Sunday, March 19, 2006

VARIOUS ARTISTS-WILDFLOWERS VOLS. 1 to 3 CDs (Douglas)

No snaps on this post folks...the blogger system's encountering some kinda messup so's all the illustrated stuff I wanted to write about today'll hafta wait until probably the next go 'round. But as for the un-illustrated stuff...well, it looks like you eager beavers who tune into my blog because you want the high-energy truth, the WHOLE high-energy truth and NOTHING BUT... are more or less "in luck", dontcha think?

My seemingly-eternal avant-jazz cravings have had me diggin' into the ol' archives as of late pulling out such classic wonders as the MARZETTE WATTS album on ESP, THE FREE FORM IMPROVISATION ENSEMBLE (with Burton Greene and Alan Silva) cee-dee on Cadence, and this three-disque (scaled down from five LPs) set on Douglas (recently reissued on Knitting Factory if I'm not mistaken) that I remembered caused a big hubbub in the avant garde world but none elsewhere way back when it was originally unleashed on a Chick Corea-bred audience back in the best/worst of times days of 1977. At that time there was a vital free jazz scene still brewing and fermenting in New York City and elsewhere...it was more or less post-late-sixties AACM and even post-post mid-sixties "new thing" in some ways, but whatever it was it was still very fresh, controversial and best of all nerve-twisting difficult to the point where it would have alienated a lotta people had they only had the opportunity to hear some of this new drool! The standard bowtie and tux club-schlupping "light jazz" types naturally couldn't hack it, and frankly I don't even see how the usual white intellectual college students of the day handled the Anthony Braxtons and Art Ensembles they were gobbling up faster than vitamin "Q"...but then again even Richard Meltzer thought that Braxton was nothing more'n 1977's answer to Dave Brubeck and considering some of the people I knew who liked Braxton maybe he did have a point.

Unfortunately this "loft jazz" era seemed to wane in the eighties (though a few good albums I never did get to hear evidently came outta that decade even if most of the goodies that "The New Music Distribution Service" was selling were firmly entrenched in the seventies) but lemme tell you that, like all good things, YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD NOISY AVANT GARDE MOVEMENT DOWN! After all, it was sure nice to get an earful (and eyeful) of the new (and old) breed of avant jazz that was being presented on the various CBGB stages over the past few years, and it was also wild to actually own some of the recordings made by this even-newer avant generation that Rent Control and Jeffrey Shurdut's No label have been putting out. But still, these new avant jazzters whether they be survivors or punks in jazz clothing owe more than a lot to those old trailblazers, and in many ways these WILDFLOWERS disques seem like the perfect bridge twixt the pioneers and those who take those already-distorted forms and go over the wall taking the music into realms I'm sure woulda made Buddy Bolden wanna do a little population control with his straight razor had he gotten an earfulla some of the caustic-yet-brilliant soundscapadings that can be made by a variety of these new frontiersmen nowadays!

Too many highlights to delve into here but I'll just relay a few of my faves: Sunny Murray's Untouchable Factor's take of Byard Lancaster's "Over The Rainbow" (which was originally done on Lancaster's IT'S NOT UP TO US, and it's no surprise that Lancaster himself's in the band) sounds like something I'm sure Judy Garland heard while taking her final breath and yeah, I said that in my original review of the thing long ago but that line was so good I thought I'd use it again, while Air's "USO Dance" is a manic hard-edged free-romp taken through the usual twisted turns that seem part and parcel to this who free-crawling loft scene which is no wonder all of those jazz snoots at THE VILLAGE VOICE were up-front-and-center for this trio, at least until the next latest fancy seemed to pass their jaded eyes. And I gotta admit that I think I like Marion Brown more than I had originally admitted...at least his solo screech "And Then They Danced" seems more bred from the darker realms of his mind than the recordings for Impulse would seem to indicate.

Then there's volume #2...the track that strikes me the most on this one is Abdullah's "Blue Phase." No, this is not the infamous bedroom/early-heavy metal styled group I have previously raved about, but trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah playing with a top-notch backing group including tenor saxophonist Charles Brackeen (later to be frequently seen at Dee Pop's CBGB Lounge Freestyle Series) and a guitarist who goes by the name Mashujaa, one of those players who I guess will be ever forgotten despite playing one pretty good free solo on his axe that should've earned him a little pat on the back somewhere! Leo Smith's New Delta Ahkri lived up to the promise as well, bringing back that wild AACM-styled scronk with all those changing time signatures, free-splat and just plain ol' psychosis which always helped sort these things out. Andrew Cyrille's Maono were also bee-youtiful in this new intensity groove thing playing in that totally free way, propelled by Cyrille's even-post-Murray drumming (I hear he used to ignite pyrotechnics under his cymbals which would lend credence to his volatile style). Believe me, this one is fulla some good and engaging music (I mean...Julius Hemphill!) that even the more conventional piano-led tracks by Randy Weston and Dave Burrell seem great in their company!

The last volume seems to be an even hotter cap that one might expect on things, not only with Jimmy Lyons playing a more avant than post-bop styling on "Push Pull" but with the extended romps from Sunny Murray and Roscoe Mitchell which originally each took up a side on the original final volume of this set which did for free jazz what GOLDEN GOODIES did for pre-Beatles rock & roll and PEBBLES for mid-sixties garage bands. It's fantastic to hear these artists playing in such extended circumstances, especially Mitchell (a man who along with his Art Ensemble partner Joseph Jarman epitomized just exactly how far this avant garde thing could be taken to [and further] back in the late-sixties) performing what I would call a pretty demonic three-note sax line reminiscent of a musette charming a particularly psychotic cobra while Don Moye and Jerome Cooper make a valiant attempt to lay down a wall of percussion. Back when I was first starting to "get into" free jazz (well, it was in the seventies when everyone else was "getting into" macrame and downers) stuff like this used to really open my eyes...I mean, I thought Frank Zappa was the tip tops as far as what you could do with music turning it upside down and inverting the whole thing goes, but after giving acts like the Creative Construction Company and Revolutionary Ensemble a spin (and hey, I remember when their records were proudly displayed in the "new release" rack against the wall at various shopping mall emporiums alongside the new rock releases, so there must've been some commercial hub-bub going on for 'em at the time, eh?) I knew that there was more to experimental music than UNCLE MEAT. Anyway, WILDFLOWERS (and the array of recordings these artists have, and will continue to make) still "speaks" to me after all these years and too much water under the bridge later, and yeah I can recommend this stuff to the hilt and I know you won't pay no mind but maybe you should consider trying for the true energy-expounding, brain-searing creativity 'n just thrust your anti-BTC opines aside for once...

Pretty good review, especially for a guy suffering through a pounding sinus headache, eh? Next time I'll take some Day-Quil!

1 comment:

Cary Grant said...

chris - there's a great movie that's hard to come by, but a friend of mine got our school library to buy it back in high school for "educational purposes"... it was all about the loft scene in the late 70s called "Rising Tones Cross", features super young william parker, a visiting from krautland peter kowald, several AEC members, john zorn playing duck calls underwater, sonny murray (i think...), charles gayle. lots of interviews performances all kindsa good shit.