Friday, October 13, 2017

Frank Wright - 2006 - Unity

Frank Wright 

01. Unity, Pt.1 27:28
02. Unity, Pt.2 28:00

Frank Wright — Sax (Tenor)
Bobby Few — Piano
Alan Silva — Bass
Muhammad Ali — Drums

Recorded June 1st, 1974, Moers Festival.

One of the great free jazz tenor saxophonists, Frank Wright was a high-energy player with a large tone and a style that made him often sound possessed. On this previously unissued ESP set, he is joined by pianist Bobby Few (who during the latter part of the set hints at his roots in more mainstream jazz), the virtuosic bassist Alan Silva and the powerful drummer Muhammad Ali at the 1974 Moers Jazz Festival. The two selections are continuous, never run out of intensity, and feature some intense playing, particularly from Wright and Ali. Free jazz collectors will definitely want this powerful performance

The late Frank Wright focused on one aspect of Albert Ayler's work and attempted to run with it, but energy alone, however, as Ayler understood, was not a foundation strong enough to build the kind of music that holds attention. Unity, a previously unissued release which documents a live performance by Wright's quartet at the Moers festival on June 1, 1974, is an apt case in point. This music seems to lose all sense of direction early on, resulting in a sprawling mess lacking the rigour which makes the music of the likes of Fred Anderson or Kidd Jordan, say, so compelling.
A few bars into his extended solo on "Unity Part 1, Wright is all over the proceedings, spewing out streams of notes without rhyme or reason and seemingly oblivious to the contributions of his bandmates. The results are as much a product of crude machismo as any higher concerns, and Wright's apparently spiritual approach to making music seems only like so much hyperbole.

The quality of the recording renders Alan Silva's bass inaudible for long passages. When he can be heard soloing, he at least alleviates the need to try and concentrate on what is essentially four voices engaging in a simultaneous primal scream. Pianist Bobby Few's work does provide some leavening in the bleak proceedings, and his solo on "Unity Part 1 is a model of light and shade in comparison to everything else, although when Wright marks its end by tootling on either harmonica or melodica, the music enters a realm of absurdity.

"Unity Part 2 opens with Wright imposing his will on what might have been a soprano sax. His efforts start at point A and falter badly long before he reaches point B, making the business of figuring out exactly what instrument it is just too much effort. The form of this part, such as it is, differs slightly from part one in the sense that some collective screaming gets a look in before Few puts in a spot of keyboard pounding that evokes visions of the crudest hoedown. Given the broader context this takes place in, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess as to whether or not it was an attempt at humour.

There was undoubtedly some kind of atmosphere shared between band and audience on this occasion, but unfortunately none of it has been preserved on Unity, any more than the fact that these musicians proved and have proven themselves capable of a whole lot more than the one trick on offer here.

Dave Burrell - 1970 - After Love

Dave Burrell 
After Love 

01. After Love, Part 1 : « Questions and Answers » 21:47
02. After Love, Part 2 : « Random » 7:06
03. My March 22:03

Recorded 1970 in Paris.

Roscoe Mitchell – Reeds
Alan Silva – Cello, Electric Cello, Violin
Dave Burrell – Piano
Ron Miller – Double Bass (1, 2), Mandolin
Michel Gladieux – Double Bass (3)
Bertrand Gauthier – Drums (1, 2)
Don Moye – Drums (3)

Pianist and composer Dave Burrell's After Love was the seventh release on the French America Records imprint, a label dedicated to recording the works of American expatriates in Europe. A vanguard label from the outset, it documented the work of players like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, and many others. After Love is made up of the title track -- a long 30-minute-composition in two parts -- and "March." The band is a compelling and provocative one. While Roscoe Mitchell is featured on reeds, there are two bass players -- Ron Miller (who also plays mandolin) and Michel Gladieux. Alan Silva, normally a bassist, plays cello, (electric and acoustic) and violin. Don Moye and Bertrand Gauthier make separate appearances on drums. What is immediately striking is the lack of the piano's sonic presence on the session. It's here everywhere, but Burrell is going for something else on "After Love," and that is textural and harmonic interaction of the various stringed instruments as they encounter and dialogue with each other. The drums are almost a constant thrumming beat. Incessant, varying little in dynamic and not at all in tempo throughout part one's nearly 22 minutes. Mitchell interacts with the strings as does Burrell, but the key improvisational and chromatic interplay is elsewhere. It's a breathtaking piece. Part two is moodier, introduced by Burrell and Mitchell with Silva's bowed droning cello offering the point of engagement. This section crawls and creeps to a softly whispered conclusion. "My March" is almost a mirror image of the title track. Rhythm doesn't even enter into the piece until nearly halfway through its 22 minutes. The slow tonal unraveling of the first half gives way to a an easy march, adorned by nearly breezy flutes, popping basslines, and spacious piano interludes. This is a fine offering showcasing where elements of formal 20th century composition meet the new jazz head-on and become something else altogether.

Pianist Dave Burrell has not received the acclaim he deserves despite actively pursuing his muse for over 40 years. Coming to prominence with the second wave of avant gardists, Burrell plays in a style that accommodates not only the New Thing but takes in the entire history of jazz going back to Jelly Roll Morton. He was the pianist of choice for Archie Shepp through most of the '70s and David Murray in the '80s-90s. The two discs at hand bracket his career and provide ample opportunity to hear this distinctive musician. 

After Love is from the legendary Parisian sessions of 1969-1970 that provided recording opportunities for many members of the American avant-garde (Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton a/o) who had temporarily settled in that more inviting city. Burrell produced three albums at this time of which After Love is arguably the best. The set consisted of three tracks: the title track (in two movements) and "My March . Part 1 opens with pulsating basses (Ron Miller and Michel Gladieux) and drums (Don Moye and Bernard Gauthier). Soon Roscoe Mitchell enters spitting tart sopranino sax lines, followed by Alan Silva, squeezing out sparks on his electric cello (he also plays violin and acoustic cello) and Burrell's rippling piano lines. All six musicians weave a dense fabric from which the various front line instruments emerge and recede. This is a distinctly African group concept: all instruments being equal with the hypnotic rhythm carrying the music along. 

The second section is primarily a ballad featuring Burrell, Mitchell on baritone sax and Silva on acoustic cello. Dark and moody, it's a satisfying counterpoint to part one. "My March opens with unaccompanied solos by Burrell, Mitchell and Silva before Moye starts a march rhythm and everyone follows in free jazz formation. Part of the reissue series of recordings from the French America label, this CD cleans up the sound from the original's horrible French pressing c. 1970 and holds up 40 years later as one of the best recordings of the free jazz diasporic period. 

Consequences brings the Dave Burrell story up to date. The disc almost seems like a homage to the Parisian era of 1969-70. Being comprised of five improvised duets with drummer Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin & Wood), recorded live in Philadelphia in 2005, Burrell takes off right from the git-go with his characteristic dense chords and sweeping glissandi up and down the keyboard (no one does this quite like Burrell). 

Martin is a resourceful partner, initially shadowing Burrell, providing him with an all-over barrage in which Burrell seems completely at home. Each of the five pieces have their own distinct character. Martin's extended kit gives Burrell a wide array of options. Perhaps the only regret is that Burrell couldn't coax Martin into playing his signature tune "A.M. Rag . That would have made it a complete concert. But as it stands Consequences shows Burrell's creativity still flowing freely.

Center Of The World - 1975 - Solos & Duets. Volume 7

Center Of The World 
Solos & Duets. Volume 7

01. Song for Cyrille, Children of Joy
02. El Torro
03. Unknown Step
04. Echo Send
05. Sound of A

Bass – Alan Silva
Piano – Bobby Few
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Voice – Frank Wright

A1 + A2 enregistrés en novembre 1975
A3 + B2 enregistrés en novembre 1975 à Reims
B1 enregistré en 1975

Center Of The World - 1975 - Solos & Duets. Volume 6

Center Of The World 
Solos & Duets. Volume 6

01. Grenada
02. Fondamental Blues One
03. Who Got The Keys?
04. We Have Found The Keys!

Bass – Alan Silva
Piano – Bobby Few
Tenor Saxophone – Frank Wright

1 recorded in Massy, January 1975.
2 recorded in Reims, November 1975.
3,4 recorded in Paris, April 1975.

Fans of Joseph Jarman and Famoudou Don Moye's Egwu-Anwu and Marion Brown's Duets albums, who want something with just a bit more edge (Wright seems to be chaneling Albert Ayler on his appearances during these sessions), will find plenty to love about these albums.

Center Of The World / Alan Silva - 1974 - Inner Song. Volume 5

Center Of The World / Alan Silva 
Inner Song. Volume 5

01. East Side Snaps
02. Untimeliness
03. Kedo, Kedo
04. Danse of the 21st Century
05. Inner Song

Cello, Bass, Voice, Composed By – Alan Silva

Recorded live at the Rue de Prony, septembre 1974

For those unfamiliar with the label, Center of The World was a label set up by Silva, with fellow bandmembers Frank Wright, Bobby Few and Muhammad Ali. A 'kitchen-table' type endeavour to propagate the music of the group and its members, they released only 5 titles - this being the final one. Later, with the aid of Frenchman Sébastien Bernard, Sun Records was founded, with participation of the same musicians. Sun was more of a 'proper label' - although still tiny with limited distribution - and went on to release some 2 dozen-odd titles.

I like Alan Silva for all sorts of wholly inappropriate reasons - for having switched instruments mid career, for his great sherpa hats, for his extraordinarily diverse volume of work, for having put out his own *hand crafted* box sets, for making the synth sound good in an improv context, for his snaggle-toothed smile, and for having the sheer balls to put together a mental record like Lunar Surface as a debut in 1969.
The triple LP Seasons (1970) that followed it was monstrously good - without in any way recusing insanity - and the spirit of exploration of both the times, and the man's own path.
By the time he released this record under his own name in 1974 - the 4th, after the above mentioned 2 on BYG and Skillfulness on ESP - he had performed and recorded with Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray and Bill Dixon.
The pioneering two-bass work with Henry Grimes on Taylor's Conquistador! and Unit Structures records was already nearly a decade old.
On this, there's a whole panoply of textures and techniques. If you're not immediately taken with the opening track of the record , stay with it for a bit: - the free arco playing of Untimeliness is compelling.
Throughout, Silva plays with a free-swinging passion and commitment and with a really solid intonation - even offering up some groove-rock motifs for a passage on Side 2
The cover credits him with 'voice' - this is pretty much limited to singing along with his own bass lines and a bit of vocal expostulation. Those fearing an 'art-song extravaganza' may rest assured - not on this one..
Uncredited on the sleeve, is the piano that appears on the opening track, and a splash of organ (presaging things to come in later years!) on the last tune - an impressionistic wash of spectral soundforms. Over a swirling pedal-point, all seems to build up to a 'hot cello solo', with a voice-chant and long sustained tones thrown in.

Center Of The World / Muhammad Ali Duo Frank Wright - 1974 - Adieu Little Man. Volume 4

Center Of The World / Muhammad Ali Duo Frank Wright
Adieu Little Man. Volume 4

01. Adieu Little Man, Part 1
02. Adieu Little Man, Part 2

Percussion – Muhammad Ali
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Frank Wright

Producer – Alan Silva
Recorded live at the American Center in Paris, April 1974.

Here's a reed/drum duo, in the tradition of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali (Muhammad's brother), tearing the roof off the sucka! If you like energy music, and loved Interstellar Space, you'll love this. Muhammad Ali didn't get a lot of recording opportunities during his career; his brother, who was also under-recorded, fared somewhat better. Those sessions on which Muhammad did appear quickly went out of print, with few being revived on CD (perhaps among the more noteworthy of those reissues was his appearance on three of the tracks on Alan Shorter's debut as a leader, Orgasm).

Loose, exploratory, with an unfinished quality (is it live? There seems to be a crowd near the start of side two). Ali--not such a technician as his brother Rashied, perhaps, but plenty interesting enough--holds centre stage. In fact, it feels more like a solo drum record with Wright's tenor (and smidge of bass clarinet) joining in when the music needs it. I assume it's also Muhammad with the off-mic shouts which hint at a ritualistic or oddly gospelly quality (same thing, I know). Long stretches with few notes and lots of space, but when it picks things up it can get pretty fierce (half way through side two is maybe the best example).

Center Of The World - 1973 - More Or Less Few. Volume 3

Center Of The World / Bobby Few
More Or Less Few. Volume 3

01. More Or Less Few 4:45
02. Few's Blues 4:10
03. Simone 7:20
04. I'll Never Be The Same Again 2:17
05. Chasing The Piano 21:00

Bass – Alan Silva
Drums – Muhammad Ali
Piano – Bobby Few

Third release on the Center of the World label with an alternate cover to the brown cover with die-cut center hole that is credited to Bobby Few. This LP is credited to "Center of the World" (not Few) as is the custom on other COTW releases.
Recorded November 1, 1973 à Paris

Bobby Few was one of Cleveland’s leading jazz pianists in the 1950s and ‘60s, and later, Bobby Few became one of the most respected and busiest pianists in Europe. After moving to Paris in the late 1960s, Few has performed on more than 50 jazz albums.

The son of the maitre d’ at The Country Club in Pepper Pike, Few grew up on East 84th Street between Quincy and Central. He recalled, "I was very fond of baseball, but my mother was more interested in getting me started in music. I wanted to play flute but she wanted me to play piano. They bought a piano. There was an old Polish family that lived on the street that had a piano and my father and my uncle had to roll the piano down the street to bring it into the house. It was really a spectacle."

Few studied classical music for 12 years. At his first recital, he played Chopin’s "Polonaise." "Everyone would always pass by our house and hear me playing the piano," said Few, "and they would stop outside for a while and just listen. The kids were outside playing baseball, but I had to stay in and play the piano. And now, I’m glad I did!"

While studying classical music, the young musician was also exposed to jazz. "My dad had these Jazz at the Philharmonic records with Illinois Jacquet and Ella Fitzgerald. I began to listen to those records. Also he had a lot of Art Tatum and Erroll Garner and I became influenced by them and decided to learn how to play boogie-woogie. I would go to my classical music lessons and while the teacher was preparing herself, I would play boogie-woogie and she would tell me, ‘No, no! Don’t play that stuff! You must play the classical music first!’"

Bobby got an opportunity in his own neighborhood to hear some live jazz piano by perhaps the all-time greatest jazz pianist. "I remember, as a little kid, hearing Art Tatum on Cedar Avenue at a little tavern ( Val’s in the Alley) at 86th and Cedar. I just sat on the steps there and was amazed! That really influenced me to continue in the path of jazz."

Few began listening to records of other jazz pianists. He bought more records by Garner. "I loved his music," said Few, "because I had been studying Claude Debussy and Erroll was so ‘Water Music.’ I just seemed to take to that flavor of water-type-flowing music. He really started me on the way, playing in that style." That style remained an important part of Few’s playing.

He was also influenced by the harmonic explorations of Thelonious Monk and recalled, "People were actually calling me ‘Thelonious Monk, Junior’ because I was trying to copy his licks and the things that he would do. I hadn’t quite found my own style yet. I was searching for a style."

Few never played in school bands, but he did play jazz concerts at Rawlings Junior High School and later at East Tech High School.

In 1950, Cleveland’s East Tech was an almost all-white school. Teenager Few was involved in a bitter protest demonstration that finally opened the school to blacks. "We had a club called ‘The Young Nobles,’" said Few, "and we were responsible for East Tech to be integrated. We blocked the school for almost the whole week. Even the principal and the teachers couldn’t get in and the police took us away many days. We just kept coming back and blocking the entrance. Finally, they decided, ‘Well, we better let them in.’ But, at the same time, they moved all the equipment out and all the whites left and went to another school."

While he was at East Tech, Few tried to listen to as much jazz as possible. He saw and heard Charlie Parker in Cleveland. "I met him at the Loop Lounge down on Prospect. I was young, 16 or 17, and I walked in the door. He was playing with a pianist named Jimmy Saunders. Few remembered speaking with Parker. "He was very encouraging to me. He told me to continue to stick to the music and if I wanted to do my own songs, to continue to try to do that."

Few started playing with a group that included Cleveland’s top saxophonist of the period, Joe Alexander, trumpeters Bill Hardman and Carl Fields, bassist Richard Mitchell, drummer Lawrence "Jacktown" Jackson, and singer Gene Jordan.

"We were playing places like Smitty’s Tavern, Tia Juana, the Mirror Show Bar, Club 100, the Safari Club, the Alhambra Tavern – all the clubs that are not existing now. At that time, Cleveland was booming with jazz."

Few played in Cleveland for 20 years. He formed a trio called the East Jazz Trio with drummer Raymond Farris and bassist Cevera Jeffries, the older brother of Dewey Jeffries. It was perhaps the most popular jazz group in Cleveland at the time.

Eventually, an old childhood friend, Albert Ayler, persuaded Few to go to New York. "I moved there and suffered for about seven years, but the suffering was well worth it because I earned my stripes that way." In New York, Few played with Jackie McLean, Roland Kirk, and Brook Benton. In 1962, he toured Jamaica and Europe with Booker Ervin, Few’s cousin Bob Cunningham, and LeRoy Williams.

In 1969, Few decided to go to Europe. "I was playing with a tenor saxophonist named Frank Wright; drummer Muhammad Ali; bassist Alan Silva; and Arthur Jones, a saxophonist from Cleveland; and we decided we needed to move. We said, ‘What about Paris?’ Everybody said, ‘That sounds exciting.’ So we took our resources, packed our bags and left, and never came back."

It was a period of protest, not only in the United States, but in France. "When we got there, there was a revolution of students and Paris was really on fire. Automobiles were on fire and there was tear gas in the streets. They were fighting for better schooling and money. We were walking down the street and all these policemen were running after the students, so we ran into a club, and the guy locked the door behind us. We found out it was the leading jazz club of Paris, called the Cat and Fish. The owner asked us, ‘Who are you guys?’ We said we came in from New York. He asked us, ‘Would you like to play in the club?’ We said, ‘Yeah, when can we start?’ He said, ‘What about tomorrow night?’ We said, ‘Yeah!’

"And from that point on, we began to be recognized as something new and fresh there." They wanted to do more. "We rented a van." said Few, "and started going around to major festivals in Belgium, Holland and Spain, and just kind of sat in on the festivals. The next thing we knew, the organizers were hollering for us to do the next festival."

Few had been playing in Europe for more than a decade when he met master avant garde soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. "Lacy heard me playing in Belgium and wanted to know, ‘Who was that pianist?’ Lacy was thinking about going back to New York, but when he heard me, he decided to stay. He asked me would I like to play with him. I said, ‘Sure would!’ So, I started playing with Lacy in 1982."

With Few at the piano, the Steve Lacy Sextet became a pioneering force in Paris. The group made its only appearance in Cleveland in July of 1986, playing a Northeast Ohio Jazz Society concert at Case Western Reserve University. Few remained with the Lacy Sextet for ten years, until 1992.

While best known for his work with Lacy, Few also continued performing with his own group as a soloist and with various other groups. He made dozens of records in addition to 1960s albums with Ayler. "I have 54 albums to my credit now. I recorded with Archie Shepp, Booker Ervin, I recorded with Albert. I recorded many under my name. We formed our own record production company called ‘ Center of the World,’ and we produced our own records with Frank Wright, Mu hammad Ali, Alan Silva and Noah Howard."

"I began by playing basically what they call ‘free jazz,’ which is musical improvisation or black classical music, but now, I am more into mainstream, playing basically my compositions, my own songs. So far, I have more than 500 songs that I have written, many of them with words, and I have been able to several albums under my name with my music."

"I’ve also started singing. I’m not really a singer, but I sing anyway and it works. My songs are being recognized over there more and more so that people don’t always come and say, ‘Hey, can you play "Misty?" Instead they say, ‘Hey, Bobby, can you play that song of yours?’ I say, ‘Sure,’ and I do it."

Few always tried to target his music to his audience. "In Europe, there are certain festivals where you can really just go as you like musically and there are some clubs where you have to play your music in a fashionable beat or in a funky manner and be more commercial, but there is more opportunity in the festivals, live concerts, and radio shows to do what you really want. You can play your theme and then, go to the Moon and Jupiter. They don’t care. They love it! The more far-out you get, the more they become enthusiastic."