africa’s musical testimonial would give the emboldened troupe a chance to tell the history of their nation and their people from their own unique perspective, live onstage, for both rural and cosmopolitan audiences across the region. “It is our duty,” stated José Thiono-By on the album jacket, “to give the best of ourselves, hands in hands, in union and fraternity, in order to ensure the continuity of our Upper Volta, forever liberated.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Electric City

Bob Downes 
1970 
Electric City



01. No time like the present
02. Keep off the grass
03. Don't let tomorrow get you down
04. Dawn until dawn
05. Go find time
06. Walking on
07. Crush hour
08. West II
09. In your eyes
10. Piccadilly circles
11. Gonna take a journey

Bass – Daryl Runswick, Harry Miller, Herbie Flowers
Congas – Robin Jones
Drums – Alan Rushton, Clem Cattini, Dennis Smith
Flugelhorn – Bud Parks, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr
Flute [Concert Flutes], Performer [Bedee], Vocals, Woodwind [Mouthpieces], Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Bob Downes
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Ray Russell
Trumpet – Bud Parks, Harry Beckett, Ian Carr, Kenny Wheeler, Nigel Carter



Flutist / composer Bob Downes is one of the most creative and innovative figures on the British Jazz scene, with a wide scope of cross-genre contributions from contemporary Classical Music via Jazz and Jazz-Rock to Free Jazz and Improvised Music. Downes was an integral part of the late 1960s / early 1970s revolution, that emerged in British and European Jazz, emancipating it from years of American influence and domination, and participated in numerous seminal recordings made during that period. His many activities were usually executed under the loosely defined umbrella name of Open Music, which varied from a trio to a large ensemble and as the name suggests was completely free from any stylistic or genre restrictions. After recording several albums for mainstream record labels in his early days, Downes created his own record label, called Openian Records, on which he releases his projects, being one of the first musicians to do so. By the early 1980s Downes moved to Germany, where he lives and continues his work today. This incredible album presents Downes as a composer of Jazz-Rock oriented shorter pieces, packed with energy and intricate arrangements. The list of participating musicians is awe inspiring, with some of the most illustrious musicians on the scene at the time, like trumpeters Kenny Wheeler, Ian Carr and Harold Beckett, guitarist Chris Spedding and Ray Russell, bassist Harry Miller and many others. The music is brilliant, breathtaking and captivating. The virtuosic performances are ample expressions of the underlying musical currents and once immersed in the magic sound, the listener is completely absorbed and mesmerized. They don't make music like this any more, that's for sure. Brilliant stuff!

Released on the legendary Vertigo "swirl" label, Electric City was one of the wilder and more obscure issues of the famous 6360 series. But if I say wild and obscure, it is nothing compared to his later works in the mid-70's, as here the music is very accessible resembling some kind of brass rock, as the cast of guest on Bob's first album is an impressive who's who of Phillips-related musicians, pictured assembled on the inner gatefold. The outer gate-fold presents a wild collage electronic devices, wild psychedelic colors and Downes in full action, the whole thing permeating a white dummy head; stunning, especially once you'll be that white face

Made of short tracks (except the closing opus), the album has splendid up-tempo rhythms, juicy horn arrangements, great virtuoso musicianship and acceptable vocals. Yup, Downes' vocals are not the main asset of this album yet, Bob's lyrics (all his except for the opening No Time like The Present, which is from poet Robert Cockburn, foreseeing their collab of Deep Down Heavy) are always interesting, but let's face it, we want his flute and sax and he doesn't disappoint. Indeed the fabulous Keep Off The Grass, Dawn Until Dawn (where Downes shows his passion for sax as well), the pedestrian Walkin' On (Bob goes nuts on the sax), the tense Crush Hour, the explosive Piccadilly Circles (waaaah, the pun) and its direct continuity into the lengthy (7-mins+) Gonna Take A Journey, which plunges into free improvs.

Other titles are more R'nB, like Don't Let Tommorrow, Go Find Time, and the bossa nova West II (the worst track of the album, even if saved by a high-flying sax solo) are less enthralling, but all remain high energy. Although we are in full brass-rock delire with this album, it never gets cheesy or pompous or bombastic as BS&T. No we're facing some of the best of the genre, right up with Brainchild, Galliard and a few more.

Although Electric City is a fine album, one that epitomizes his first three efforts, it sounds NOTHING like the later works of his. But this one is definitely worth a shot and should be the introduction to Downes' world of sounds.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Deep Down Heavy

Bob Downes 
1970 
Deep Down Heavy



01. Too Late
02. Day Dream
03. Walking On
04. The Wrong Bus
05. Popular Cheam
06. Don't Let Tomorrow Get You Down
07. Jasmine
08. Got No Home
09. We All Enter In
10. Thebes Blues
11. Hollow Moment

Bass – Harry Millar
Design – Jack Wood
Drums – Allan Rushton, Derek Hogs, Laurie Allan
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Peter Billam, Ray Russell
Vocals [Poetry Reading], Lyrics By – Robert Cockburn
Vocals, Saxophone, Flute, Music By – Bob Downes



Among the unlikeliest anomalies to have seeped from the fringes of Britain’s avant-garde jazz-rock scene, 1970’s Deep Down Heavy was originally issued, unthinkably, on the Music For Pleasure label. MFP relied upon cut-price, cutthroat reissues and moribund MOR for its desultory bread and butter, yet here it was, surreal offering an outlet for flutist/ saxophonist Bob Downes and an unruly ensemble of like-minded noisemakers (not least guitarist Chris Spedding).
The album “budget”, such as it was, probably struggled to limp into a single figure, but this turned out to be a long-term gain. Mostly recorded in London’s Conway Hall – very quickly indeed – it bristles with brassy, scratchy, first-take belligerence (Thebes Blues, Walking On, Too Late). Downes had the musicians face each other in a circle, focusing their energies inwards; engineers John Boyden and Anton Kwiatkowsky, habituated to classical recordings, deployed an insufficient number of microphones, resulting in a monumentally exciting sonic fracas. The drums in particular benefit hugely from the hall’s natural reverb, cannonading off the back wall, while the overall mystery murk compares very favourably with The Plastic People Of The Universe and Brainticket.
The band performances are interspersed with audio-vérité “field recordings” of the cheerfully peculiar Downes playing his bamboo flute on both the London Underground and a double-decker.

A rough 'n' ready excursion into the murkier realms of British psychedelia, this underrated little gem seems to get a rough deal these days, mainly thanks to it's rushed, low-budget production and the gritty, almost Altman-esq sound quality. Issued in 1970 on the EMI-backed Music For Pleasure imprint, 'Deep Down Heavy' was one of three albums issued during 1970 by jazz-flautist Bob Downes, the others being 'Open Music' and the high-brow sounding 'Bob Downes New Sounds For Flute, Percussion & Synthesizers'. Of the three, this curious psych-jazz relic is perhaps the strongest, with Downes showing off his impressive flute and saxophone skills over a series of deeply-psychedelic, blues-tinged jams. Also involved is poet buddy Robert Cockburn, who adds some very gritty vocals, and rising young guitarist Chris Spedding, who seemed to be everywhere during this time, fresh from stints with both Nucleus and Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments to name but a couple. To put it bluntly, 'Deep Down Heavy' is a product of it's time, very much a lost relic from a bygone age. But that's exactly what makes it so fascinating. From the rough opening blasts of the hard-rockin' 'Too Late', to the hazy bad-trip psychedelia of the hypnotic closer 'Circus Rising', this is an album that cooks with a raw, fuzzy, late night power perfectly summed up by the album's title. It's an ambiance that is maintained throughout, with surreal background noises and strange instrumental interludes adding to the already highly mystical feel, but this is very much Downes baby and it is he who dominates, pulling off some scintillating solo's on both flute and saxophone. The mixture of deeply-trippy cosmic jamming, edgy blues riffs and druggy jazz breaks exists to serve his improvised displays, and to a lesser extent vice-versa, the lo-fi sound quality only heightening the whole late-sixties vibe. This is certainly for those with a penchant for obscure psych relics, and this writer is confident that if you take a chance on 'Deep Down Heavy' you won't be disappointed. A real curio from the heart of the sixties, it doesn't really get any more underground than this.

Bob Downes - 1970 - Open Music

Bob Downes 
1970 
Open Music



01. Dream Journey
02. Birth Of A Forest
03. Integration
04. Contract
05. Ghosts In Space
06. Desert Haze
07. Electric City

Alto Saxophone, Flute [Alto, Bamboo], Saxophone [Mouthpieces], Tam-tam [Small] – Bob Downes
Bass – Harry Miller (tracks: B1 to B6)
Concert Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Bells [Chinese]– Bob Downes
Drums – Dennis Smith, John Stevens
Guitar – Chris Spedding (tracks: B1 to B6)

On Track 1:
Baritone Saxophone – John Warren
Flute – Jim Gregory
Performer [Acetate Paper] – Bob Downes
Tam-tam – Dennis Smith
Tenor Saxophone – Clive Stevens
Timpani, Vibraphone, Tam-tam [Large], Finger Cymbals – Derek Hogg
Trombone – Chris Pine
Trumpet – Butch Hudson, Henry Lowther, Nigel Carter



Bob Downes was a well-known "studio rat" or a "session man" that played on many 60's records, from MANFRED MANN to ANDWELLA'S DREAM (and later on EGG); and his fantastic flute was second to JETHRO TULL's Ian Anderson only. By the turn of the decade, he had decided to try his own luck and 1970 was a particularly fruitful year for him: 2 full solo album and one collaboration. Released on the legendary Vertigo swirl label, Electric City was a strange album between avant-garde jazz and hard rock. The album failed to sell and by the time Bob Downes was ready to record his second album, Phillips had demoted him to their "normal" label (only GRACIOUS suffered the same treatment). Actually "Open Music" came out as his more successful release and has been a collector item for years, now. 

The same year, Bob Downes also released a wild album called "Deep Down Heavy" (and its spectacular artwork) with poet Robert Cockburn reading out his text, making another unusual record. 

None of the three albums sold enough for Downes to keep trying out his solo stint. Comes then a gap where I guess he returned to studio sessions for the next couple of years, most likely appearing on avant-garde jazz albums. This in turn led him to be noticed by some Modern Artistic Dance companies and in 72, he was commissioned for two "dance" project. Forming his own trio OPEN MUSIC, named after his more successful album, "Diversion" proved an interesting release where jazz-rock alternated with free form music, while the catastrophic "Episodes At 4AM" (74), which was a Welsh project, filled with obtuse free-form music. The following year saw Downes release "Hell's Angels", then later "Dawn Dreams", "South American Journey" and "Inside Stonehenge", before taking a long break. 

Bob Downes moved to the continent in the late 80's and is now currently based in Germany, and continues to perform as a solo artiste, playing during the execution of paintings and art exhibitions running flute workshops and releasing the odd album now and then, such as 93's "Dreams of Nature".

Open Music was Bob Downes' debut album, recorded for the Philips label in 1969 and his impact on the UK scene was such that he was voted top place in the flute category of the Melody Maker jazz poll's British musician section for three consecutive years from 1972. It has until now never been reissued on CD and rare vinyl copies have attracted high sums in second-hand markets. Although Downes is best known for his flute playing, he is a genuine multi-instrumentalist, playing no fewer than seven instruments on this album, including the less conventional, acetate paper. 

The recording's centerpiece is "Dream Journey." The piece— which received its premiere by Ballet Rambert on November 27, 1969 in London—runs just over twenty minutes. Divided into two parts, the first eleven minutes of the track are devoted to flute and percussion, with special emphasis on the sporadic, dramatic interspersions of timpani. The whole piece is very cinematic and reflects music of a more classical nature, but the second half is considerably more jazz informed. The ensemble sax sections are dynamically engaging, underpinned by acoustic bass and drums building to repeated crescendos with Downes providing an exciting flute solo. 

The next five tracks are either solo flute, flute and drums, or flute, drums, and bass. These largely improvised tracks are predominantly quiet, ruminative pieces dominated by Downes' intricate flute. However, "Ghosts in Space" is more structured with a strangely hypnotic head defined by flute, arco bass, and drums, while the middle collective improvisation section is enlivened by Downes screaming in the noisier parts. The final track, "Electric City" which was to give its name to a succeeding album, recorded by Downes for Vertigo (1970), is effectively a jazz-rock piece. Again, Downes inserts some scat singing—or more accurately, shouting—all against a backdrop of ostinato bass guitar, Chris Spedding's unmistakable guitar work, and wild multi-tracked saxophones, all conjuring up an exciting mêlée of sound. This album surely explains Downes high-ranking in the Melody Maker polls. Open Music is an unusual and innovative collection of flute mastery.