Wednesday, July 28, 2004

POSITIVE KNOWLEDGE-LIVE IN NEW YORK CD (Edgetone, PO Box 2281, El Cerrito CA 94530 or try

Hearkening back to Sidney Harris a few posts ago, I remember another frequent column heading of his that was entitled "Things I Found While Looking For Other Things" or something like that. This was Harris' chance to write little anecdotes about certain factoids he discovered while doing research on a subject partially or totally unrelated, like perhaps he'd come across a little interesting tidbit on Mark Twain while reading a book searching for something on a relatively unrelated subject, say, European monarchs of the tenth-century and he'd jot it down and save enough of these interesting bits and pieces up for a column which I guess sure beat writing out a whole new one. You could say this CD is a result of me finding something totally different while looking for something else, because if it weren't for me trying to tune in Ty Cumbie's City Tunnel #3 on a CBGB's Lounge cybercast I never would've discovered this new (to me) free jazz "collective" that sure knows how to play the avant jazz splatter long after you thought the form fizzled out for good!

Never got the chance to see City Tunnel #3 because the cybercast went flooey that night and I couldn't reconnect (which is way too bad because they promise to be an all-out free jazz avant-guitar destruction which we can sure use more of in these post-Sharrock days), but I did get to see part of this act which really wowed me in the proverbial old time way. They weren't called Positive Knowledge on the CBGB website listing but billed by their own singular names as is wont a lotta the acts playing the Sunday PM CBGB Lounge "avant and freestyle jazz" series, and bassist Wilbur Morris was nowhere to be found, but it was great watching Ijeoma Thomas do her singsongy poetic rants while Oluyemi Thomas (her husband?) was playing bass clarinet as drummer Michael Wimberly did some good sub-Sunny Murray free play. Sometimes Ijeoma would pick up a thumb piano and start tinking along while Oluyemi would grab some shakers making that good ol' "small instrument" rattle the BAG had been recording for three decades already, and you could bet I got a kick outta seeing a trio consisting of nothing but vocals, bass clarinet and drums (with the aforementioned percussion natch!) that didn't send me into total jazz coma. Even though the pic froze on me (as is wont a lotta these cybercasts which seem to focus on the same frame for the entire broadcast!) I still got the much needed impact from what I could make out from this cybercast and needless to say, I spent a few minutes perusing search engines seeking out a recording by this mystery band on the internet the very next day.

Of which this is it, in pure Clara Bow speak. POSITIVE KNOWLEDGE LIVE IN NEW YORK is a sleeper of an unadulterated avant garde free jazz disc (taken from 1999 and 2001 live shows but released 2003) that will bring back memories of great mid/late-seventies loft jazz energies, or at least remind you of what thoughts were goin' through your head back when you'd prowl the record bins and stumble across free jazz albums wonderin' what the sounds within were like. The presence of Morris' bass does, er, glue the thing together but it's still outer-space with Ijeoma talk/sing/screaming in a Jeanne Lee cum Patty Waters way (with a lotta June Tyson tossed in) sometimes repeating phrases/emphasizing her poesy in a way not that dissimilar to Patti Smith, and Oluyemi does pretty well himself on bass clarinet as well as c-melody and soprano saxophones and flute, not exactly reaching high Dolphy standards true but we can't all be that wired. Let's just say that if you were one of those types who used to order recs from The New Music Distribution Service back in the seventies and eighties and liked to take a chance on some "unknown" free jazz elpee because some sideman had made a pretty good name for himself, and although it wasn't exactly an earth-shaking moment like it was when you first heard BLACK BEINGS it was still over-the-top spasmodic Afro/Urban expression...well baby, POSITIVE KNOWLEDGE LIVE IN NEW YORK is like more of the same, and maybe even more so!

If you think I've ever given you a bum steer you can just ferget it!!! (but then again, why would you bother reading this at all???) but if you're more or less tuned into the BLACK TO COMM way of looking at the avant garde jazz idiom (mainly as something to lend a listen to in order to resensify yourself in a world of lethargy) I guarantee you'll at least find this an inspired listen. From Ijeoma's epiglottal spews to Oluyemi's seventies-bred freeplay (plus tunage dedicated to such avant garde heavyweights as Alan Silva and the aforementioned Lee), this does make for a great freesplat that I for one am sure glad nobody at DOWN BEAT or in the establishment jazz press declared dead or just plain passe, eh?

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