Thursday, February 28, 2019

Frank Lowe - 1975 - Fresh

Frank Lowe
1975
Fresh


01. Epistrophy 7:43
02. Play Some Blues 4:52
03. Fresh 6:18
04. Mysterioso 11:44
05. Chu's Blues 6:29

Cello – Abdul Wadud
Drums – Charles Bobo Shaw (tracks: A2 to B1), Steve Reid (2) (tracks: A1)
Tenor Saxophone – Frank Lowe
Trombone – Joseph Bowie (tracks: A1 to B1)
Trumpet – Lester Bowie (tracks: A1 to B1)
Wind [Cheng] – Selene Fung (tracks: A3)

Recorded at Blue Rock Studios, New York City, March 7, 1975. Track B2 was recorded at Free Tone Studios, Memphis Tennessee in September 1974


The emphasis is on color and sound on this spirited avant-garde album. Four of the five selections feature the adventurous tenor of Frank Lowe with trumpeter Lester Bowie, trombonist Joseph Bowie, cellist Abdul Wadud and either Steve Reid or Bob Shaw on drums. They perform two Lowe originals and two pieces by Thelonious Monk; these renditions are full of surprises and contrasts. In addition, Lowe is heard with an unknown group of local musicians called "the Memphis Four" on "Chu's Blues" in 1974. Open-eared listeners should find this set to be quite stimulating.

One of the better recordings created for the Arista/Freedom series, rather than licensed from tapes Alan Bates had already produced for Black Lion – and a nice set of loft jazz played by Lowe with help from Lester and Joseph Bowie, Abdul Wadud, Steve Reid, and Charles Bobo Shaw. The group play 2 Monk tracks, "Epistrophy" and "Mysterioso", plus 2 Lowe originals, "Play Some Blues" and "Fresh", with a sound befitting the title track, approaching the new thing with a respect for the swing and blues roots of jazz. The final track "Chu's Blues", is a little different from the rest of the LP, a great grooving number that was performed by Lowe in Memphis, with help from the Memphis Four. 

Frank Lowe Quartet - 2014 - Out Loud

Frank Lowe Quartet
2014
Out Loud


01. Untitled 1 11:13
02. Vivid Description 8:04
03. Listen 2:33
04. Untitled 2 12:35
05. Logical Extensions 0:41
06. Whew! 23:18
07. Untitled 3 23:53

Acoustic Bass – William Parker
Drums – Steve Reid
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Percussion, Instruments [Small] – Frank Lowe
Trombone, Percussion – Joseph Bowie
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah (tracks: D1 only)


Musical archeology has become somewhat of a trend these days. It might be explained, in part by the rebirth of vinyl and the excavation of long out-of-print titles, but also there are scores of devoted collectors who've discovered unpublished recordings of significant artists. For the serially neglected avant-garde of jazz, some of these finds have been significant. Albert Ayler's Holy Ghost: Rare And Unissued Recordings (1962-70) (Revenant, 2004) box set and the more recent Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (No Business, 2012) that documents the early work of bassist William Parker, come to mind. 

Out Loud a well preserved artifact from the early career of saxophonist Frank Lowe, adds to that list. These two LPs, released in a limited edition of 550 hand-numbered copies come with a 38-page booklet of unpublished photographs, a detailed biography of Lowe, and a technical analysis by saxophonist J.D. Parran. More importantly, the music is mastered by Joe Lizzi and Ben Young to sound fresh and vibrantly uncontaminated. The sounds are pressed on heavy vinyl and are accompanied by a 40-minute video link to the RivBea loft performance. 

Lowe in 1974, was preparing a follow-up to his debut Black Beings (ESP, 1973) and he assembled this quartet of trombonist Joseph Bowie, bassist William Parker, and drummer Steve Reid. Plans changed, I suspect by a producer, and the music, this suite "Act Of Freedom," was shelved for two covers of Thelonious Monk's music and three originals. Fresh kept Bowie but replaced Reid with Bobo Shaw (except for one track), added trumpeter Lester Bowie and swapped cellist Abdul Wadud for Parker. 

The music heard on these two dates, the first from Rashied Ali's Survival Studio on Greene Street and the second at Sam Rivers's Bond Street Studio RivBea loft, is a distillation of times in cross-section. Lowe, born in Memphis, joined Sun Ra's band after Vietnam, then, inspired by Ornette Coleman in New York, joined bands led by Alice Coltrane, Milford Graves, Rashied Ali and Don Cherry. His blues drenched firebrand sound can be heard in today's music by players like Mats Gustafsson, Mars Williams, and Ellery Eskelin. 

The Survival Studio date is animated by William Parker's fierce bass lines and the constantly changing drive of Steve Reid's drumming. Lowe brings the sounds of Sun Ra's Arkestra and the AACM's Art Ensemble of Chicago to bear here. His saxophone vocalizations squeeze every last drop of expressiveness for the performance. As might be expected from the times, there is a rough hewn edge here, but the energy new lags. The final side adds trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah to the mix. Like Bowie, he mixes, pokes and spars with Lowe, pressuring the music deeper and deeper. The beauty in this music is that it repeatedly shatters, then congeals. Shatter then congeals.

2014 release. The complete recordings by the hitherto invisible 1974 quartet of Frank Lowe, Joe Bowie, William Parker, and Steve Reid. For what would have been his second album as leader, Frank Lowe captured this cataclysmic quartet in-studio at Survival and in performance at Studio Rivbea. Lowe called it "Logical Extensions". These 1974 tapes went unreleased and are heard only now in this rediscovered and expanded volume. Out Loud gathers the only known recordings of this combustible band, with trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah guesting on one track, and a link to landmark video footage of the quartet live at Rivbea. The second LP was recorded at Studio Rivbea 24 Bond Street, NYC around 1974; Recording engineer -Scott Trusty. The first LP was recorded at Survival Studio, 77 Greene Street, NYC on May 1, 1974; Recording engineer - Rashied Ali. Includes 38-page, full-color brochure: Ed Hazell explains the music's genesis and fits the group into a loft-scene perspective; Photographers Val Wilmer and Omar Kharem pluck choice visuals from the rubble of Watergate-era NYC; J.D. Parran's recollections give you director's-cut insight into Lowe's saxophony; 40-minute sync-sound video offers a revealing peep through the keyhole of 24 Bond Street. Comes in old-school, tip-on gatefold jacket, lavishly designed by the award-winning Svenja Knödler. Edition of 550 (hand-numbered).

Frank Lowe - 1973 - Black Beings

Frank Lowe
1973
Black Beings


01. In Trane's Name
02. Brother Joseph
03. Thulani

Joseph Jarman: soprano, alto sax
Frank Lowe: tenor sax
The Wizard (Raymond Lee Cheng): violin
William Parker:bass
Rashid Sinan: drums


The age of the LP was often one of compromise for jazz musicians. Given the restrictions on playing time, recordings had to be edited to fit. This meant a loss of ideas and of development with the truncated versions being shadows of the whole. The emergence of the CD has seen the revival of music with the whole performance included. Sometimes the edits were better, but many times the complete picture brings in a deeper dimension and impact. The latter sensibility grabs this recording which has fifteen minutes added to "In Trane's Name" and "Thulani."

Recorded in 1973, Frank Lowe (tenor saxophone) pulled in Joseph Jarman (soprano and alto saxophones) and William Parker (bass) to fly into the eye of free jazz. Lowe was into the music after John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), and the influence and impact can be felt right through. Lowe went out on a musical limb here; the genre was not a long-term residence for him.


It all opens quietly enough with "In Trane's Name." Lowe plays with control, giving the melody its due, but when the tune erupts, the power and the force are incendiary. Both Lowe and Jarman propel and edge the music onwards, fermenting and brewing ideas on the go. There is howl and yell and intensely volatile notes shooting into the stratosphere. Jarman hits the high squiggles, squeezing out the notes, the torque tight. Lowe swipes a broader swath as he gets into a conversation with Jarman, if that's what the charged atmosphere can be called. Give the band credit though for not letting the tune spiral out of control, they bring it down, cooling the pace for the mid-section.

"Thulani" is another agitated progression, with Lowe and Jarman moving on different planes; the former is steady on the beat and the melody, the later unfurls a whorl of free motifs. But it is not long before Lowe dives into the pith and tears form apart.


Parker and Rashid Sinan (drums) are an energetic and propulsive rhythm section. As for The Wizard on violin, it is Raymond Lee Chang and not Leroy Jenkins, whose playing informs Chang through a few shimmering lines on his solo outing during "Thulani," a waft of freshness in the heat. But he, too, is caught in the turmoil most of the way.

Black Beings serves as an historical document and stopping-off point in the musical legacy of Lowe, showing a rare side of the musician.

When he started out on ESP-Disk', Frank Lowe was one of those hard-blowing tenor saxophonists we think of when we heard the phrase "free jazz." Born in Memphis, he moved to San Francisco and, while visiting New York, began playing with Alice Coltrane (on whose albumWorld Galaxy he made his recording debut in 1971), Sun Ra, Rashied Ali, and Noah Howard, and eventually moved to the Big Apple. 

On his debut as a leader, Lowe was confident enough to share the frontline with the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Joseph Jarman, who sticks to soprano and alto saxes here. This album is also notable as the recording debut of bassist William Parker, who has gone on to become an elder statesman of the genre and a ubiquitous presence on the New York scene. And then there is the mystery of the violinist originally credited only as The Wizard. Speculation long ran rampant, with one eminent jazz critic declaring not only that it was Leroy Jenkins under a pseudonym, but "quite recognizable" as such. Consider that a compliment to Raymond Lee Cheng, whom we now know it to have been; he recorded with Lester Bowie two years later as Raymund Cheng. 

That is not the only discovery unveiled on ESP's 2008 reissue of this classic. ESP's Michael Anderson went into the vaults and discovered unreleased music that was edited out to fit the time confines of the LP. "In Trane's Name" is now 33:29 rather than 25:00; the Jarman-penned "Thulani" is 22:09 compared to 15:55. One listen quickly reveals that the glory of this album is thoroughly enhanced by the additional music.

Rashied Ali & Frank Lowe - 1972 - Duo Exchange

Rashied Ali & Frank Lowe
1972
Duo Exchange 


01. Exchange - Part 1
02. Exchange - Part 2

Drums, Percussion – Rashied Ali
Tenor Saxophone, Flute [Japanese], Percussion – Frank Lowe


In what would appear to be a re-examination of 1967's landmark John Coltrane-Rashied Ali album 'Interstellar Space', the drummer Ali teams up with then up-and-coming (and now, sadly, recently deceased) tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe for two lengthy exchanges. And given that it was recorded only a few years after the original, one might hope to find some of the same power and spiritual energy. But power is largely lacking from this interesting yet ultimately frustrating release. Ali is fine - always impressive and so polyrhythmic it's easy to lose yourself amongst all the changes. And Frank Lowe, who would grow into a wonderful & unique style as he incorporated older techniques into his voice (catch him on Billy Bang's 'Valve No. 10', where he sounds like Coleman Hawkins half the time) builds up to quite an impressive burst of energy. But at times he seems to be searching about for ideas, and Ali doesn't seem able to help him out. Throughout this rather short album (it clocks in at less than thirty minutes), it often sounds as if the two men were playing in separate rooms, unaware of the others' presence. There's very little of the shared creativity that jazz often supplies. It's good that Knitting Factory has made this once-rare and out of print album available to fans, but it's probably only going to be essential listening for hard-core Rashied Ali fans and maybe Frank Lowe enthusaists.

A free jazz sax & drum duo in the vein of "Interstellar Space" (hell, there's even the same drummer on both), although I agree with stilton's comment that there are notable differences between the two.  Still, I listen to *a lot* of free jazz, and I'm guessing that those of you less accustomed to the genre wouldn't hear much difference... in any case, pretty much every record will be unique in various ways, even if the players try to exactly copy another.

Do you like your free jazz ferocious and intense?  Definitely check this out.  There isn't a moment of rest on this album - well, except when Lowe takes a break for Ali's rabid solos.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

David Wertman - 1978 - Earthly Delights

David Wertman 
1978
Earthly Delights


01. Earthly Delights
02. Relations
03. Oh John Love Trane
04. Clear Air Dancer (For Barbara)

Baritone Saxophone – Greg Wall
Bass – David Wertman
Drums – Jay Conway
Flute, Percussion – John Sprague Jr.
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – David Swerdlove
Synthesizer – John Zieman
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – John Hagen

Recorded in Amherst, Mass., May 1978


David was a highly acclaimed musician, his recordings have been made available and reissued around the world; his performances have been enjoyed since the 1970s when he emerged as a major force in the New York City New Music scene. While in NY, he formed the first edition of his “Sun Ensemble” and performed and recorded regularly with luminaries Billy Bang, Arthur Blythe, Marion Brown, Steve Reid, Brandon Ross, Terri Jenoure, Dave Pike, William Parker, Archie Shepp, Perry Robinson, Burton Greene, Lou Grassi, Abbey Rader and many others. Leaving New York, David made his way to Western Massachusetts where a cultural and political renaissance was about to blossom. Dave formed a group called “Winds of Change” with percussionist Tony Vacca and saxophonist Tim Moran. Together they blended a socially progressive message with urban, West African and jazz musical traditions. “Winds of Change” became a mainstay at the newly opened Iron Horse Café and was exemplary of the burgeoning multicultural movement in the Valley.

In 1980 Dave and Lynne met and formed The Lynne Meryl Trio, interpreting classic Jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. The trio worked steadily for many years featuring, among others, pianists Tom McClung and Nat Needle. In addition, Wertman played many sessions with guitarist Eric Bascomb, singer Ethel Lee and discriminating musicians throughout the region. As Lynne put it "he rocked every band!" Vocalist Meryl provided a voice for Wertman's originals, in the "Sun Ensemble" and later the "Spirit Ensemble", which over the years included Tony Vacca, Bob Dagnello, Claire Arenius, Charlie Miller, Lea Macquarrie, Tim Moran, Tim Atherton, Paul Lieberman, Jack Pezanelli, Ken LaRoche, Neal Backman, Eugene Uman, Karen Copeland, Miro Sprague and many others. "As a drummer who played lots of music with Dave over the years, I always appreciated the depth and feeling of his grooves on his bass, and the big open and gracious sound he had - Dave could take you on wonderful adventures because his spirit was so big and free." Claire Arenius

Wertman and his wife Lynne spent several years as “snow birds,” traveling back and forth between homes and gigs in Central Massachusetts and South Florida, achieving a richly satisfying, balanced life, performing and creating music while leaving ample time for another of their shared priorities - exploring the natural world. In Florida, Dave played for years at O'hara's Jazz Club in Fort Lauderdale with the iconic Dr. Lonnie Smith and drummer Danny Burger. Dave swung the big bands of Paul Cohen, Duffy Jackson, Michael Rose and toured with Ray Anthony, Erskine Hawkins, Les Elgart, Melton Mustafa as well as the tribute bands of Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Cab Calloway and Gene Krupa. He performed as a first-call sideman in shows with Buddy Greco, the Four Freshman, the Ink Spots, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Patti Page, Wayne Newton, the Crystals and many others. 

An outpouring of support came to David in his final months when news of his failing health became public. Dave remained humble and attempted to minimize the news of his illness to assuage worry.

He valiantly performed a few times during the Summer and Fall, most notably at the Loft Lounge with the Nancy Janoson Quartet featuring Lynne Meryl on September 27th, 2013. Dave arrived energized and played enthusiastically especially during his original composition “Live Well and Prosper.” He launched into every tune with such fire and vigor that electrically charged evening. He clearly conveyed a message to everyone in the room: the life spirit is a gift to us all, one to not take lightly. All who have had the privilege to listen to David Wertman, to dance to his rhythms, to hear the deep song of his generous presence have felt the surging volcano of that life force and are so much the richer for it. 

David Wertman - 1976 - Kara Suite

David Wertman
1976
Kara Suite


01. Kara Suite 8:17
02. Sunshine 8:36
03. Sharatarr 14:11
04. Devotion 5:04

Alto Saxophone – Charles Tyler
Bass – David Wertman
Drums, Percussion – Steve Reid
French Horn – Richard Schatzberg
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Ken Simon

Recorded June 1976 at the Sound Hut, New Jersey.


Obscure release on drummer Steve Reid's Mustevic Sound label, with Reid on drums, Charles Tyler on alto, and bassist Wertman leading up the groove, plus reedsman Ken Simon and French horn player Richard Schatzburg rounding out the group. The tracks are mostly pretty long, and have that slightly off-center modal feel that was a hallmark of Reid's work from this time

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Eugene Chadbourne, Charles Tyler - 1977 - Ghost Legends

Eugene Chadbourne, Charles Tyler
1977
Ghost Legends


01. In Between Comme C And Comme Saw 0:30
02. Ghost Legends 0:15
03. Usually Not The Case 16:10
04. Memories Of The Schonee 11:37
05. Amber (Inc.) 1:3
06. Legend of the Lawmen 7:57
07. Improvisation 12:06
08. Ghosts 8:57

Acoustic Guitar [12 String], Electric Guitar [6 String] – Eugene Chadbourne
Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Charles Tyler
Recorded By – John Zorn

Recorded live at The Brook, NYC on Sept. 17, 1977


Ghost Legends was recorded live in New York on September 17, 1977. It features Eugene Chadbourne on acoustic 12-string and electric six-string guitars, and Charles Tyler on (mostly) baritone saxophone and clarinet. Sound quality is muffled but otherwise good. This is the complete tape of the performance, including "Amber," during which the tape ran out (after only a minute). The title refers to Albert Ayler whose classic tune "Ghosts" closes the set. This duo worked pretty well, better than Chadbourne's association with Frank Lowe. Tyler's free jazz background and tendency to flirt with contemporary music completes the guitarist's Derek Bailey-like inclinations. The saxophonist's "Legend of the Lawmen" and Chadbourne's "In Between Comme C and Comme Saw" stand worlds apart, and yet their coming together sounds perfectly normal. Tyler blows a beautiful clarinet solo on "Improvisation," one of the album's highlights; his colleague remains rather discreet throughout the show, leaving a lot of breathing room. "Usually Not the Case" describes pretty well how the listener feels hearing this delicate soft-spoken piece where the guitarist shows an impressive level of restraint recalling Roger Smith during his days with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. All in all a very nice early session, Ghost Legends was reissued on CD-R by Chadbourne's House of Chadula label.

Charles Tyler - 1980 - Sixty Minute Man

Charles Tyler 
1980 
Sixty Minute Man



01. The Mid-Western Difter 14:50
02. From Saint Louis To Kansas City By Way Of Chicago 4:04
03. A Tale Of Bari Red 9:50
04. Sixty Minute Man 9:55

recorded in 1979

Weasel Walter drum overdub recorded on may 1, 2007
   
Charles Tyler - saxophones

with

Weasel Walter - drums


Charles Tyler spent the mid-'60s playing for the legendary Albert Ayler, with whom he shares his burly tone and wide vibrato. Tyler's 1980 LP Sixty Minute Man is a reasonably successful attempt to make his gutsy, blues-soaked belting work in a solo setting. It isn't nearly as fiery and invigorating as his work with Ayler, but that has more to do with the fact that there are fewer musicians to load the mix with ideas than with any major deficiency in Tyler's playing. He's at his best on the lengthy opening cut, "The Mid-Western Drifter," which begins with moving, lugubrious alto sax lines and becomes more frenzied as the piece progresses. The second half of the album sags a bit when Tyler switches instruments: He's best known for playing baritone, and he pulls off some pleasantly hypnotic circular breathing tricks near the end of "A Tale of Bari Red," but the piece mostly proves that his ideas didn't flow as freely on baritone as they did on alto. Still, the bulk of this release is exciting enough if you aren't expecting an Ayler-esque blowout; Sixty Minute Man may be more resigned than most free jazz, but it's nice to hear Tyler's rich, heavy tone in a more intimate setting.

Charles Tyler - 1980 - Folk & Mystery Stories

Charles Tyler
1980
Folk & Mystery Stories


01. Uptown Manhattan Puerto Rico 9:05
02. Folk Life 11:29
03. Friday The Thirteenth 7:39
04. The Warlock Mystery Drama 15:40

Bass – John Ore, Wilbur Morris
Cello – David Baker
Drums – Steve Reid
French Horn – Richard Dunbar
Saxophone – Charles Tyler

Recorded at Blue Rock Studio, New York, April 13, 1980.


A later session from Tyler, employing an interesting line up, adding the chamber instruments French horn and cello to a quartet with two basses in the rhythm section. As with some of Tyler's other work from around this period, the music combines through composed sections with freer blowing, with Tyler's post-Ornette sound on the alto and bari sounding great throughout.

Charles Tyler - 1978 - Saga Of The Outlaws

Charles Tyler
1978
Saga Of The Outlaws


01. Chapter One
02. Chapter Two

Bass – John Ore, Ronnie Boykins
Drums – Steve Reid
Saxophone– Charles Tyler
Trumpet – Earl Cross

A polyphonic sonic drama
Performed by the Charles Tyler Ensemble
A tale of the old & new West


Saga of the Outlaws is just about the most fitting title one could expect for saxophonist Charles Tyler's fifth LP under his own name. Tyler was more than an outlaw (or a gladiator, to paraphrase Stanley Crouch), but unfortunately his name crops up rather rarely in discussions of jazz's historical vanguard. He traversed the Midwest, from Kentucky to Indiana to Cleveland, Ohio where he met saxophonist Albert Ayler in the late 1950s. He joined the Ayler brothers in New York in the 1960s and in their groups he gained a degree of notoriety. Tyler figures prominently on Albert Ayler's Bells (ESP, 1965), his feral wide-vibrato alto offering a more unhinged (and as LeRoi Jones would say "bloodthirsty") take on scorched-earth saxophone playing, a worrying bray that became a hallmark of the "Cleveland school," but in Tyler's hands it's significantly more severe.

But Tyler's recorded history is rather scattered, and it's a shame that he didn't make more of a name for himself considering his discographical pedigree. He waxed two dates for ESP under his own name in 1966 and 1968 (the latter while studying at the University of Indiana), as well as a pair of rare sides for his own Ak-Ba label in addition to this Nessa session. Recordings as a leader also appear on Adelphi (a solo baritone date entitled Sixty Minute Man) and European labels like Silkheart, Storyville and Sonet.

Waxed during the 1976 Wildflowers sessions, an acclaimed five-record set of "samples" from the New York loft jazz scene of the mid-1970s, Tyler's 36 minute Saga didn't really lend itself to excerpting. Luckily, Chuck Nessa stepped in to shepherd its release on his Nessa imprint. This is its first issue on compact disc. Tyler is joined here by regular foils, trumpeter Earl Cross, drummer Steve Reid and bassists Ronnie Boykins and John Ore. Reid, Boykins and Cross appeared on Tyler's excellent first Ak-Ba release, Voyage from Jericho, in 1975.

Ostensibly, the group and performance concept (subtitled "A Polyphonic Tale of the Old and New West") is that of a double trio sharing a drummer. Ore and Boykins tug at one another, but each supports a horn player, and the interplay is at first an outgrowth of superimposition. After a wide, keening coda from alto and trumpet reminiscent of mournful European or early American folk melodies, basses enter with alternating lopes, throaty stutter and ornate wraparounds as Reid inverts and double-times backbeats and breaks. Tyler's opening solo is hard-edged squall, flat-note shims with demarked length piling onto each other in speed-aided blur. Occasionally a bit of honky-tonk blues a la Ornette Coleman will creep out only to subsume itself into the white-hot sonic quilt. Perhaps too much could be made of Tyler's debt to the Aylers' approach, but it's hard not to equate the two, as the extraordinary speed of his improvisations coupled with an extremely wide and gut-wrenching bottom is pure Cuyahoga freedom. Tyler often plays around with that influence, referencing the "Witches and Devils" dirge before diving headlong into a Latin-Berber collision straight out of Science Fiction.

The rhythm section is superb, with Reid a tremendously telepathic player whose swing goes beyond jazz into North African rhythms and a decidedly modern funk sensibility (his recordings on the Mustevic label are sought after by DJs). Coupling him with the rock-solid anchors of Boykins and Ore, who guided the music of Sun Ra and Thelonious Monk respectively, allows for a formidable and kaleidoscopic approach to rhythm that is nevertheless locked in forward motion. Trumpeter Earl Cross was very active in New York during the 1970s with Tyler, as well as saxophonists Noah Howard and Frank Lowe. Here, his skittering lilt and Moorish sensibility fill the ensemble's wide rhythmic and harmonic area with dusky daubs, a steely-voiced hummingbird to the leader's garish and joyous calls.

Saga of the Outlaws includes an extraordinary range of modern music in a simultaneous display of emotions and references. It's only too bad that Tyler himself is no longer with us to share in the rediscovery of his music.

Charles Tyler - 1977 - Live In Europe

Charles Tyler 
1977
Live In Europe


01.  Fall's Mystery
02. Folly
03. Voyage From Jericho

Charles Tyler, alto and baritone saxophone
Ronnie Boykins, bass
Steve Reid, drums
Melvin Smith, guitar

Reorded live at the Umeå Jazz Festival, Sweden, 24-26 October 1975.


A pretty darn nice session, recorded live at the Umea Jazz Festival in Sweden in 1975. Tyler's group here is a quartet, with Ronnie Boykins, Steve Reid, and Melvin Smith – and the group is working in the mode of modal rhythm with free out soloing that seemed to be a slight New York sub-genre at the time, informed by harmelodic experiments, but imbued with a freer sense of soloing.

Charles Tyler / Ensemble - 1975 - Voyage From Jericho

Charles Tyler / Ensemble
1975
Voyage From Jericho


01. Voyage From Jericho 9:46
02. Return To The East 12:50
03. Just For Two 6:00
04. Children's Music March 5:50
05. Surf Ravin 10:30

Charles Tyler: alto and baritone sax
Ronnie Boykins: bass
Earl Cross: trumpet
Steve Reid: drums
Arthur Blythe: alto sax on 1. and 5.

Recorded July 1974 at Studio ONE, N.Y.


Bari sax player Charles Tyler, one unsung hero of early free jazz generation,met Albert Ayler when them both were just a teens. Tyler moved to New York after Ayler and soon find himself playing in Ayler's band. Tyler recorded "Bells" and "Spirits Rejoice" with Ayler and recorded two albums as leader for legendary ESP (in 1967-68). Than moved to LA for few years where played with Arthur Blythe and David Murray among others. In mid 70s Tyler returned back to New York where he played and occasionally recorded some more albums. Being one of most significant baritonist of his generation (besides of more known Hamiet Bluiett) Tyler never received serious fame or following. In early 80s he toured Europe with Sun Ra Archestra and stayed in Denmark, than relocated to France where passed away in 1992.

"Voyage From Jericho" is Tyler's first in a line of albums, released in mid 70's. Excellent quintet,containing Arthur Blythe on alto, acoustic bassist Ronnie Boykins, trumpeter Earl Cross and drummer Steve Reid plays five free-bop originals, warm, groovy and tuneful. As on some other albums, Tyler successfully mixes Ayler's early jazz roots and free reading with Eric Dolphy's free-bop and Pharoah Sanders spiritual jazz. Quite simple,not overloaded music radiates original beauty and naturalism, both were often missed by later generations of free jazz musicians. 

Charles Tyler - 1967 - Eastern Man Alone

Charles Tyler 
1967
Eastern Man Alone


01. Cha-Lacy's Out East 11:04
02. Man Alone 9:08
03. Le-Roi 11:01
04. Eastern 8:55

Alto Saxophone – Charles Tyler
Bass – Brent McKesson, Kent Brinkley
Cello – Dave Baker

Recorded at Feature's Studio, Indianapolis, January 2, 1967.


This 1967 recording by the avant-garde saxophonist -- his second for ESP-Disk' -- features Tyler on alto sax with accompaniment from David Baker (cello), Brent McKesson (bass) and Kent Brinkley (bass). The album starts out with 'Cha-Lacy's Out East' which revisits a theme from his first album as leader, (ESP 1029 Charles Tyler Ensemble). The proceedings are heady free-form avant-jazz, reaching into cosmic realms with it's string-heavy backing providing soaring atmospheres. Tyler cut legendary records as a sideman to Albert Ayler (ESP 1010 Bells, ESP 1020 Spirits Rejoice), but as a leader, proves to be one of the most advanced, challenging, and exploratory players of the late '60s avant-garde.

That Charles Tyler comes out of the school of Albert Ayler is a well-known fact. Listening to Tyler in his quartet on Eastern Man Alone, recorded in January, 1967, his second for ESP, is delving into history. His music is seminal, even more so it seems than either Coltrane’s and Coleman’s was, because it is downright raw. Besides the uniqueness of the sound, additionally innovative in this recording is the prevalence of the strings: David Baker plays cello; Kent Brinkley and Kent McKesson, bass. There are no drums. Tyler is the sole horn player on alto.

Tyler’s alto is altogether searing, staying within a range that does not cover too many extremes. Tyler carves out the shape of the rhythmic choruses, which repeat and fall apart in patterns, eventually to be rediscovered in refreshed form. From the very upbeat first cut, “Cha-Lacy’s Out East,” the strings synchronize with Tyler so that it seems as if the horns have multiplied. Tyler’s tone is not pure; it is reedy and describes so well the era of Ayler when improvisation let loose only to circle round in simply structured choruses to build the body of composition. Both with pizzicato and bowing, the strings seem to monopolize the music in all but the first number, after Tyler lays the groundwork for where the basses can and do go. Only in the last “Eastern,” does Tyler, as does Baker and the other bassist, fold into what the arco bass starts.

Cellist Baker wrote “Le-Roi.” All the instruments are synchronized at the outset; the ascent into the break-out tune loops gradually until one bass finally ushers Tyler to take the reins. The strings have arco drive and a slippery grind. A singular, but not foreign, high-pitched tremolo on the cello stops the music with ethereal strangeness.

Tyler's second ESP-Disk album "Eastern Man Alone" was recorded in 1967. This record should have been called The Psychedelic Sounds Of Charles Tyler because that's just what it is, high energy trip music that will space you right out like it does for me and I haven't used drugs in over 20 years.

Charles Tyler Ensemble - 1966 - Charles Tyler Ensemble

Charles Tyler Ensemble
1966
Charles Tyler Ensemble


01. Strange Uhuru
02. Lacy's Out East
03. Three Spirits
04. Black Mysticism

Bass – Henry Grimes
Cello – Joe Friedman
Alto Saxophone – Charles Tyler
Drums – Ronald Jackson
Vibraphone – Charles Moffet


One of the true firebrands of early creative improvised music, alto saxophonist Charles Tyler has always been revered -- especially by Europeans -- as a forefather of the free jazz movement alongside John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler. Also titled Tyler's "First Album," Charles Tyler Ensemble has the same four tracks as the original album release, totaling about 34 minutes of music with no alternate or bonus cuts. This mid-'60s recording, one of two he did for ESP, has been identified by many as a cornerstone statement of the movement, and its issuance on CD does nothing to dissuade the listener of that notion. Regardless of genre, this is a very stimulating band that buoys Tyler's freedom statements, featuring a young pre-Ornette Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, the emancipated-from-mainstream-jazz bassist Henry Grimes, and obscure cellist Joel Friedman, who worked briefly with Ayler. Drummer Charles Moffett -- also closely associated with Coleman in this time period -- plays the bright, so-called "orchestra vibes" on one track. With this vivacious music that stretches time parameters and harmonic envelopes, Tyler and his crew bend whatever malleable shapes they can, while burning down the traditional jazz house and still paying homage to bebop. It's intriguing to hear Tyler's expressive and robust color palette, using overtones juxtaposed in contrast with Moffett's tinkling vibes, a fickle sonance during "Strange Uhuru" as the bowed string players surround the sound in hushed tones. Jackson's bop-like rhythms permeate "Lacy's Out East" in a rambling deep blues that reflects his peer group of saxophonists, including Steve Lacy. "Three Spirits" is a song turned inside out, sped up and on fire with incendiary phrases in a fast free bop with little regard for subtleties. Tyler employs a spiky, tongued technique with harder accents of reference during "Black Mysticism," unafraid to wail as Jackson's rolling-thunder drumming makes this sound like a duet, though Grimes is present in rhythmic passion, more so during his and Friedman's bowed solos. This is certainly a definitive recording, a breakthrough for Tyler individually, but also one that sets the bar high for '70s free jazz to establish itself as a powerful force some ten years after it was brought into being, amidst naïve skepticism and misunderstanding. Bravo to Tyler for staying the course, starting with this bold and innovative album.

Charles Tyler, from Albert Ayler's band, makes a startling statement on his debut solo record. His group, featuring an unusual instrumentation of cello, bass, drums, orchestra vibes, and saxophone, plays through his original compositions and showcases some heated solos. 
Although primarily known as a baritone sax player, Charles Tyler is featured on alto sax yet his sound and concept are fully evident on this record. 

Charles Tyler Ensemble possesses a profound quality. Unlike many records of the mid-1960s, it burns with a quiet blue flame, eschewing the intellectual posturing that characterized much new music in the avant-garde era. Tyler, a baritone saxophonist who became an acolyte of Albert Ayler—following him to New York in the early part of the movement—transposes Ayler's famous gravitas to the horn of a higher register, the alto. 

This act alone gives his spare and deeply spiritual compositions more urgency. It is almost as if Tyler has come to feel the mortality of an artist in the grander scheme of things. He successfully creates a narrative soundscape where pure contrasts are highlighted: for instance, Charles Moffett orchestral vibes tinkle off the thunderous grunting of Ronald Shannon Jackson drums and the magnificent Henry Grimes plays staccato and legato passages in the swirling warmth of his bass, leaving room for Joel Friedman's cello to screech in counterpoint. Tyler himself wails and moans and lets slip burnished glissandi with surprising facility. He is vocal, expressive and chatters breathlessly, as if the idea and story of the moment exists only in that moment and must be told before it vanishes forever. And he does so time and time again. 

"Strange Uhuru" is an ironic, dirge-like wake for the freedom of flight, and the inner journey that didn't dig deep enough for the spirit to lift one's wings. "Lacy's Out East" seems to put enlightened thought in perspective, highlighting Steve Lacy and Tyler's own debt to the cradle of all sound—the primal Afro-centric polytonality that was born in the swinging depths of New Orleans. "Three Spirits" speaks of every free spirit that has blazed a trail for acolytes to follow. Hints of Charlie Parker Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler—along with the chopped musical architecture of Thelonious Monk—fill the air in a cloud of notes and sounds. Grimes and Friedman solo with soaring brilliance—especially Grimes, whose pedal point is spot on. "Black Mysticism" rushes from Tyler's lips like a frenetic, dancing prayer circle. With Friedman bowing to create a swaying movement, Grimes fires rapidly, plucking intensely to feed the alto saxophonist's gathering fervor. The percussionists create polyrhythms underfoot and keep the prayer meeting going. 

Charles Tyler is gut-wrenchingly direct, suppressing the urge to intellectualize contemporary music in this veritable feast of modern sound. But he and his band also argue for the intelligent use of song, showing reverence for music history stretching as far back as the cry of Holy Rollers, bebop and shackled human beings. And they do it with perfect pulse in notime.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

New Life Trio - 1980 - Visions Of The Third Eye

New Life Trio
1980
Visions Of The Third Eye


01. Empty Streets
02. Egypt Rock
03. Sculpture
04. Chinese Rock
05. Prelude To Grace
06. Love Cipher

Bass – David Wertman
Drums – Steve Reid
Guitar – Brandon Ross

Music of the people, by the people, for the people.

Recorded: December 6, 1978


A lesser-known set from groundbreaking drummer Steve Reid – issued on his Mustevic Sound label after the classic Rhythmatism and Nova sets! Reid's playing here with the New Life trio – a group that features his drum work next to the guitar of Brandon Ross and heavy bass of David Wertman – who'd done some great work of his own for the same label. The tunes have a very rhythmic pulse – especially the bass and drum work – and the guitar seems to move around the top of the tunes, almost of its own accord.

Per Henrik Wallin, Kevin Ross, Steve Reid - 1983 - Raw Material

Per Henrik Wallin, Kevin Ross, Steve Reid
1983
Raw Material


01. King's Way 21:15
02. Raw Material 17:00

Bass – Kevin Ross
Drums – Steve Reid
Piano – Per Henrik Wallin

Recorded live at Jazz Club Fasching, Stockholm, October 21, 1981.


Stylistically, Wallin is a modernist who hasn't forsaken the roots of jazz, and there are echoes in his playing of everyone from Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Bud Powell to Erroll Garner, Lennie Tristano, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. His compositions, even though more interesting than indelible, are consistently melodic and seldom stray beyond the bounds of accepted musical standards. In other words, Wallin's music may be au courant but is by no means the sort of "free jazz" that one would associate with, say, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Hill, Horace Tapscott or others in that camp. His solos are well-structured yet spiced with unexpected twists and turns that nourish one's awareness.

The Raw Material include two recordings at Jazz Club Fasching, October 21, 1981. by the Per Henrik Wallin Trio in Stockholm.  As with excellent release, Burning in Stockholm (bass - Johnny Dyani, drums - Erik Dahlbäck), the jazz here is loosely structured, with an intrinsic concern for dynamic interactions producing a dense and joyous feel. There's plenty of rhythmic and melodic tension that builds on these improvisations—with the release portion of their process coming in either measured or careful steps, as on "King's Way," or in more sudden drops, as with the raucous "Raw Material."
Bassist Kevin Ross and drummer Steve Reid share plenty of the soloing responsibilities with the leader, making for an album of greater hues and contrasts. Ross is wild, unabashed by his superior technique, and unafraid to wail when the urge and pace require it. Reid maneuvers the trio with various rhythmic controls and textures that highlight his abilities as well as those of Wallin and Ross.

The leader, for his part, is a rhythmic and melodic daredevil, speeding thorough several solos with remarkable skill and taste. Perhaps underappreciated in the United States, Per Henrik Wallin is clearly rooted in an American tradition of jazz, a swing and a bop clearly discernable in his stunts. His music is more "out" than "in," and this may put off some listeners, but there is no denying the range of his sound, the latitude of his joy, and the all-out, infectious effort his mates reciprocate.

For a live recording, the fidelity of sound on Raw Material is quite good. None of the instruments are lost in the mix. This is an enjoyable and exciting, and very very healthy experience. Great album.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Steve Reid - 1977 - Odyssey of The Oblong Square

Steve Reid
1977
Odyssey of The Oblong Square



01. Odyssey Theme
02. Deacon's Son
03. Odyssey Sweet
04. Ginsamseng

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe, Charles Tyler
Bass – David Wertman
Drums – Steve Reid
Percussion – Mohammad Abdullah
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah

Recorded "live" January 1977 New York City on WKCR FM's "Jazz Alternatives" show hosted by Peter Low.


A bold odyssey from Steve Reid – his Odyssey Of The Oblong Square – a jawdropping session recorded in 1977 for a NYC radio show that's as rhythmically feverish and avant garde funky as the legendary drummer's other underground soul jazz classics of the 70s! If anything, the percussion is even more outstanding on Odyssey as it is on the great Nova and Rhythmatism sets for Mustevic – with Reid leading the charge on drums, and most of the other players contributing percussion on one way or another, for an all around frenetic sound, that's still unwaveringly in a groove. Mohammad Abdullah is on congas, ballophone and African percussion, with Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet, Arthur Blythe and Charles Tyler on alto sax – the horns all really kill on this set – and David Wertman keeping an unpredicable acoustic bass groove. Includes 4 long pieces, including the 3 part "Odyssey Sweet", "Odyssey Theme", "Deacon's Son" and "Ginsamseng" – all Reid originals. Amazing! 
Drummer extraordinaire and legend, Vietnam conscientious objector, ex-Black Panther, Reid has played with everyone from James Brown to Sun Ra, Fela Kuti and Miles Davis, friend of John Coltrane, worked at Motown ... Currently working with Kieran Hebden on some of the most radical music being made at present.
Soul Jazz Records are re-releasing this rarest release of deep heavyweight jazz by Steve Reid and The Master Brotherhood, entitled ‘Odyssey of the Oblong Square’ available for the first-time since its original release over thirty years ago on Steve Reid’s own Mustevic Sound record label (where it came out in an edition of 1000 copies) and has been a serious collectors album ever since. There is also a one-off limited-edition vinyl, which, like the original, is limited to 1000 copies worldwide.
Steve Reid is now known worldwide for his radical collaborations with Kieren Hebden on Domino Records. ‘Nova’, ‘Rhythmatism’ and ‘Odyssey of the Oblong Square” are his amazing first albums recorded in the early 1970s – all now serious collector’s albums!
Steve Reid is steeped in musical history and a true pioneer of US deep left-field jazz. He played in Sun Ra’s Arkestra, was a Motown session drummer and backed James Brown at the Apollo! He was a Black Panther, imprisoned during the Vietnam war as a conscientious objector and lived in Africa in the early 1970s. 
Originally released as a self produced album in small quantities from a 1977 radio studio performance, master drummer Steve Reid's loft jazz masterpiece is back in print after a long absence. On this album he is joined by David Wertman on bass, Mohammad Abdullah on percussion, Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet and Arthur Blythe and Charles Tyler on alto saxophone. Rhythm and groove are the primary elements of the music, with the bass, drums and percussion locking together to produce a massive groove that propels the horns ever onward. "Odyssey Theme" fades in to the band already in full flight, with a punchy theme for horns and hand percussion. The lengthy "Deacon's Son" has a probing start for alto and trumpet, with a solid bass and percussion groove. Nice extended saxophone solo spools out over hypnotic percussion. Abdulla takes things to a higher level with a lively trumpet solo, picking the pace up to a high level fast and exciting but still well controlled. "Odyssey Sweet" has a fast Ornette-ish full band improvisation, free-bopping over a slinky groove. "Ginsamseng" begins with a fast, full band improvisation, and M. Abdullah's hand percussion anchoring the searching horns. The horns scale back and Wertman's bass comes to the forefront, deep and strong, acting as a pivot point for the music. Bass, drums and percussion lock into an epic groove that slowly builds in intensity, scaled by hot sounding trumpet. This was taught and exciting music powered by a wall of percussion, and is an excellent example of the kind of "loft jazz" that was being made in the late 1970's. 

Steve Reid - 1976 - Nova

Steve Reid 
1976
Nova


01. Nova
02. Lions Of Juda
03. Free Spirits - Unknown
04. Long Time Black
05. Sixth House

Acoustic Bass – Luis Angel Falcon
Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Joe Rigby
Bass  – Richard Williams
Drums – Steve Reid
Piano, Organ – Les Walker
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah

Recorded March 25, 1976 at Studio WE New York City



This album is like a mongoose.  One minute you find yourself thinking that it's cute, the next minute it stands up on its hind legs and you can't help but laugh.  Just when you think you know everything about Nova it hands a cobra a can of whoop-ass and has it for lunch.  The leader, Steve Reid, is a drummer and smashes the hell out of all sorts of things.  In fact, most of the musicians play in a very edgy way.  Some of Nova could be described as Ornette Coleman's The Change of the Century meets Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante.  The album absolutely kicks ass.  Never heard anything like it.  It's certainly one of my absolute favorite Jazz albums.

Damn, this smokes! This kicks off with some uptempo, Ornette-style post-harmony but melodic playing, but about halfway through the first cut, Reid's playing starts getting markedly funkier and, oddly, punkier--by the time you hit the barnstorming "Lions of Juda" and amazing side-ender "Free Spirits - Unknown", there's a very complex vibe going that consists of Abdullah and Rigby doing something like idiomatic free jazz (albeit not in a pat way--very beautifully and with passion) while Walker, Falcon and Reid are in some kind of proto-post-punk trance--Reid's playing in particular begins accentuating the basic rhythm very heavily in a way that was uncommon not only in free jazz but really in most post-dixieland jazz--while it's still complicated and virtuoso, there's a focus on maintaining the main rhythm here that's unusual. But it's not the stomp of Miles' fusion bands or Tony Williams when he's playing with rock guitarists--it's, again, this kind of hi-hat-heavy post-punk, menacing sound. Half this record sounds like This Heat or Pere Ubu with solos, basically. The end of "Free Spirits", in particular, when Reid reels back from a post-bop-ish "cymbals only" beat to something like one of Charles Hayward's insane rhythms that sounds like a drum machine--holy shit. It's cool because it's not intentional but neither is it a "happy accident" or some kind of savant-avant--it's just that one of the logical, but little explored, avenues that free jazz could have gone down. Find this!

This is an astounding record by an artist who has been criminally neglected. The list of those who could make out jazz funky is a short one. Ornette of course springs to mind as do the musicians of the Art Ensemble and their Chicago brethren. Drummer Steve Reid must now be added to that list. From the swaggering thunder of "Lions of Juda," to the gentler songs that close this album, there's nary a misstep. This music is as beautiful and dangerous as a shower of broken glass -- just when you think you've got a song figured out, this clever group of largely unsung musicians heightens the tension and takes things careening off in an unexpected direction. Have no fear though, these men are always nothing if not firmly in control. This is a wonderful document of a long vanished New York scene that was long on every emotion, not just fury. Find this album and buy it.

Steve Reid - 1975 - Rhythmatism

Steve Reid 
1975
Rhythmatism


01. Kai 12:45
02. Rocks (For Cannonball) 11:04
03. Center Of The Earth 4:20
04. C You Around 12:30
05. One Minute Please

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Bass – David Wertman
Drums – Steve Reid
Piano – Les Walker
Trombone – Michael Keith

Recorded Nov & Dec 1975 at Mustevic Sound Studios, New York.



During the late 1960s and early 70s, jazz innovation mirrored social upheaval by consciously turning away from tradition and embracing the avant-garde. Elaborate collectives such as the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Miles Davis' hard-fusion trailblazers arrived at a wholly modern big band sound through exotic song structures and the use of electric instruments. With their aggressively lyrical and non-linear soloing, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Pharaoh Sanders eradicated the time-honored tenets of melody, harmony, and time signature, searching instead for spiritual truth within the music itself. Free jazz, "the new thing," experimental-- whatever it was called, the work of these artists was impassioned, unprecedented, and divisive, pushing music into unexpected realms.

Around that time-- and at the other end of the spectrum-- funk-jazz was more concerned with keeping a groove than breaking new ground. But it was far from static: Eddie Harris and Herbie Hancock used the on-the-one downbeat of James Brown and Sly Stone as the foundation for their sophisticated compositions, while Jimmy McGriff and Grant Green's warm, buttery solos dipped blues and R&B; into jazz's jelly jar. Not as challenging to the ear as free jazz, funk-jazz still hit harder than some of the fusionary misfires that followed and, 20 years later, spawned acid-jazz.

Recently reissued on Soul Jazz, Steve Reid's Rhythmatism steps expertly between funky and free. "Soul jazz" is the perfect moniker for the album, which both reflects the exploratory soloing and marathon track lengths of the free jazz school and digs intently into hard-swinging grooves. Recorded in 1975, Rhythmatism is exactly what its title implies: an examination into the power and pliability of the beat.

Reid takes the helm on drums, and the rest of his acoustic quintet-- bass, piano, sax, and trombone-- exudes a warm, earthy sound, diving into the rhythmic core of their instruments rather than taking them on unfettered flights. Reid's drums propel these tunes against their tempo, building tension through repetition and slight nuance. There are no flashy fills-- instead, he's content to add subtle color with variations in volume and pace.

Album opener "Kai" is a masterpiece, a luscious, essential listen for anyone looking to discern the sanguine, pulsing heart of jazz music. Composer Les Walker's piano spars with Reid's hypnotic stick-and-brush work, but the drummer never flinches as the pianist hopscotches across the keys. Arthur Blythe alternates between flow and fire on alto sax while David Wertman's slippery upright bass provides a round, hearty bottom end. This 12-minute epic isn't a casual listen, but it's so fulfilling that you'll want to grant it your complete attention.

"Rocks (For Cannonball)" is the album's most explosively abstract tune thanks to Walker's meandering keyboard hysterics. Throughout it all, however, Reid stays locked on course. His technique comes to the fore as he pounds his kit against polyrhythmic percussion-- tambourine, shakers, bells-- plied by other band members. Once again, the rhythm section of Reid and Wertman is formidable and unshakable, and throughout this track-- as well as "C You Around"-- Blythe's minor-key sorties on alto are reminiscent of late-era Coltrane. The effect is transporting.

Beginning in medias res, the criminally short "Center of the Earth" is the album's emotional centerpiece. It sounds as if a studio tech pressed "record" at the teary-eyed peak of a climactic jam. With a sudden explosion of baritone sax, trumpet, and guitar-- plus a boxful of percussion toys-- the whole song is one ecstatic, extended crescendo. Music doesn't get any more joyful than this without putting its tongue in its cheek, and that's something a soul master like Reid simply had no reason to do.

Arthur Blythe - 1980 - Illusions

Arthur Blythe
1980
Illusions


01. Bush Baby 6:28
02. Miss Nancy 7:24
03. Illusions 4:10
04. My Son Ra 5:59
05. Carespin' With Mamie 7:04
06. As Of Yet

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Double Bass – Fred Hopkins
Drums – Bobby Battle (tracks: A1, A3, B2), Steve McCall (tracks: A2, B1, B3)
Electric Guitar – James Blood Ulmer
Piano – John Hicks
Tuba – Bob Stewart


It is surprising how artistically productive altoist Arthur Blythe was during his period on Columbia. Despite the hype and Columbia's reputation for pressuring artists to play mass-appeal music, Blythe's recordings for that label are inventive and creative. For this, his third Columbia release, Blythe uses two different groups: an "in the tradition" quartet with pianist John Hicks, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall, and a more eccentric unit with guitarist James Blood Ulmer, cellist Abdul Wadud, tuba player Bob Stewart, and drummer Bobby Battle. No matter the setting, the distinctive alto of Blythe is heard in top form on six of his unusual originals. It's recommended.

Not quite as fabulous as Lenox Avenue Breakdown but the music retains much of the same feeling, much due to the presence of both James Blood Ulmer on bad-ass electric guitar and Bob Stewart on that distinctive tuba. Same kind of (mostly) aggressive funky jazz, punctuated by wicked soloing from Blythe and Ulmer. Real nice piano work too from John Hicks. 

Some of the best bang for the buck you're going to find from this time period in jazz. Well worth the exploration.

Arthur Blythe - 1979 - Metamorphosis

Arthur Blythe
1979
Metamorphosis


01. Duet For Two 17:51
02. Metamorphosis 8:00
03. Shadows 7:40

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Drums – Steve Reid
Percussion – Muhamad Abdullah
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah
Tuba – Bob Stewart

Recorded in concert at The Brook, 40 W. 17 Street, New York City, February 26, 1977


Altoist Arthur Blythe's first two recordings as a leader, The Grip and Metamorphosis, were recorded at the same concert; all of the two LP's contents are on this single CD. Blythe was already quite distinctive and an impressive improviser at this early stage, a year before he signed with Columbia. His sextet (which consists of trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, cellist Abdul Wadud, tuba player Bob Stewart, drummer Steve Reid and percussionist Muhamad Abdullah) performs seven of Blythe's challenging originals and "Spirits in the Field" while the 18-minute "Duet for Two" is a free collaboration by the leader and Wadud.

There is no real thing to say about this, a great free jazz concert album, everyone plays great, especially Blythe, who sometimes plays melodic themes, but usually makes a completely free game. Not once is he singing with a cello accompaniment in a purely and beautiful way, which evokes Coltrane in particular. 
The room and cello give an interesting color to the whole, although I would prefer to be a little more dominant.

Arthur Blythe - 1979 - Lenox Avenue Breakdown

Arthur Blythe 
1979
Lenox Avenue Breakdown


01. Down San Diego Way 7:44
02. Lenox Avenue Breakdown 13:11
03. Slidin' Through 9:33
04. Odessa 9:30

Alto Saxophone, Composed By – Arthur Blythe
Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Flute – James Newton
Guitar – James "Blood" Ulmer
Percussion – Guillermo Franco
Tuba – Bob Stewart


If you're unfamiliar with the music of "Black Arthur" Blythe (all I knew before hearing this was that he was a BEAST on Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition record), here's the pertinent information: first he was part of The Underground Musicians and Artists Association (the west coast equivalent of Chicago's AACM), then made his recording debut as a sideman for a 1969 Horace Tapscott record, then moved to New York in the mid 70s and spent a number of years playing with Chico Hamilton and Gil Evans. In other words, Blythe has already spent almost a decade working on his craft, and he's absorbed some pretty serious influences along the way. Blythe's alto sax sound has a vibrato you'd expect to hear from a tenor, though there's no mistaking it's an alto when he uses his full range during solos. For this album, he's put together a lovely combination of sounds - besides his alto, there's James Newton on flute, Bob Stewart on tuba, James "Blood" Ulmer on guitar, Cecil McBee on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Guillermo Franco on percussion. The arrangements are unremittingly creative and often unexpected. Everyone gels together extremely well on all four tunes, an impressive feat considering how varied the moods and textures are.

"Down San Diego Way" starts things off on an unassuming note: a tribute to the music and people of the Southwest with feel-good melodies from sax and flute and a 'booty-shakin' groove. Enjoy it while it lasts, because nothing else comes close to being that light and happy again. The title track and "Odessa" are both of a more avant-garde nature ("Odessa" has an almost Middle Eastern feel) and "Slidin' Through" is a fantastic blues riff in 7/4. Heads are easily identified and not all that complicated, but with DeJohnette behind the kit and Franco complimenting him there's no telling where things will go. Ulmer probably makes the music more 'out' then it needs be, but only because his style is so free - when he comps he's producing strange altered chords and never in rhythm or in time with anyone else. It works though, and I heartily endorse the approach. Lenox Avenue Breakdown is a great performance from start to finish, plus where else can you hear tuba, flute and guitar all together in this kind of setting?

Given the urban title of alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe's debut Columbia album, it's quite a shock when he and his red-hot band of collaborators that include James Blood Ulmer on guitar, Bob Stewart on tuba, flutist James Newton, bassist Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette open with the decidedly funky Latin breaks on "Down San Diego Way." It's not a vamp and it's not a misleading intro, the first of four tracks showcases not only the deep versatility of the rhythm section, but Blythe's own gift as both a composer and as a soloist. He states the melody, handing off the harmonics to Ulmer and Newton and then flies high into the face of its chosen changes, allowing the beat to change under him several times before bringing back a theme and letting Ulmer solo. Blythe's grounding in the blues and in modal composition guide him on the title track; he and Newton move through intervallic shifts of chromatic intensity and spatial columnar structures, while Ulmer builds a middle bridge to both ground and fly from. But Blythe is not content here to showcase the extremes. On both "Slidin' Through," his exercise in harmolodic composition, and "Odessa," Blythe provides ample proof of his wisdom as a bandleader, encouraging solo and rhythmic interplay between different groups of musicians such as McBee and Blythe on the former and between himself, Newton and Ulmer on the latter as the rhythm section winds it out in both cases, stretching the narrow envelope into something far more textured and thematically unified -- note the Ornette-meets-noir ambience of "Odessa." This group lays like a band that had been together for years, not the weeklong period it took them to rehearse and create one of Blythe's masterpieces. Over 20 years later, Lenox Avenue Breakdown still sounds new and different and ranks among the three finest albums in his catalog.

You could easily call this album a lost treasure, as it came and went after its 1979 release, not even seeing much light after bandleader Arthur Blythe and his six colleagues reached critical acclaim and success. Blythe counts this loose session as a paean to Harlem, where the assemblage of sounds and rhythms along Lenox Avenue translates into an amalgam not unlike the mix of James "Blood" Ulmer's funk-painted guitar strum backed by the twin engines of drummer Jack DeJohnette and percussionist Guillermo Franco, each of whom makes a sky-crying racket. They do so, surely, in a fit of inspiration, sitting as they are behind a potent frontline: Blythe on alto sax; James Newton on flute; and Bob Stewart on tuba. A tuba on the frontline? Well, in truth, these chaps are all playing the frontline, really. Newton's so revolutionary on the flute that his Rahsaan Roland Kirk-isms make for great rhythm, and his intricate Eric Dolphy-isms cut sharp harmony. Blythe takes his notes seriously as little living things, but his art is in the web work and the melodies. Stewart plays the chameleon, doing tempo a while and then showing slippery riffs galore to the band. Very little in jazz--much less major-label jazz, which this was--around 1979 could match this recording. 

Arthur Blythe - 1979 - In The Tradition

Arthur Blythe
197
In The Tradition


01. Jitterbug Waltz 4:34
02. In A Sentimental Mood 7:45
03. Break Tune 3:03
04. Caravan 5:22
05. Hip Dripper 4:35
06. Naima 6:44

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Bass – Fred Hopkins
Drums – Steve McCall
Piano – Stanley Cowell


Sometimes the easiest way to get "in" to someone's music is to see how they handle standards. Altoist Arthur Blythe, who -- although he has been associated somewhat with the avant-garde -- does not fit easily into any category, is heard on this 1978 studio session exploring four veteran songs plus two of his originals. The instrumentation of his quartet is conventional but the musicianship is exceptionally high (pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall), and it is quite interesting to hear how they stretch such songs as "In a Sentimental Mood," "Jitterbug Waltz," and "Caravan," making them sound fresh and original.

“I would love for everyone to accept my music, and I would love to make money, but only by keeping my music on the cutting edge,” Here Blythe is working with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall on drums. One look at the pieces, two by Ellington, one by Fats Waller, one by Coltrane and the rest by Blythe, you can see there is an effort to ameliorate the avant-garde reputation of Blythe. ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ was occasionally played by Paul Gonsalves and Johnny Hodges, Blythe brings a different sensibility to the music.  He does not caress the melody in the way that the Ellingtonians would.  The interpretation is wilder, passionate and more strident. Stanley Cowell also enjoys embellishing ‘Caravan’ before Blythe soars away emotionally into a blizzard of notes.

Black Arthur Blythe - 1978 - Bush Baby

Black Arthur Blythe
1978
Bush Baby


01. Mamie Lee 10:32
02. For Fats 8:43
03. Off The Top 8:20
04. Bush Baby 9:07

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Congas – Ahkmed Abdullah
Tuba – Bob Stewart

Recorded at Blank Tapes Recording Studio, New York City, December 1977.


During this outstanding and challenging recital, altoist Arthur Blythe (who at the time went by the title of "Black Arthur") stretches out on four originals in a sparse trio with Bob Stewart on tuba and Ahkmed Abdullah on conga. Blythe had an original sound from the start and his soulful yet adventurous and intense style is heard in its early prime on what was his second recording session as a leader, cut just before he was surprisingly signed to Columbia.

Arthur Blythe - 1977 - The Grip

Arthur Blythe 
1977
The Grip


01. The Grip
02. Spirits In The Field
03. Sunrise Service
04. Lower Nile
05. As Of Yet
06. My Son Ra

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Drums – Steve Reid
Percussion – Muhammad Abdullah
Trumpet – Ahmed Abdullah
Tuba – Bob Stewart

Recorded live at The Brook, 40 W. 17 Street, New York City, February 26, 1977


For a time in the late '70s and early '80s, it seemed as if jazz's avant-garde was on the verge of a popular breakthrough in the person and music of Arthur Blythe. Blythe was signed by Columbia Records; the label's hype-heavy promotion of the saxophonist almost made him a star. It didn't work; Blythe was too "out" for the masses. Columbia realized that it had made a mistake by expecting too much of the public, and threw its promotional weight behind a more malleable, less threatening young prince by the name of Wynton Marsalis. And the rest is history.

Arthur Blythe grew up in San Diego. He began playing music in school bands at the age of nine. In his teens he studied with a former member of Jimmie Lunceford's sax section, Kirtland Bradford. After moving to Los Angeles in 1960, he began playing with pianist/bandleader Horace Tapscott. In 1961, the two became founding members of the Union of God's Musicians and Artist's Ascension. Blythe recorded under Tapscott's leadership in 1969 and worked regularly with the pianist until 1974.

After moving to New York, Blythe worked and recorded as a sideman with Chico Hamilton (1974-1977) and Gil Evans (1976-1980). He first recorded as a leader in 1977. He was no young lion; Blythe was 37 years old when his first records, The Grip and Metamorphosis, were released on the independent India Navigation label. By then, Blythe was a fully developed, mature artist, a free-influenced player who was also capable of playing older styles in an utterly personal and borderline iconoclastic way. When Blythe played a standard, he imbued it with all that had happened in jazz since it was written, up to and including the free techniques that were integral to his concept; one could hear traces of his predecessors, but as an affectionate remembrance, not an affectation.
Blythe's style varied mostly in the form of his contexts. His earliest recordings feature unusual instrumentation; 1977's Bush Baby featured the saxophonist in a transmogrified version of the sax-bass-drums trio, with Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammed Abdullah on conga. During his Columbia days, Blythe maintained two separate but equal performing units. One was the so-called "electric band," a free funk-oriented quintet with Stewart, cellist Abdul Wadud, drummer Bobby Battle, and, at various times, electric guitarists James "Blood" Ulmer and Kelvyn Bell. The other was an acoustic jazz quartet that took its name from its first Columbia release: 1979's In the Tradition. The band included bassist Fred Hopkins, drummer Steve McCall, and pianist Stanley Cowell. That album gained Blythe a great deal of critical and popular attention. In retrospect, In the Tradition can be seen as a forerunner to the hard bop revival that dominated major-label jazz in the '80s and into the late '90s -- a development that ultimately consigned progressive jazzers like Blythe to the margins.

Blythe made several records for Columbia of varying quality. Lennox Avenue Breakdown and Illusions were very strong; others were not. By 1984's Put Sunshine in It -- a disturbingly inane (and perhaps last-ditch) effort at grabbing a portion of the expanding jazz fusion market -- Blythe's welcome at Columbia had just about worn out. He did rebound a bit with 1987's Basic Blythe, an In the Tradition-type album that was unnecessarily cluttered by a string section. The record was his last for Columbia.

Blythe recorded less frequently in the late '80s and '90s. He and David Murray were a state-of-the-art sax section on one of the most highly praised albums of the '80s, Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition. Blythe also joined Lester Bowie, Chico Freeman, Don Moye, Kirk Lightsey, and Cecil McBee in a band rather presumptuously called the Leaders, which recorded a pair of well-received albums for Black Hawk and Black Saint. Blythe briefly replaced Julius Hemphill in the World Saxophone Quartet in 1990. He recorded for Enja in the '90s; 1991's Hipmotism featured a revamped version of his "electric" group; 1993's Retroflection was an acoustic effort. In 2002, Blythe enlisted marimba player William Tsillis, tuba player Bob Stewart, and drummer Cecil Brooks III, releasing Focus on Savant. Exhale followed on Savant in 2003, and featured pianist John Hicks in addition to tubaist Stewart and drummer Brooks.
Blythe died in Lancaster, California in March 2017 at the age of 76. He possessed one of the most easily recognizable alto sax sounds in jazz, big and round, with a fast, wide vibrato and an aggressive, precise manner of phrasing. His lines were frequently quite baroque and always well-defined; his playing had sometimes been criticized (unfairly, some would say) as being overly ornamental, but he was certainly capable of improvising melodies of great character and originality.