Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Jamaaladeen Tacuma - 1984 - Renaissance Man

Jamaaladeen Tacuma 
Renaissance Man

01 Renaissance Man 5:18
02 Flash Back 5:51
03 Let's Have A Good Time 5:50
04 The Next Stop 5:56
05 Dancing In Your Head 6:10
06 There He Stood 4:09
07 The Battle Of Images - In Four Movements 10:06
08 Sparkle 7:11

Alto Saxophone – James R. Watkins (tracks: A1 to A4)
Drums – Cornell Rochester (tracks: A1 to A4)
Electric Bass, Electronics [Electronic Claps] – Jamaaladeen Tacuma (tracks: A1 to A4)
Electric Guitar – Rick Iannacone (tracks: A1 to A4)
Percussion – Ron Howerton (tracks: A1 to A4)
Alto Saxophone – Ornette Coleman (5)
Electric Guitar – Vernon Reid (8)
Tenor Saxophone – David Murray (8)
Drums – Bill Bruford (8)

Jamaaladeen Tacuma's second free funk effort for Gramavision is almost the equal of his first (Show Stopper). Once again the first four songs feature his regular band (a quintet with guitarist Rick Iannacone and altoist James Watkins) while the second half of the program showcases his electric bass in diverse groups. "Dancing in Your Head" has some of the members of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time (including the innovative altoist); Tacuma often played with Ornette during this period. The lengthy "The Battle of Images" features Tacuma with the Ebony String Quartet and a percussionist, "There He Stood" has the leader joined by percussionists and a poet. Best is "Sparkle," a jam with tenor saxophonist David Murray and guitarist Vernon Reid. Alththugh a bit of a mixed bag, this set should appeal to listeners open to both the avant-garde and eccentric funk.

This is THE J. Tacuma album as far as I can tell. This guy can do anything with the bass. It's free jazz-like, dissonant, adventurous, and very much CRAZY. For people who liked "Song X" by Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny. Anything goes and you'll either get dizzy and hate it or wonder if it's the coolest thing you've ever heard; at least for a while, and you'll always be awed by it. It's funky too, in a way that, for someone like me who gets tired of "the funk" pretty quickly, never gets tiresome, without being funklesssss like Fripp or something. If you play bass guitar, you must have this, by the way.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma - 1983 - Show Stopper

Jamaaladeen Tacuma 
Show Stopper

01. Sunk In The Funk 6:36
02. Rhythm Box 6:41
03. From Me To You 5:06
04. Animated Creation 4:10
05. The Bird Of Paradise 2:43
06. Show Stopper 6:01
07. Tacuma Song 4:09
08. From The Land Of Sand 4:18
09. Sophisticated Us 4:46

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet [Metal] – James R. Watkins (tracks: A1 to A4)
Drums – Anthony McClary (tracks: A1 to A4)
Electric Bass – Jamaaladeen Tacuma (tracks: A1 to A4)
Electric Guitar – Rick Iannacone (tracks: A1 to A4)
Percussion, Percussion [Electric] – Ron Howerton (tracks: A1 to A4)

This Philly native had been touring with Charles Earland as a teen before joining up with Ornette Coleman's Prime Time,the saxophonist's foray into funk. It would be these years that would have the most enormous effect of Tacuma's playing. He became known as an excellent performer with a keen fashion sense,as well as a style of bass playing that was in fact rather unique in terms of it's fire and intensity. Recording as a band leader was only a matter of time. And the best thing for his career was that this was the result of that possibility.

Recorded with relatively small groups of musicians this albums gets off to an amazing start with "Sunk In The Funk",probably some of the most high octane,polyrhythmic and sonically breathtaking harmolodic funk this side of Miles Davis' early 70's work. And Ornette was probably proud as well. "Rhythm Box" is another powerful groove,this time taking on a probing sort of Caribbean/reggae rhythm. "Animated Creation" is another slice of rhythmic funk music power built around Tacuma's high octane bass playing. These faster numbers are counter measured by the soft,balladic and pretty melodies of "From Me To You" and "The Bird Of Paradise". All of these numbers feature the trio of Tacuma,pianist Anthony David and Ann Sullivan on harp with a string quartet.

The title song is musical absolutely amazing. It's funky,it swings,it's plainly melodic and somehow harmelodic as well. Everything just expands on itself with the addition of the horns to penetrate the ear further. On "Tacuma Song" he just takes on the solo bass and we see without any accompaniment just what this man can do. The last two numbers "From The Land Of The Sand" and the closer "Sophisticated Us",featuring another Tacuma associated James Blood Ulmer on guitar are both intense polyrhythmic jazz-funkers and the more abstract numbers here. Whatever type of funk groove it is-hard,soft or arty Jamaaladeen Tacuma manages to bring it into his orbit somehow. It's totally flamboyant,engaging,exciting and a lot of fun. Even with all the intense musical energy put into it,the result is joyful to experience for the jazz and funk lover.

Kip Hanrahan - 1981 - Coupe de Tete

Kip Hanrahan
Coupe de Tete

01. Whatever I Want 5:43
02. At The Moment Of The Serve 5:39
03. This Night Comes Out Of Both Of Us 5:40
04. India Song 4:13
05. A Lover Divides Time (To Hear How It Sounds) 3:17
06. No One Gets To Transcend Anything (No One Except Oil Company Executives) 3:42
07. Shadow To Shadow 7:06
08. Sketch From "Two Cubas" 4:07
09. Heart On My Sleeve 5:14

Recorded November 1980 through February 1981 at Latin Sound Studios, New York, N.Y. except "No One Gets To Transcend" recorded July 1981 at Latin Sound and "Two Cubas" recorded July 1979 and January 1980 at Grog Kill Studios, Willow, N.Y.

Accordion – Orlando Di Girolamo (tracks: A4, B5)
Alto Saxophone – Carlos Ward (tracks: A2, A4, B3, B5), George Cartwright (tracks: A1)
Bass – Cecil McBee (tracks: B5)
Bongos – Nicky Marrero (tracks: A1)
Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone – Chico Freeman (tracks: A4)
Congas – Angel Perez (tracks: B2), Carlos Mestre (tracks: B4), Gene Golden (2) (tracks: B4), Jerry Gonzalez (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B4)
Congas, Percussion [Iya] – Daniel Ponce (tracks: A2, B1)
Drums [Trap] – Anton Fier (tracks: A1 to A3, B1 to B4), Ignacio Berroa (tracks: A2), Victor Lewis (tracks: B5)
Electric Bass – Bill Laswell (tracks: A1, A3, A4, B3), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (tracks: A2, B1, B2)
Electric Guitar – Arto Lindsay (tracks: A1 to A3, B1 to B4), Bern Nix (tracks: B2), Fred Frith (tracks: B3), George Naha (tracks: A2, A3)
Flute – George Cartwright (tracks: A4)
Flute, Flute [Wooden] – Byard Lancaster (tracks: A3)
Flute, Piccolo Flute – George Cartwright (tracks: A3)
French Horn – John Clark (2) (tracks: A4)
Percussion [Itotole, Quinto] – Jerry Gonzalez (tracks: B3)
Percussion [Iya] – Daniel Ponce (tracks: A1, A3)
Percussion [Okonkolo] – Nicky Marrero (tracks: A3)
Percussion, Percussion [Quinto] – Kip Hanrahan (tracks: A3)
Percussion, Synthesizer [String] – Kip Hanrahan (tracks: B4)
Percussion, Vocals – Kip Hanrahan (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
Piano, Vocals – Carla Bley (tracks: A4)
Shekere – Daniel Ponce (tracks: B3), Gene Golden (2) (tracks: B2), Jerry Gonzalez (tracks: B3)
Soprano Saxophone – David Liebman (tracks: B5)
Surdo [Grande], Agogô – Dom Um Romao (tracks: B3)
Tenor Saxophone – Byard Lancaster (tracks: A1), Chico Freeman (tracks: A1, A2, B5), John Stobblefield (tracks: B2), Teo Macero (tracks: B5)
Trumpet – Michael Mantler (tracks: B4)
Violin – Billy Bang (tracks: A4)
Vocals – Lisa Herman (tracks: A3, B1, B3)

I waited a long time to hear this on CD, and the sound is luscious. A track like "This Night Comes Out Of Both Of Us," is sung by Lisa Herman over a hot Afro-Cuban Groove. "Whatever I Want," and "No One Here Gets To Transcend Anything (Except Oil Company Executives)" feature poet Kip Hanrahan speech-singing in a Laurie Anderson style, but because his prose and the groove are so compelling, the tunes work.

Some other tracks delve deeply into Arto Lindsay's love of "skronk guitar" an obsession I do not share. However, just as it began on a high note, the CD ends with longtime Miles Davis producer Teo Macero's "Heart On My Sleeve," a slow burner with compelling solos by Orlando DiGoralamo on accordion, the composer and Chico Freeman on tenor sax, along with Dave Liebman on soprano (just to give you an idea of the wealth of talent on this CD, bass duties are capably shared by Jamaladeen Tacuma, Bill Laswell and Cecil McBee on electric and stand-up bass, and there are at least half a dozen percussionists.)

This is one of those early 80s, New York "downtown jazz" CDs that works best when when programmed according to taste. It grabs you when the percussion and vocals are grooving in tandem, and at those moments it is easy to get carried away by this difficult to find CD.

Fittingly enough, the first sound heard on Kip Hanrahan's premier release is that of the conga and the first word sung is "sex," two leitmotifs that would appear consistently in his ensuing work. Coup de Tete burst on the scene in the early '80s as an entirely fresh, invigorating amalgam of Cuban percussion (much of it Santeria-based), free jazz, funk, and intimate, confrontational lyrics. Hanrahan had worked at New Music Distribution Service, a project run by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler (both of whom appear on this album), and had established contacts with numerous musicians from varied fields who he threw together in a glorious New York City melting pot. With the percussion and electric bass laying down thick and delicious grooves, the cream of the younger avant saxophonists in New York at the time wail over the top, accompanying some of the most brutally uncomfortable lyrics ever put to wax. The relationships Hanrahan details are turbulent to say the least, often intertwined with economic concerns as well as a general sense of the impossibility of understanding one's mate. After asking him for abuse and being refused, his lover (sung wonderfully by Lisa Herman) taunts, "When you could only sulk/I had more contempt for you than I ever thought I could have." Interspersed among the bitter love harangues and ecstatic percussion-driven numbers are two stunningly lovely pieces, Marguerite Duras' "India Song" and Teo Macero's "Heart on My Sleeve," both aching with romanticism. Coup de Tete is a superb record, an impressive debut, and, arguably, one of the finest moments in Hanrahan's career along with the following release, Desire Develops an Edge. Highly recommended.

Walt Dickerson - 1977 - Serendipity

Walt Dickerson 

01. My Prayer 5:33
02. Magnificent Glimps 15:00
03. Serendipity 10:50
04. This Way, Please 14:00

Bass – Rudy McDaniel
Drums – Edgar Bateman
Vibraphone – Walt Dickerson

Recorded live at the Player's Palace, Philadelphia, 11th August 1976.

For decades, the Modern Jazz Quartet's Milt Jackson was jazz's leading player of the vibraphone. Both in the Modern Jazz Quartet and on his own solo albums, Jackson redefined the role of vibes in jazz, turning them from a percussion instrument into a lead more than capable of holding its own in any format. Not even Bags, though, would have recorded an album like Walt Dickerson's Serendipity. Recorded live in Dickerson's hometown of Philadelphia in 1976, Serendipity was the vibraphonist's second album as leader after an extended layoff, and it's remarkable in its spareness. This is a trio date, but drummer Edgar Bateman and future superstar bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma (barely 20, but already a veteran of Ornette Coleman & Prime Time) stand way back and give Dickerson room to breathe. (Unusually for Tacuma, who has turned over-playing into an art form; even his extended solo at the opening of the 15-minute "Magnificent Glimpse" is a model of economy and restraint.) From the solo opener "My Prayer" onwards, this is entirely Dickerson's show; he remains in control of the improvisations, even on the jaggedly free passages that erupt on even the most conventionally melodic of these tunes. He subtly steers things back to a tonal and melodic center as the lengthy tracks (all but one well over ten minutes) come to a logical and shapely close. Those expecting a nice melodic vibes album à la Lionel Hampton will probably freak, but Serendipity is a stunner for fans of Dickerson's more out-there sets.

Walt Dickerson - 1976 - Walt Dickerson 1976

Walt Dickerson 
Walt Dickerson 1976

01. Sky 10:14
02. Awarness 4:27
03. Key Of Wisdom 5:56
04. Yesterdays 9:21
05. I Love You 12:00

Recorded 1976 at Frank Virtue Studio, Philadelphia, PA

Bass – Wilbur Ware (tracks: A3 to B2)
Drums – Edgar Leon Bateman Jr. (tracks: A1, A3 to B2)
Electric Bass [Electronic] – Jamaaladeen Tacuma (tracks: A1)
Vibraphone – Walt Dickerson

One of the most innovative exponents of the art of playing the vibraphone, Philadelphian Walt Dickerson made his recording debut in 1961 and made a dozen or so LP's for various labels in the 60's, culminating in a date for MGM in 1965 (A Patch of Blue) featuring Sun Ra on piano. After that he did not venture into the studio again until some ten years later when Masahiko Yuh recorded Tell Us The Beautiful Things - the first of two for his Why Not label. This, the elusive second recording of Walt Dickerson has never been available before outside Japan. It features Wilbur Ware on bass and Edgar Bateman's drums along with Jamaaladeen Tacuma on electric bass on one track and shows Dickerson at his very best.

Ornette Coleman - 1979 - Of Human Feelings

Ornette Coleman 
Of Human Feelings

01. Sleep Talk 3:31
02. Jump Street 4:19
03. Him And Her 4:15
04. Air Ship 6:01
05. What Is The Name Of That Song? 3:56
06. Job Mob 4:51
07. Love Words 2:50
08. Times Square 6:00

Alto Saxophone – Ornette Coleman
Bass Guitar – Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Drums – Calvin Weston, Ornette Denardo Coleman
Guitar – Bern Nix, Charlie Ellerbee

Recorded: April 25, 1979 at Columbia Recording Studio, N.Y., N.Y.

So here's why I listen to Ornette. I love his approach in which each of the players is free to move around in areas that interest them or work in tandem with one or more other players to create the music. Sometimes four or five people are going in different directions at once; sometimes there are a trio and duo working simultaneously; sometimes the whole group is working toward one end. The larger the group, the more difficult this can get for the listener, especially one who's not invested in paying attention to the details. But in a nice, smaller band, like the classic quartets or the Prime Time sextets and septets, it can be heavenly. I mean for me, a great work of art should leave you a little dissatisfied. You should get something worthwhile out of it and yet leave it wanting to return, to figure out exactly what's going on, what the artist meant, how it was made, etc. Art that gives up everything it has on one or two exposures is hardly art at all. Medium doesn't matter - this holds as true for music as it does for painting, writing, sculpture, performance art, whatever. To me, Ornette is one of the great artists to ever hit the scene, and this is one of his best works. I know a lot of people don't think too much of Prime Time, but I think that at their best - as in this album - they're the equal of the great quartet(s). But it's not easy, you have to pay attention. You can do this on the macro level, trying to hear how all six players are interacting at the same time, or you can do it micro, where you focus on one player and what he's doing, then expand out to see how if fits within the whole. I recommend starting with one player (and why not make it Ornette?) and work your way out to the whole thing. Nobody else makes music that sounds so tight and loose at the same time, that makes sense from so many perspectives, even if they're ones that most jazz folks have a hard time getting to. Do I understand "Harmolodics"? Hell no. But I understand when something works, and this does, in spades. Did I mention that I also think that it may be the best of all Prime Time albums? Well, it may.

When one thinks of Ornette Coleman's innovative Prime Time Band, it is of crowded ensembles played by the altoist/leader, two guitars, two electric bassists, and two drummers. Actually, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who plays enough for two musicians, is the only bassist on this date, but guitarists Charlie Ellerbee and Bern Nix, along with drummers Denardo Coleman and Calvin Weston, keep the ensembles quite exciting. None of the eight Coleman originals (which includes a tune titled "What Is the Name of That Song?") would catch on, but in this context they serve as a fine platform for Coleman's distinctive horn and often witty and free (but oddly melodic) style.

Ornette Coleman - 1978 - Body Meta

Ornette Coleman 
Body Meta

01. Voice Poetry 8:00
02. Home Grown 7:36
03. Macho Woman 7:35
04. Fou Amour 8:31
05. European Echoes 7:40

Ornette Coleman – alto saxophone
Bern Nix – guitar
Charlie Ellerbee – guitar
Jamaaladeen Tacuma – bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson – drums, percussion

Recorded at Barclay Studios, Paris, December, 1976,
Mixed at Sound Ideas, N.Y.C., January, 1978

Booklet Insert: This release can be found with least two different versions of the booklet. One with the Rauschenberg art and another (later? more commonly found) version with art by David Sharpe.
Some copies ship with the insert in the front pocket of the gatefold while others have that pocket glued and the insert is in the same pocket as the LP.

Culled from the same sessions which produced Ornette Coleman's lone A&M release, Dancing in Your Head, the music on Body Meta bears a striking resemblance to Captain Beefheart's Magic Band on Trout Mask Replica, whose clashing guitars and ritualistic rhythms were an obvious corollary for Coleman's new band Prime Time. And while Coleman, like Beefheart, also maintained a tacit relationship to traditional rural blues (as on the Bo Diddley-styled changes of "Voice Poetry"), in truth, the raucous, parallel streams of rhythm, melodic counterpoint, and clashing chordal figures, as featured on "Home Grown" and "Macho Woman," more nearly resemble the collective fury of the Master Musicians of Joujouka than any rock or funk band you care to name. Still, electric bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson manage to imply traditional backbeats and melodic vamps without necessarily falling into any discernible grooves for too long, even as guitarists Bern Nix and Charles Ellerbee function as a mini-string section, feeding Coleman a continual stream of melodic echoes and harmonic juxtapositions. But for all the ensemble density, it is the clarion call of Coleman's alto saxophone that provides most of the interest on Body Meta. 

This album was the 1st ever to be released on the Artist's House label back in 1978, & that translates literally to the cover of Body Meta, a gatefold featuring 4 works by different artists, that one on the front is by a tribal leader, probably from when Ornette went to Morrocco to see the Jajouka musicians which inspired Dancing In Yr Head & this [others like Brian Jones, William Burroughs & Lee Ranaldo have taken this enlightening pilgrimage], & the credits are saved for an insert which also features a great poem 'Conversation For A Song' & a then complete discography + the sheet music for the song Fou Amour from this excellent disc. Staccato drums then guitars open the album on Voice Poetry, & it flows along brilliantly to feature this new band of guitarists Bern Nix & Charlie Ellerbee, bassist [electric that is] Jamalaadeen Tacuma & drummer Shannon Jackson for a couple of minutes before the arrival of the man himself. The he is the star & his playing is as pure & soulful as it was back on the Shape of Jazz to Come, & in a way it's unfortunate that everything else gets buried underneath it after this but it works well. The comparisons to the Trout Mask Magic Band do make sense although this is not as cacaphonous & seemingly chaotic [Beefheart although being highly influenced by Coleman, like to only have himself allowed to improvise while his groups must stick strictly to what he composed & his personality is a bit more obsessive too], Body Meta is one of the rare things worthy of being played directly after that in-a-world-of-its-own masterpiece. Each track here is around 8 minutes which is enough time to explore without losing the listening audience. The next 2 tracks move along nicely in a similar vein whilst Fou Amour [i.e. Mad Love] is a ballad & the guitars are playing parts normally designed for a piano. European Echoes if I'm not mistaken was an older tune from the Golden Circle & is rather graceful but thankfully lets loose a bit on the outro, by which time I want to spin the whole platter again which I could do for hours on end. This is music of pure soul expression & deserves a lot of repeated listening, it's highly danceable/funky too. I would highly recommend it to anyone & everyone. For the body & the mind. Long live Ornette & all of his players.

Ornette Coleman - 1975 - Dancing In Your Head

Ornette Coleman 
Dancing In Your Head

01. Theme From A Symphony (Variation One) 15:38
02. Theme From A Symphony (Variation Two) 11:05
03. Midnight Sunrise 4:28

Alto Saxophone – Ornette Coleman
Bass – Rudy MacDaniel (tracks: A, B1)
Clarinet – Robert Palmer (3) (tracks: B2)
Drums – Shannon Jackson (tracks: A, B1)
Featuring – The Master Musicians of Joujouka (tracks: B2)
Lead Guitar [1st] – Bern Nix (tracks: A, B1)
Lead Guitar [2nd] – Charlie Ellerbee (tracks: A, B1)

Recorded Jan 1973 in Joujouka, Morocco and Dec 1976 at Barclay Studios, Paris

I wouldn't call myself an expert on jazz. Among the other stuff in my collection I have a few records and CDs that might properly be called "jazz." I don't select music by saying to myself, I like this genre and not that one. I subscribe to the Duke Ellington theory, "If it sounds good, it is good!"

Which brings us to the great saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Back in the early 1980s with the advent of "new music," I used to listen to a radio show on a local community station where the host played punk/new wave and reggae while sprinkling in the occasional Ornette Coleman track maybe once or twice a month. I liked those tunes but in my youth wondered how and why it all fit. Today I get it. As I see it, Ornette Coleman is the founder of the "no wave" genre. Not that I'm aware of any "no wave" bands ever having acknowledged him as such - actually I'm pretty sure that none ever did. Regardless, it seems to me that Coleman was the first musician to break all the rules - or at least the first to break them so severely, the musical equivalent of driving 120 mph in the opposite lane. He was "no wave" way back in 1959 with The Shape of Jazz to Come.

Music can be like a language, whether we're conscious of that or not. Ever catch yourself suddenly humming along to a song you're hearing for the first time? It's because you have an idea where the song is going. With Coleman, you never know where he's going. The next note you hear isn't the note you expected to hear. The drummer pounds away without accenting a beat, while the bass, traditionally a time-keeping instrument in jazz, is playing a melody of his own, making it hard to identify where one bar ends and the next begins. His music usually had no guitar or piano playing chords. If you have a certain comfort zone with music, Coleman will take you out of it and challenge you.

Then came 1976 and this first album with Coleman's first electric band, Prime Time, featuring two guitarists, bass, and drums, and on the last two tracks, clarinet and the Master Musicians of Jojouka. It didn't cause the same stir as Bob Dylan going electric. No matter; this is a stunning piece of work. The old boss of 1959 had become the new boss of 1976. Nobody called it "no wave" or even used that term in 1976, but the album made so much sense in light of what was to come with the punk revolution. As always, there are no chords or discernible beat. Every instrument has its own melody to play, all going in different, crazy directions. It almost has the feel of a group of novices picking up instruments for the first time and seeing what kind of sounds they can make - but it all fits together into a chaotic cacophony of sound that's compelling, fun to listen to, often surprisingly catchy, and (at least on the first two cuts) hard to resist jumping up and down to. If it's repetitive at times, it's still never boring. Whether it's "jazz" or not - who cares? Just turn up the speakers and prepare to be blown away.

When the term "70's jazz fusion" is used, most folks probably think of Miles Davis' brand of downer space funk or all that goopy Return to Mahavishnu's Inner Mounting Weather Report stuff. But of course when Ornette Coleman did "jazz fusion in the 70's" it didn't sound like what his peers were doing at the time anymore than his "modern jazz of the 50's" sounded like what Miles, Mingus, Coltrane et. al were doing back then either. The bulk of this little gem from the Ornette discography consists of the best ever example of "Ornette Fusion", along with a final track documenting an excursion to Africa for a musical communion, producing predictably trippy results.

Why is this not your pony-tailed uncle's "fusion"? First of all the drumming on "Theme" is berserk -- and since Ornette had been using his son Denardo on drums since he was about 10 years old (and who played drums exactly like you'd think a 10 year old would), the standards for what counts as berzerker drumming on an Ornette record are very high as you might imagine! Basically Jackson sounds like two takes of Denardo's drumming overdubbed on top of each other, banging and clattering and rimshotting away like no tomorrow.

It's tempting to compare Nix & Ellerbee's guitars to Zoot Horn Rollo and Antennare Jimmy Semens and all them other great Magic Band guitar duos, but really they sound more like Jimmy Nolan (James Brown's guy) and his evil twin surgically sewn together by the tops of their heads, still punchy from the anesthesia so given a healthy dose of amphetamine to pep them up into a cartoonish frenzy. 

But seriously, Ornette may well have been influenced by a Trout Mask Replica sensibility here (I believe it, and think I read somewhere that DVV hisself said so too -- tho I'm just as sure Ornette would say he's never heard of the Captain.) And at the same time I think it's pretty obvious that Ornette was one of the key influences on the Beefheart approach to music in the first place -- compare "Hair Pie" from 1969 to something like "Moon Inhabitants" from 1960, I dare ya!*

Anyway the tune they're jamming on in two "Variations" here is indeed a theme from a symphony (the section entitled "The Good Life" from "Skies of America" 1972 by Ornette Coleman, an LP recorded with the LSO and quite a great "jazz-classical fusion" by the way.) It's a sort of Carribean mardi-gras childlike sing-a-long melody that Ornette blows like a Sufi trance master, the same little tune fragment over and over dozens of times with subtle rhythm shifts and no pauses for breath (he's mastered circular breathing.) "Variation One" is longer and features Ornette mostly, pretty much driving repetition ruling the take. "Variation Two" I like a little better cuz the O-man's blowing is free-er, and cuz the guitar players get to cut loose on some wacky jazz-rock-skronk solos every now & then (Vernon Reid must love this stuff.)

And really -- when was the last time you listened to "jazz fusion" that sounded so absolutely brimming with JOY but at the same time was totally non-sentimental? Usually this is a genre that is either depressing (Miles) or cloying (everyone else up to & including the Kenny G's of the world.) That makes this record almost one of a kind.

Ornette would go on to make more "fusion" records with his band Prime Time on through to the 90's, but I don't think any of them really approach the unique blend of chaotic joy found in the relatively simple groovin' here (though the follow-up to this album, "Body Meta" comes the closest.) 

The closing track "Midnight Sunrise" sounds like it comes from another sonic universe entirely -- it is spooky, mystical, otherworldly, and a bag of chips. Makes me think of Burroughsian "Naked Lunch" visions of nude arab boys in desert dances with giant centipedes and such (associating Ornette's collaboration with Howard Shore on the soundtrack to the movie version with the North African spirit vision vibe I suppose -- anyway, it fits.)

A branch of the musical tree that may even yet grow fruit (this sounds like an ahead-of-its-time album meant to inspire it's own genre if ever there was one), this neat little LP comes from one of Ornette's more overlooked periods from the end of the 60's through to the mid 70's (what I think of as his "restless" period -- a bit like Neil Young in the 80's perhaps.) But it's pretty easy to find on CD reissues these days, so ch-ch-check it out.

Gowen Miller Sinclair Tomkins - 1982 - Before A Word Is Said

Gowen Miller Sinclair Tomkins
Before A Word Is Said

01. Above And Below 7:38
02. Reflexes In The Margin 4:00
03. Nowadays A Silhouette 4:30
04. Silver Star 2:21
05. Fourfold 6:12
06. Before A Word Is Said 7:58
07. Umbrellas 3:48
08. A Fleeting Glance 7:33

Bass, Vocals – Richard Sinclair
Drums – Trevor Tomkins
Guitar – Phil Miller
Keyboards, Artwork [Cover Drawing] – Alan Gowen

Recorded at Trinity Road on April 25th - 27th & May 2nd - 4th 1981

Recorded in April and May 1981, this is amoungst the last session by the great Alan Gowen who died in 1982. Along with Richard Sinclair on Bass (a genuine member of the so-called Canterbury scene that arose out of The Wilde Flowers and spawned Caravan and Soft Machine but also influenced a range of bands including National Health etc. The Quartet is completed by drummer Trevor Tomkin who brings a light free jazz touch. For Gowen this is a continuation of the themes that he explored the the wonderful Two Rainbows Daily with Hugh Hopper.

Alan Gowen was clearly taken from this world far too soon and it is a human tradgedy that he died so young but he did leave behind a wonderful legacy of fine recordings so that those of us who only knew him as a provider of music which we loved have so much to be thankful for.

Austin Babbington Gallivan - 1979 - Home from Home

Austin Babbington Gallivan
Home from Home

01. Oriental Fantasy
02. Piecing It Together
03. Soft Day
04. Percussive Moments
05. Whistle Two-thirty-eight
06. Two On A Train
07. Soul One
08. Catch Me If You Can
09. Winter Solace
10. Finding Speed
11. On Top Of the World
12. Speedway
13. Zero Is The Hour

Charles Austin Flutes Oboe Saxophones
Roy Babbington Bass Bass Guitar
Joe Gallivan Drums Synthesizer Percussion

Recorded in London on the 22nd July 1977

Here is a trio recording from 1977, released on the Ogun label in 1979. This is a set of quiet, emphathetic sketches, most of them fairly short, at least by jazz standards. Chamber jazz might be a word to describe what we hear on this record. Not the stuff to leap at you, but to grow insidiousaly after repeated listenings. Quite a fine little gem, in my humble opinion. Nice flute playing with an oriental touch, sinuous electric bass to the fore and there is even a synth creeping in on several tracks.

Charles Austin and Joe Gallivan have cooperated a lot over the years and both are active up to the present date. Austin is a resident of New Orleans and devoting more time to teaching than to playing in later years. Gallivan played with several stalwarts on the UK jazz scene while living in the UK for some years in the 70s, but also made a memorable album with Larry Young, well worth seeking out. Babbington was associated with the Canterbury scene in the 70s, playing in one version of Soft Machine, but also with Elton Dean and Keith Tippett and later with Barbara Thompson.

Elton Dean - 1971 - Elton Dean

Elton Dean 
Elton Dean

01. Ooglenovastrome
02. Something Passed Me By
03. Blind Badger
04. Neo-Caliban Grides
05. Part: The Last

Alto Saxophone, Saxello, Electric Piano, – Elton Dean
Bass – Roy Babbington (tracks: B1, B2)
Cornet – Mark Charig
Drums – Phil Howard
Electric Bass – Neville Whitehead
Electric Piano, Organ – Mike Ratledge (tracks: B1, B2)

Recorded live at advision studios, London May 1971

Being a jazz musician - and thus inclined to the wry world view - Elton Dean appreciated the irony that he was better known for giving Elton John half his name than for his own superlative saxophone playing. He might also have appreciated the grimmer irony of dying, aged 60, after more than a year of heart and liver problems, on the day before he was to join this week's reunion of the cult band Soft Machine. Dean, whose work fell mostly outside Britain, had not had a London gig for months.
An embrace of all kinds of music-making has been a characteristic of jazz since its birth, and Dean's career was a model of that openness. He won respect from his big-time debut in 1966 with R&B singer Long John Baldry's Bluesology (obituary, July 23 2005), his membership of adventurous pianist Keith Tippett's groups, four years with Soft Machine and decades in free jazz, fusion, South African township music and many Europe-wide collaborations. Bluesology's pianist Reg Dwight upgraded to Elton John by appropriating from both Dean and Baldry.

Dean's playing - on the alto sax and sometimes the soprano-like saxello - sounded fresh and familiar at the same time. He could move easily between a muscular, song-based orthodoxy and unpremeditated improvisation, and his bitter-sweet sound and twisting, eager melody lines broadened the emotions of every band he played in. He was generous and quietly delightful company, happy to lean on a bar discussing anything from free improvisation to cricket.

Born in Nottingham, the son of Salvation Army officers, Dean was taught the piano and violin in childhood, but took up the saxophone at 18 and joined Bluesology at the height of the British R&B boom three years later, partnering cornetist Marc Charig in the front line. With trombonist Nick Evans, they became founder-members of an adventurous sextet led by Tippett when they met at the 1968 Barry jazz summer school in Wales.

They ascended from student status to the cutting-edge almost overnight, secured record deals with major labels and introduced an often conservative jazz public to a way of making music that borrowed relatively little from the United States. Dean was the ideal saxophonist for Tippett; he played in the pianist's 50-piece jazz-classical-rock orchestra Centipede and with many later projects, from big bands to duos.

Between 1969 and 1972, Dean's improvising energy became crucial to the evolution of Soft Machine. He recorded three albums with the band - Third (1970), Fourth (1971) and Fifth (1972) - and performed with it on a televised late-night Prom, one of that festival's first embraces of non-classical music. It was also a period in which Soft Machine moved steadily away from off-beat rock vocals to extended jazzy improvising.

Dean's soundscape was broadened further during the later Soft Machine period by his membership of the ambitious London Jazz Composers' Orchestra under the direction of bassist Barry Guy, influenced as much by 20th-century avant-garde composers as by free-jazz. Dean took it all in his stride, and formed his own Just Us jazz-rock group in the same period, featuring Charig, Nick Evans and Phil Howard (Soft Machine founder Robert Wyatt's replacement).

The 1970s were a period of constant activity for Dean. He took over American saxist Charlie Mariano's role in the Dutch jazz-rock band Supersister, toured with Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper's Monster Band, joined Chris McGregor's thrilling Brotherhood of Breath big band and formed his own EDQ ensemble, with Tippett, bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo.

But his crowning achievement of the era was Ninesense, a mid-sized band exultantly fusing South African rhythms, Tippett's stunning pianistics and Coltranesque jazz. The Melody Maker critic Steve Lake, hearing the band with this writer sometime between 1975 and 1978, observed that on that form it could have walked into any club in the world, and blown the audience away.

In 1977 Dean toured in an Anglo-American Carla Bley band, and the following year took part in two Soft Machine revisits, Soft Heap and Soft Head. His fluency in more rock-based situations led him in the 1980s and 90s to the unorthodox fusion bands In Cahoots and L'Equip'Out - the latter with the remarkable French pianist Sophia Domancich - and he helped organise many jazz events around north London, under the title of Jazz Rumours. He also issued cassettes on his ED Tapes label, featuring British players of similar broad tastes.

A welcome reissue of music first recorded in 1971 and 1972, shortly before Dean left the popular British jazz-rock group the Soft Machine, which he had officially joined only a short time earlier, in late 1969. On this recording, Dean plays alto sax, saxello and electric piano and is aided by a group of musicians which includes two additional Soft Machine members, Mike Ratledge on organ and electric piano and Roy Babbington on string bass. One of Dean's compositions on Just Us, "Neo-Caliban Grides," was actually recorded by the Softs, however, in spite of the obvious parallels, Dean's group is by no means a Soft Machine knock off. The absence of drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt and bassist Hugh Hopper reduces both the rock element and the experimental electronics, while the presence of the additional musicians -- especially Marc Charig on cornet -- gives Dean's group a fuller sound and one that is much more in the jazz tradition. Charig's contributions on horn and those of an electric guitarist on several tracks, invite some obvious comparisons with the Miles Davis electric band of the Bitches Brew era. And with the extraordinary recording by the Davis group having been released only two years earlier in 1969, its influence on hip young British jazz players would have been substantial. Dean's prominent use of the electric keyboards also provides an obvious parallel with the contemporaneous Davis group.