102. Bi 3:55
103. Bäbi 15:17
Bonus tracks on Corbett Vs. Dempsey CD release
201. 1969 Trio 1 28:40
202. 1969 Trio 2 12:44
203. 1969 Trio 3 8:24
204. 1969 Trio 4 6:58
Percussion – Milford Graves
Reeds – Arthur Doyle
Reeds – Hugh Glover
CD 1 recorded ... March 20, 1976 at WBAI-FM/Free Music Store, New York.
CD 2 recorded December 14, 1969, in New York City.
The original tapes for 'Bäbi' were lost, so the reissue was culled from unplayed copies of the LP, expertly transferred and noise-reduced by Alex Inglizian.
Thanks to Scott Nielsen for his turntable, tonearm and cartridge.
This releases is under exclusive license from Milford Graves.
After the death of John Coltrane in the summer of 1967, various tensions and undercurrents in the music he championed during his last two years came to varied heads. Each recorded document captured a moment in the tempestuous history that gained significant momentum with Ornette Coleman’s prophetically named Free Jazz and We Insist: Freedom Now, courtesy of Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, both dropped on a relatively unprepared public in 1960. Milford Graves’s debt to the Coltrane Classic Quartet, especially to fellow drummer Elvin Jones, is well documented, but Bäbi finds the master percussionist inhabiting even thornier territory nearly 10 years beyond Coltrane’s passing. The album was released in 1977 on Graves’s own IPS label and has now, finally, received the reissue treatment it so richly deserves. The original 1976 live recordings are augmented by a 1969 home session, previously unheard, and the results burn with all their original intensity, shedding light on a history whose multifarious course is still achieving historical clarity.
The 1976 music itself demonstrates advance, gaining an inventive fluency less evident in those pioneering forays of the middle and late 1960s. Following an announcement, the “free jazz” slow build is eschewed as ideas whirl in rapid-fire flux, but there’s another aesthetic at work. Sudden cutoffs plunge the energetic rhetoric into an even more highly charged uncertainly that the word “silence” would stain by understating its import. These are instances not so much of reflection but of anticipatory austerity, a subversion of the energy-music narrative that is both welcome and more unnerving than the intensity framing them. Reedsmen Hugh Glover and Arthur Doyle reinvent trope after trops associated with “fire music”’s power, and once the high dynamics are accepted, the many colors on their sonic pallets swim into glorious focus.
The album is recorded in such a way that movement in space is palpable. The reedsmen especially engage in a kind of stereophonic counterpoint composed of raw timbre with Graves at the center. Not so the 1969 rehearsal comprising the second disc of this reissue, which is recorded in what might be called inglorious mono. Who cares? There is no overestimating the historical importance of this hour’s documentation of the trio in an earlier stage of development. The group is at liberty to stretch, which they do, and while the instruments can be a little more difficult to discern, I do hear some bass clarinet in the mix as well as a few sounds that might actually be described as beautifully sensual if not necessarily pitched. Glover and Doyle accomplish the nearly impossible task of crafting an instrumental vocabulary independent of the towering influence of bebop and Coltrane, and it is a wonder to hear them in action.
Then, there is the phenomenon called Milford Graves. If his myriad accomplishments were simply explained by his modification of the standard drum kit, they would scarcely be worth documenting. Combine the rhythmic intrigue of Elvin Jones with the timbral implications of Tony Oxley to get an idea of what Graves can inject into every moment. He plays around genres rather than letting them dictate to him. The way he leads the group through the massive and shifting planes of sound, separated by those pauses with teeth, is complemented by his entering and exiting spheres of geographic and cultural influence but leaving them just on the point of recognition. He even demonstrates, verbalizes by numbers, the rhythms he wants us to hear just before dispelling them at a stroke, or rather a series of well-placed thunderous thuds and rainbow polyrhythms, all gong-tinged and almost serene, the calm centering the storm. He is anchor and actor in a narrative of his devising, a stream of consciousness construct where learning and spontaneous inspiration collude at lightning speed, exuding unbearable and unbearably beautiful energy. He and his trio are communicating, and the listener who can hear past that scorching electricity will be enlightened by the music on this more than extraordinary reissue.
Corbett Vs. Dempsey presents a reissue of Milford Graves's Bäbi, originally issued in 1977 on Graves's own IPS label. This is the first reissue of one of the most legendary albums in the history of free music. Recorded live in concert in 1976, when Graves' trio with saxophonists Arthur Doyle and Hugh Glover was at the height of its powers, Bäbi is a testament to the absolutely unique approach the drummer had established for himself. He had reconfigured the drum kit, removing the second heads on all the drums and replacing the snare with two toms, which allowed him a much more nuanced sense of indirectness in his multi-directional adventures in time. The track "Ba" remains one of the most astonishing feats of percussion alchemy ever waxed, as funky as ten slap bassists and as free as an exploding grenade. Doyle and Glover are incendiary, too, inspired by Graves to new and shocking heights of achievement, their hoarse cries and whistling split-tones carried to thrilling plateaus on the energy of Graves' hands and feet. The original tapes for the session have been lost, so the reissue was lovingly remastered from virgin vinyl, itself now worth a mint. In 2017, Graves discovered a previously unknown tape in his archives featuring the same trio at its inception, in home recordings made seven years earlier, in 1969. Graves pummels a huge gong while Glover plays an instrument that, after sounding like none ever known, turns out to be bass clarinet. Extreme music recorded up close and very hot, it is among the most searing sessions never heard, until now. Rounding out the two-CD package are three previously unpublished photos by Gérard Rouy, and the original LP cover design by Graves himself.