Sunday, November 24, 2019

Lester Bowie - 1978 - The 5th Power

Lester Bowie
The 5th Power

01. Sardegna Amore (New Is Full Of Lonely People) 6:20
02. 3 In 1 (Three In One) 9:32
03. BBB (Duet) 5:52
04. God Has Smiled On Me (Traditional Gospel) 18:02
05. The 5th Power (Finale) 4:58

Alto Saxophone – Arthur Blythe
Bass – Malachi Favors
Drums – Phillip Wilson
Piano, Vocals – Amina Myers
Trumpet – Lester Bowie

Recorded April 1978 at GRS Studios, Milano, Italy.

This quintet is loaded with expressive talent. Blythe and Myers are the outsiders here, yet their different kinds of playing--Blyth is swaggeringly verbose, Myers a gospelish spirit--add new flavours to Bowie's sardonic music.

First of, Sardegna Amore is a classic! He also did this as "New York Is Full Of Lonely People" on the Urban Bushman album. This album has more the free and loose spirit of jazz in the late 70s/ early 80s than what he did in the last decade of his life with the pop tunes and rap. It definitely is a different facet of his trumpet playing, and it all Great Fun, as music was for Mr. Bowie.

The 5th Power is a live album by Lester Bowie recorded for the Italian Black Saint label and released in 1978. It was recorded during a concert tour of Europe by Bowie's group "From the Roots to the Source" and features performances by Bowie, Arthur Blythe, Amina Claudine Myers, Malachi Favors and Pillip Wilson. Creative jazz and a progressive gospel segment. Bowie at his eclectic best. Essential.

Lester Bowie - 1982 - All The Magic!

Lester Bowie
All The Magic! 

All The Magic!
101. For Louie 12:14
102. Spacehead 6:47
103. Ghosts 3:09
Trans Traditional Suite (15:51)
104. 1. All The Magic
104. 2. Everything Must Change
104. 3. T. Jam Blues
105. Let The Good Times Roll 6:47

The One And Only
201. Organic Echo 3:17
202. Dunce Dance 2:05
203. Charlie M. (Part II) 2:49
204. Thirsty? 3:34
205. Almost Christmas 3:52
206. Down Home 2:40
207. Okra Influence 4:38
208. Miles Davis Meets Donald Duck 1:39
209. Deb Deb's Face 2:03
210. Monkey Waltz 1:47
211. Fradulent Fanfare 1:01
212. Organic Echo (Part II) 5:27

Lester Bowie trumpet
Ari Brown tenor and soprano saxophones
Art Matthews piano
Fred Williams bass
Phillip Wilson drums
Fontella Bass vocals
David Peaston vocals

Recorded June 1982, Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

“This is for you, Louie.”

For his second ECM album as leader, the late trumpeter and all-around wise guy Lester Bowie presented us with this intriguing twofer. The A session is dominated by two longer cuts. The first, “For Louie,” is an ode to Satchmo to end all odes. Clear and present trumpeting wails and jackknifes against the fluttering keys of Art Matthews (who also enlivens the runaround of Bowie’s “Spacehead”) as soul man Ari Brown finger-paints with his charcoal tenor. As if that weren’t enough to whet your appetite, vocalists Fontella Bass, Bowie’s wife and co-writer of the hit “Rescue Me,” and her younger brother David Peaston lay on the gospel. Incidentally, the b-side to “Rescue Me” was a song called “Soul of the Man,” and this is exactly what we hear. The school band feel of Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” then haunts us only briefly before plunging us into the album’s second major opus. The “Trans Traditional Suite” is a sultry nod to transience in a rolling tide of brushed drums and cascading piano. This opens halfway through into a free-for-all of convoluted joy, as if to flesh out these songs’ essential message to embody in sound what it claims through word. Brown’s tenor solo speaks loudest here. The band caps things off with a legato version of “Let The Good Times Roll.” Bowie spits fire, fluttering and soaring by turns alongside that same heady tenor. Bass and Peaston reappear, matching Bowie’s penchant for humor tit for tat.

The B session, though bound by the same spirit, couldn’t be more different in execution from its counterpart. Here we find Bowie in a 35-minute solo excursion that reveals his artistry in the flesh. From the flying harmonies of the two Organic Echoes (for which he plays into an open piano) and the tongue-in-cheek ceremony of “Dunce Dance,” and on to the experimental whimsy of “Thirsty?” (in which he blows as if through a drinking straw) and “Miles Davis Meets Donald Duck” (exactly what it sounds like), Bowie abides by a richness of color that is uniquely his own. Other highlights include the church bell sweep of “Almost Christmas” and the affectionate “Deb Deb’s Face.”

This album is so rich that you may not feel a need to listen to it often, but when there’s room for it, it’s sure to hit the spot and then some.

Lester Bowie - 1981 - The Great Pretender

Lester Bowie
The Great Pretender

01. The Great Pretender 16:22
02. Howdy Doody Time 2:08
03. When The Doom (Moon) Comes Over The Mountain 3:39
04. Rios Negroes 7:17
05. Rose Drop 7:28
06. Oh, How The Ghost Sings 5:50

Lester Bowie trumpet
Hamiet Bluiett baritone saxophone
Donald Smith piano, organ
Fred Williams basses
Phillip Wilson drums
Fontella Bass vocal
David Peaston vocal

Recorded June 1981 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

A contradiction amongst trumpet players, Lester Bowie was the most successful trumpeter of the avant-garde and at the same time the contemporary player who was most happy when digging about in the roots of jazz from the earlier parts of the century.

Because he used mutes in the "wah-wah" style that was a Duke Ellington speciality of the Twenties and Thirties, Bowie was sometimes known as "the new Cootie Williams" after one of Ellington's more spectacular trumpeters. Bowie was happy to lift the growls and half-valved sounds of the earlier players and drag them into his experimental playing. Gospel music also figured in his plans and there was a vocal quality to his trumpet that was unfashionable but very effective. When he played, he swept from slashing, violent improvisations to themes of haunting beauty, often stepping off in between to incorporate banal quotes from pop songs.

He also delved sideways into contemporary black pop music, and one of his most famous recordings was a vivid 16-minute version of the Platters' hit "The Great Pretender", recorded with his first wife, the singer Fontella Bass, in 1981. Was it sly humour or the wish to provide an easy access to his music that led him to follow up with long reworkings of "I Only Have Eyes For You" (1985) and Louis Armstrong's "Blueberry Hill" (1986) and "Hello, Dolly" (1987)?

His music covered the widest and most unpredictable spectrum, so that one had to absorb, next to "Blueberry Hill" on the ascetic and dignified ECM label, his composition "No Shit" - words and arrangement by Lester Bowie. The lyrics consisted of two words repeated. Bowie's music was unfailingly exuberant and everybody went along with his wry humour and volcanic trumpet playing. Except, that is, for some of the eminent younger musicians who followed and, as is the habit of the young, regarded him as either a traitor or a musical irrelevance.

Neither was the case, for Bowie was one of a group of intelligent and committed musicians who combined their music with their fight for racial freedom. Considering the emerging trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, Bowie said, "With his chops and my brains I could have been one of the greatest." Bowie was by no means in the Marsalis league as a technician. He and his fellows in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the subsequent Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), a band that they formed in 1968, brought pantomime to jazz, using face make-up and creating a travelling theatre from their bands. The only programme for their concerts was that there wasn't one and they happily mixed theatrical jokes with serious creative avant-garde music.

Born in Maryland in 1941, Bowie grew up in St Louis at a time when musicians were still coming up from New Orleans. He played first in local rhythm- and-blues bands led by Little Milton and Albert King, both soon to become famous. He also worked with some of the young musicians in the city who, like him, were destined for fame. They included the saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman and the drummer Jack DeJohnette. Bowie moved to Chicago in 1965, where he met Fontella Bass and became her musical director.

The same year, the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams formed the AACM as a jazz workshop and Bowie joined him. Their first recordings in 1967 show a group of unknown but very advanced musicians in completely spontaneous but expert and intoxicating improvisations. From this point on Bowie and his friends were no strangers to odd instrumentation. He played trumpet and flugelhorn but also anything exotic that seized his fancy, like bass drum or the mysterious cowhorn. Logs, bells, sirens, gongs, whistles and a zither also found their way into the armoury.

The band, finding no outlet at home, moved to France in 1968 and the following year recorded the LP A Jackson in Your House. Typically, the piece begins with a dignified and pompous overture which is punctured by the laughter of the band before it rocks into a Dixieland ensemble complete with clarinet and then into an approximation of the swing style. Although the music is unusually and intentionally funny, the direct social criticism of A Message to Our Folks done a couple of months later is much more serious. The two albums perhaps typified Bowie's weakness for slapstick and the way it occasionally diluted his more serious messages.

In 1969 ACM was founded with a completely new vision of jazz. On stage, the band imitated the street bands of South America, recited poetry and used a variety of unlikely sound effects as they played both avant-garde and more conventional jazz.

Bowie moved all over Europe and recorded in 1969 as soloist and composer of the suite Gettin' to Know Y'All with the Baden-Baden Free Jazz Orchestra, a 50-piece group that included some of the top stars of European jazz. More recently, in 1994, he recorded with the Polish avant-garde band Milosc, and had been in London this autumn with his group Brass Fantasy.

He didn't confine himself to Europe and performed with local drummers in Senegal during an African visit in 1974. In 1983 he was a member of the New York Hot Trumpet Repertory with Wynton Marsalis and played with the all-star avant-garde group the Leaders in the middle Eighties.

In 1990 he recorded the theme music for the television series The Bill Cosby Show and worked on film soundtracks with the composer Philippe Sard in the early Nineties. He taught at many trumpet clinics and was at one time artist in residence in colleges at Yale, Dartmouth and Harvard.

He has left a multitude of recordings, one of the most fascinating a double LP from 1982 called All the Magic. It features on the first LP his group with Fontella Bass and David Peaston in gospel-inspired vocals and includes his suite For Louie. The second has Bowie in a series of often hilarious trumpet solos, including amongst them "Miles Davis Meets Donald Duck".

In 1985 he first formed Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, the group that he recently brought to Britain. It consisted of four trumpets, two trombones, French horn, tuba and drums. Later the line-up rose to 10 pieces. The band was quite dazzling, using imaginative tone colours and subtle scoring that was perhaps obscured by the reinterpretation of pop songs that his audiences had come to love and expect. His programmes for Brass Fantasy included Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You" and Patsy Cline's "Crazy". The 1990 album by the band, My Way, included the Sinatra hit along with "Honky Tonk" and James Brown's "I Got You".

He remained a sight to make the eyes sore and in later years added sequins to his trademark white medical coat.

William Lester Bowie, trumpet and flugelhorn player, composer and bandleader: born Frederick, Maryland 11 October 1941; twice married (six children); died New York 8 November 1999.

The title cut on Lester Bowie’s The Great Pretender comes of course from The Platters, the influential vocal group whose other hits, “Only You” and “The Magic Touch,” catapulted the group’s success through the rock n’ roll charts of the 1950s. Bowie’s investment in popular music’s connections to jazz set him a world apart. Second perhaps only to 1978’s The 5th Power, his debut for ECM as leader works wonders with its namesake. Where the original opens with quiet fortitude, this massive 17-minute rendition does so even more, the pianism of Donald Smith breathing a soulful mist upon a landscape that sometimes swirls with unanticipated gales. Fontella Bass and David Peaston are our doo-wop backups, their presence making the music that much more phenomenal. From Hamiet Bluiette’s heady baritone solo to the swampy rhythm section, Bowie has plenty of gum to chew in his horn.

No Bowie experience is complete without an inoculation of whimsy, and this we get in his rendition of “It’s Howdy Doody Time.” Phillip Wilson’s bright snare and Bowie’s fluttering elaborations share the air with Smith’s long slides. These morph into an evocative Fender Rhodes in “When The Doom (Moon) Comes Over The Mountain,” a wild chase backed by Fred Williams’s popping electric bass and the late-night sprawl of Bowie’s blatting. What begins as an overused Latin riff in “Rio Negroes” quickly transforms into a foray of architectural proportions secured by solid improvisational beams. Rich bass lines and rim-work carry us out in style. “Rose Drop” again looks through a glass playfully, only this time with a deeper drop. The tinkling of toy piano sparkles in Bowie’s waning sunlight, overflowing with half-remembered sentiments, each a photograph pasted in a scrapbook like no other.

Lester Bowie is like the moon. His is a field that waxes and wanes, haunting us with intimations of a distinct face, even as it harbors a dark side that we never get to see, except through the grace of studio technology, which allows us a glimpse the deeper intimations of his craft. We get this most readily in “Oh, How The Ghost Sings,” which from the evocative title to its flawless execution rings with the after-effects of a temple bell, the actual striking of which we never hear, and ends on a protracted, distant wail.

Julian Priester & Marine Intrusion - 1977 - Polarization

Julian Priester & Marine Intrusion 

01. Polarization / Rhythm Magnet / Wind Dolphin 22:10
02. Coincidence 3:33
03. Scorpio Blue 8:25
04. Anatomy Of Longing 9:32

Julian Priester trombone, string ensemble
Ron Stallings tenor and soprano saxophones
Ray Obiedo electric and acoustic guitars
Curtis Clark piano
Heshima Mark Williams electric bass
Augusta Lee Collins drums

Recorded January 1977 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The trombone is the viola of the brass world. It is arid, languid, and also incredibly beautiful in its range and melodic honesty. And on Polarization, Julian Priester’s ECM follow-up to his 1973 Love, Love session, we get more of that gorgeous depth than we could ever ask for.

The first three tracks form a unified whole. “Polarization” (Priester) begins with two overdubbed trombones improvising in a lofty space. We get some wonderful staccato technique in the left channel, and a wealth of implied energy all around. As the right-hand trombone fades, we hear the slightest indication of drums at the cut’s tail end, of which “Rhythm Magnet” (Priester) fleshes out every audible detail. Synthesized strings lend expanse while bassist Heshima Mark Williams lays down a gorgeous, almost Bill Laswell-like mysticism, albeit with an added twang and sharper features. Ray Obiedo weaves a slack guitar into the mix, and as the horns settle in to their respective stations, the piano lets out a final exaltation. “Wind Dolphin” (Bruce Horiuchi) begins with a cluster of drums. From this, we get a flowing run from brass and flanged guitar. The band breaks into a powerful free-for-all, marked by a “laughing” trombone and piano. “Coincidence” (Obiedo) is a piece for trombone, acoustic guitar, and piano, as beautiful as it is short. “Scorpio Blue” (Curtis Clark) arises from a solo trombone as drums lift the piano skyward into rolling flights of fantasy. The final track, “Anatomy Of Longing” (Curtis Clark), aside from having one of the best titles I’ve encountered in a long time, brings on the funk with electric guitar ornamenting the already fine calligraphy of the brass. And just when you think the music is over, it drips into a simmering sax solo over a pellucid piano and cymbals before the bass line returns with its undeniable insistence. The sax reels while the electric guitar squeals in joy over the thematic reinstatement before hurtling itself forward into an enthralling solo of its own. A smooth nightcap to a phenomenal outing.

While not as consistent in texture as Priester’s earlier effort, Polarization delivers in its many moods and emotional travels. The musicians don’t so much feed off as feed into one another, nourishing a delicate conversation in which agreement is the norm. Their harmonies are tender, the synergy relaxed and intuitive, acute yet soft around the edges. The recording is superb, the resonance at once immediate and expansive.

Julian Priester - Pepo Mtoto - 1974 - Love, Love

Julian Priester / Pepo Mtoto
Love, Love

01. Prologue
02. Love, Love
03. Images
04. Eternal Worlds
05. Epilogue

Julian Priester trombones, horns, whistle flute, percussion, synthesizers
Pat Gleeson synthesizers
Hadley Caliman flute, saxophones, clarinet
Bayete Umbra Zindiko pianos, clavinet
Nyimbo Henry Franklin basses
Ndugu Leon Chancler drums
Mguanda David Johnson flute, saxophone
Kamau Eric Gravatt drums, congas
Ron McClure bass
Bill Connors electric guitar

Recorded June 28 & September 12, 1973 at Different Fur Music, San Francisco
Engineers: John Viera and Dane Butcher
Produced by Julian Priester and Pat Gleeson

Julian Priester was a versatile and highly advanced trombonist capable of playing hard bop, post-bop, R&B, fusion, or full-on avant-garde jazz; however, he remains under-appreciated due to the paucity of sessions he recorded under his own name. Priester was born in Chicago on June 29, 1935, and started out on the city’s thriving blues and R&B scene, playing with artists like Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, and Bo Diddley; he also worked with Sun Ra’s early progressive big band outfits during the mid-’50s. In 1958, Priester moved to New York and joined Max Roach’s band, appearing on classics like Freedom Now Suite. In 1960, Priester also recorded two hard bop sessions as a leader, Keep Swingin’ and Spiritsville. After leaving Roach in 1961, Priester appeared often as a sideman on Blue Note dates, recording with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Blue Mitchell, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, and McCoy Tyner; on a more adventurous note, he also worked with Sam Rivers and played in John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass ensemble. Priester worked with Duke Ellington for six months during 1969-70, and shortly thereafter accepted his highest-profile gig with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters-era fusion band. Upon his departure in 1973, Priester moved to San Francisco and recorded two dates for ECM, 1974’s Love, Love and 1977’s Polarization. In the ’80s, Priester joined both Dave Holland’s group and the faculty of Cornish College in Seattle, and later returned to Sun Ra’s big band. During the ’90s, Priester continued to work with Holland, and toured with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. In 1997, he finally led another session of his own for Postcards, titled Hints on Light and Shadow, which featured Sam Rivers. In 2000, Priester received a liver transplant, but was back in action the following year at a benefit concert in his honor.

With a title like Love, Love, Julian Priester’s ECM debut could be nothing but a warm embrace, an abstract melodrama lifted from the pages of an epic story. Hot on the heels of Bennie Maupin’s The Jewel in the Lotus, this album gives us more than we might expect and electrifies like a Mwandishi joint sans Herbie Hancock. Between the groovy “Prologue” and brass-laden “Epilogue” lie three interconnected pieces in two 20-minute suites, each a head-nodding peregrination couched in the vibrant expanse that only an ensemble of this size can maintain. Congregations of horns abound in a funky milieu of drums and bass. The spell is immediate and unrelenting, heightened by an elegant application of synths. The late Hadley Caliman captivates with binding contributions to Priester’s own arsenal of raw materials. Guitarist Bill Connors, who would soon explore his acoustic leanings, shines on the electric, at times grazing the upper atmosphere with almost Steve Mackey-like ebullience. The first set ends as it began, fading into an originary space, leaving wisps of energy in the darkening skies. The second set arises from a tangle of sine waves. Drums stand tall like a stone circle, circumscribing the ritual within with rapt skyward attention. An electric piano courses through every gesture of this activity, petering out into a light flute-driven melody that rests confidently at the lower lip of dissonance. A fiery trombone solo from Priester forges an ecstatic peace. Bayete Umbra Zindiko works wonders at the keys, drawing lines from music to listener with every note struck, even as Connors lays a grungy scream of white noise in the face of possible self-destruction. The kinesis builds like a train until each instrument falls to the wayside, if not crushed under wheel by its passage. From this is pulled a thin urban stream of staccato harmonies that derail into a heap of conclusive breaths.

Mal Waldron Trio - 1970 - Free at Last

Mal Waldron Trio
Free at Last

01. Rat Now 10:15
02. Balladina 5:01
03. 1-3-234 4:01
04. Rock My Soul 11:23
05. Willow Weep For Me 7:31
06. Boo 3:25

Mal Waldron piano
Isla Eckinger bass
Clarence Becton drums

Recorded November 24, 1969 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Kurt Rapp
Supervision: Manfred Eicher
Produced by Manfred Scheffner + Jazz by Post
Release date: January 1, 1970

Scheffner’s name is incorrectly spelled as “Scheffnfr” on the original LP.

This record was the start and first release of ECM Records (ECM 1001)

A cymbal riff from Clarence Becton introduces this respectable outing from Mal Waldron and company as bassist Isla Eckinger and the bandleader jump in for some enjoyable interplay. Yet what begins as an energetic ride turns somber through Eckinger’s rumination. Such solos lend deeper insight into the goings on, underscored by Waldron’s staccato mastication. Ballads are the album’s ventricles. A sweltering slog through love and darkened streets, “Balladina” shines with a hardened beauty all its own, while “Willow Weep for Me” is therapeutic like a good long cry. Both tracks have been strategically placed as penultimate bookends and serve as two-way doors into the struggles on either side. Others, like “1-3-234,” center the listener with needed uplift from these brooding asides, culminating in the concise and playful “Boo.”

This recording, ECM’s first, represents what was to become the label’s defining edge: namely, the allowance for (and foregrounding of) space in the recording of jazz. Seeing as this was already part of Waldron’s base approach, selectively pulling at roots while grafting on new ones, this disc was a suitable vehicle for his raw aesthetic. Its melodies may not stick in your head, but are stepping-stones toward a careful melancholy. And while ECM would vastly improve and enlarge its recording repertoire in the decades to come, there remains something comforting—just shy of innocent—about this album. If anything, this is a jazz of introversion, an intimate and myopic exposition of fleeting interactions that neither invites nor pushes away.

As Peter Rüedi has it, “free” meant something quite different to Waldron than it did to the more overtly anarchic figureheads of the waning sixties. It was, rather, “a quality that starts with structure and comes back to structure.” In light of this, Free at Last is the point of departure for a label that has since never looked back, even as it carries these sounds in its heart.

We are back!

Due to circumstances out of our control we saw ourselves having to take a short break from posting, but we have returned. The series on Sun Ra will continue in a not so distant future. Meanwhile... enjoy the music.