A JAZZ-SATURATED HIGH SIX FOR ONCE
Since I really didn't get hold of anything sparkling new this week (other'n a Cee-Dee of David Bowie's THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS which was so trite that I thought I'd pass on giving it a writeup, but since I'm such a benevolent fellow I figure I'll hold off on any impartial opinion making at least until a second spin later this week) I thought I'd just give you a brief rundown on some of the faves that have been hitting the BLOG TO COMM laser launching pad o'er the past few days. Anyway, I'm sure you'll notice unless you're Karen Quinlan that all of the discs up for review today are all pretty much jazz, or better put jazz-oriented albums. This was not my original intention, but since avant garde/freedom jazz seems to have pretty much overtaken my life at this point (at least until some hot platter of garage origin makes its way to my abode) it's not like I'm gonna cry about not making this high six a little more multi-kultural. Frankly, with the abundance of avant jazz discs in my already-bulging collection I'm not surprised that I don't write about the stuff more often than I do, and with the inter-fertilizing of jazz and punkisms that have been going on at least since "Eight Miles High" and "Sister Ray" only a snob would think that both musical poles are diametrically opposed. If you wanna get "one world" with my music collection all I gotta say is that avant jazz and punk rock...it's all the same and thank the Lord (or at least Bill Laswell) for that!
Byard Lancaster-IT'S NOT UP TO US CD (Water, PO Box 2947, San Francisco, CA 94126)
Sheesh, I remember reading about Byard Lancaster and conjuring up images of his post-Coltrane total bop-spazz in my fetid mind way back in the seventies when I was trying to be a cool cat reading DOWN BEAT in the high school library! Who woulda thunk that all these years later the man would still have some sorta "relevance" in my jazz-obsessed mind...certainly not """""I""""", who always believed in my heart of hearts that by the time I hit fortysomething my life would be of such utter uselessness that I might as well shrivel up and die! Hmmmmm, maybe being a young upstart squirt does have its brilliant moments of perception after all.
Even the softer bossa-bop on IT'S NOT UP TO US has its use, especially during my patented pre-beddy bye downtime when I usually shield myself from the tensions of the day with hefty doses of Roscoe Mitchell bellowing bass saxophone clarion calls. Lancaster, true to his enveloping form, plays in a variety of styles as his above-ample backing band keeps up, with Lancaster at times reminiscent of a more terra firma Ayler yet still solid on the post-Coltrane express that seemed to hover over the free jazz world a good decade after that guy's departure (or at least I would get that impression from what I've discerned...it ain't like I'm stuck inna middle of the jazz sphere like Gary Giddins and the rest of those pasty-face knowitalls out there in real jazz land!). Of course what makes IT'S NOT UP TO US a total winner is the presence of Sonny Sharrock and his guitar playing...nice and restrained, yet tension-packed to the point where, with a bit of a coup, this coulda been HIS session! In fact, the all-out winner on this slab is the Cee-Dee closer "Satan" which, besides featuring Sharrock in up-front treble, doesn't have a spec of Lancaster to be found anywhere other'n on the writing credits!
The Tony Williams Lifetime-EMERGENCY! and (turn it over) CDs (Verve)
Y'know, for being a high-profile fusion-jazz band and all, there really is very little solid info on Tony Williams' Lifetime for me to snatch up via the usual channels. And that's an honest-to-Meltzer SHAME, because if anything this band was one of the few who seemed to merger the "new thing" in jazz with the "new thing" in rock & roll, and I ain't talking about all of those insignificant indiscretions that were coming out of the Haight or Frank Zappa fooling us impressionable pre-teens into thinking he was a living-and-breathing composer either. Naw, Lifetime was the ultimo hard-punk meets avant garde jazz experience and a great flash of brilliance considering how a good portion of the bandmembers were utter twats who would end up playing boring cocktail tinklings and mystico-mumbo jumbo that might have inspired a few worthy acts out there, but not ME!!!!!
The debut 2-LP set EMERGENCY! was a true top-drawer in jazz offering, and don't let noted aged beatster Ralph Gleason's liner notes fool you one bit! A fine trio setting with Williams not only drumming but speak-singing (in my original review of this back inna eighties I mention how I thought he sounded like some kid on the old FAT ALBERT show!) but organist Larry Young (who had appeared on some hot early-sixties Blue Note avant sides as had a mid-teen Williams!) and a pre guru'd out and still high on heroin John McLaughlin proving that maybe we should regulate the people out there who want to regulate our own personal choices, especially if such choices produce high-energy guitar playing the likes of which pop up here! And together don't expect these three to paddle off some patented jazz pablum custom-designed for the whole Leonard Feather high-society trip, but do expect some sonically-pure high energy jazz that is roughly equiv. to the late-sixties revolution in punk sound and scene that for some odd reason never did cozy up to Lifetime the way they did the Detroit bands who were taking the new jazz sound and sorta reshaping it for suburban pud living.
Gotta admit that for a two-LP effort (and a debut one at that!) EMERGENCY! is a great hard-ball mass of tension that wafts between all the electric Miles Davis brouhaha that was so big at the time, the aforementioned new rock direction, and the heavy duty avant garde scree that at times reminds me of what could have befallen the Velvet Underground had they veered off on a slightly different pattern. Which is one thing I'd like to know more about given the lack of hard-facts associated with Lifetime...I mean, it's a given that Williams was influenced by the MC5 on these sides (liner notes to [turn it over] even say so!), but songs like "Beyond Games" (with Williams spouting off hip late-sixties s-xual politics while McLaughlin seems to be getting his cues from WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT) sound like they came straight from one of those legendary and unheard late-sixties bands who actually had the smarts to swipe a lotta ideas from the Velvets, and while John Cale was still inna band as well!
And while we're on the subject of the Velvets, ain't it peculiar that both the Velvets and Lifetime were on the Verve label, that the covers of both WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT and (turn it over) were strikingly similar with sparse white letters on black background and that Lifetime's "Right On" sounds even more a "Sister Ray" steal than anything Can was laying down at the time? It's something we better break out the crystal ball and ask Williams about, because the comparisons are eerie (a fun eerie, but eerie nonetheless) to say the least. The music ain't quite as combust-pak as on EMERGENCY! but it's still hard enough, not only with "Right On"'s hard 'n heavy beat (courtesy Williams, who sounds like he's been actually picking up a few pointers from Maureen Tucker) but on everything from the Coltrane cover ("Big Nick") to the freak-spew distortion of "Once I Loved." And even with the presence of new member Jack Bruce fresh from Cream on bass and vocals (doing the vocal honors on bonus track "One Word," a dated slice of we-are-all-ONE garbage made tasty by a roaring instrumental backing) this doesn't sound one bit "professional" in a negative, commercial sense. You can hear how plenty of acts from Return to Forever to MX-80 Sound and Manster got a lot outta both these two platters, and even today they sure come off well-aimed at your third eye even more than such things as Material did!
(An additional note: if you like these discs and can stand more in the same direction try getting hold of the Love/Cry/Want CD, Young's post-Lifetime band which comes off like an electronic retake of what's gone down on the above taken into even more incomprehensible heights of avant garde mystique. Recorded live across the street from the White House during the height of early-seventies somethingorother, Love/Cry/Want were so "out-there" in avant space that Richard Nixon even ordered Haldeman and Erlichman to pull the plug on the wild goings on! I dunno, but you'd think that Nixon would've been copasetic with a band that I'm positive sounded exactly like what I'm sure his nervous system did while he was going through all of that tension-packed Watergate brouhaha!)
Doug Snyder and Bob Thompson-DAILY DANCE CD (Warm o' Brisk)
And speaking of a free jazz/new rock fusion, I don't think very many practitioners of the form came even close to this kitchen-recorded effort from the wilds of 1972 Ohio (Silver Springs area). That's where guitarist Doug Snyder and percussionist Bob Thompson laid down this powerful blast of avant rock cum jazz and slapped it onto disc after gaining the approval of none other than New Music Distribution Service head Carla Bley. Snyder rips through his guitar sounding like a thousand thundering herd of robotic cattle (or perhaps Amon Duul I on DISASTER) while Thompson comes off like every great drummer to hit the boards from Sunny Murray through Scott Asheton and all points south playing...AT THE SAME TIME!!!!! Lotsa great thrills too, like on "Living With The Crocodiles" when they ran a thumb piano through an effects box of some sorts and Thompson played it with drumsticks!!! An true-to-itself punk rock classic, and I sure hope that unreleased followup THE DAMASCUS TAPES (with Snyder doubling on electric violin) makes its way to our decks more sooner than later even though we've been waiting for the dang thing for over five years now. And for the complete story, how about buying a copy of BLACK TO COMM #24 which features not only a great Doug Snyder interview I conducted a few years back but rare pictures, flyers and everything associated with what you'd want to know about this man and his music! Gosh...and I did it all because I feel it's my DUTY to show to you ignorant blogscrawlers the righteous ways of high-energy rockism in this alternatived-out world, even if I have to drag each and every one of you langholes out there to such lofty heights by your nipple rings.
This one used to be pretty easy to latch onto (and for spare change at that) but it seems as if all copies of this much-needed reissue have dried up! Oh well, maybe that'll teach you a lesson, though of exactly what I do not know.
Air-AIR TIME CD (Nessa)
Sheesh, old-timey blogster me can remember way back in 1977/8 when this avant garde jazz trio was getting not only loads of jazz press in THE VILLAGE VOICE (a paper I used to read as often as possible because I thought it was real hipster and daring, commie rat that I was!) but was making a whole bunch of appearances on various albums both domestic and import. It does seem kinda strange in some ways that this trio consisting of Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall was getting as much coverage as they had especially considering the late-seventies were the era of jazz proving it could be just as boring as mainstream pop or classical gush (after all, these were the days of jazz regulars going the disco route and Al DeMeola on the ass-scent), but I guess that the VOICE still wanted to prove that it was on the side of the "little people" by publicizing music none of the little people ever heard of, and besides a lotta the prevailing winds of sixties full-force jazz were still blowing hard in the loft scenes of New York before it all went down. Remember, nothing in music really dies, which is why we still have to struggle with progressive pooperoos, heavy metal morons, punk rock pragmatics and disco drivel even thirty years after the fact!
Showing off their great post-AACM free sound and style that "made" many of these seventies jazz offerings a lot more than phony post-beatnik bowtie tinkle sounds, Air have a fine splat going on that thankfully stands strong against the bloated pomp that the entire mainstream jazz idiom seemed to be falling into at the time. Threadgill plays fine post-Ayler (please, somebody slap my wrists every time I type that from now on!) on not only alto and tenor sax but a variety of flutes and hubkaphone, an invention of Threadgill's design that sounds like a steel drum after getting bit by a Subaru 360, or vicey-versey for that matter. Hopkins' perfect whether he's laying down a great tape-loop bass (as he does on "G.v.E" while Threadgill goes through a particularly-inspiring hubkaphone solo) while McCall's drumming is surprisingly rather restrained especially for an AACM alumnus who performed on some rather out-there Anthony Braxton sides, but that's not meant in a negative way or anything.
In fact, this whole disc is rather subdued compared with the all-out blasts that were getting laid down at the time, but that doesn't mean that AIR TIME should be filed next to your copy of Thoth Trio (sorry Brad!). Far from it...like the best music, the intensity is turned inwards so even if Threadgill isn't blowing his brains out like he most certainly can (like on "USO Dance" off the WILDFLOWERS set), you still get the aura of muscles tightening in your sphincter just like you do when you hear unbearingly intense works from just about any musical genre turning your precious inhibitions to nerve-addled fear.
I kinda wonder what happened to Air after their late-seventies day in the sun, but then again there was some point in the early-eighties when it seemed as if the free jazz scene sorta nosedived. Or at least I got that impression from the lack of press, or new players, or even classic ones on the boards making any noise of interest. But at least they gave us enough material to live on for quite awhile, or at least until the next great avant find pops its way into my collection more sooner than later, I hope!
Albert Ayler-BELLS/PROPHECY CD (ZYX/ESP Germany)
It's funny how I still haven't been able to mow my way through the Albert Ayler box set yet I'm more or less anxious to grab up all of my other Ayler Cee-Dees for a relaxing spin. Maybe it's because that box set is so fragile looking that I hate to disturb its inner contents for fear of breaking the precious items therein, but even with my abounding inner tension over having this precious artyfact I can't even ENJOY at least I have these more-common Ayler recordings at hand when the free jazz spazz arises. Nice coupling here of the infamous one-sided BELLS with Ayler and band doing a live spurt that was so ahead of the pack (Coleman even!) that it seemed as if nobody wanted to be in ol' Albert's corner at the time this creepfest hit the record shops! PROPHESY is from '64 when Ayler and band (at this time Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray) had, as John Paul Jones once said, just begun to fight. Great playing as usual you know the score blah blah and so on, but I gotta say that it's really too bad (for us, for art, for him) that Albert Ayler decided to take that midnight swim in the river like he did, because he's one guy I sure woulda like to have seen gone punk in the late seventies like he woulda after the Contortions hit it big (and New York coulda USED him, that's for sure!).
The Arthur Doyle Quartet-LIVE @ THE COOLER CD (The Lotus Sound, PO Box 8805, Albuquerque, NM, 87198 US of Whoa)
While Ayler didn't live long enough to go punk rock (perhaps if someone had opened his ears to the Stooges back '69 way!), Arthur Doyle did! As a member of the Blue Humans Doyle scronked pure atonal buzz while Rudolph Grey coaxed feral sounds outta his guitar and Beaver Harris made some of the best percussion as backdrop for Urban Renewal in the great Sunny Murray/Milford Graves trad. Doyle's saga is one of strange highs and abysmal lows (a stretch in the French slammer to prove it), and although the man is thankfully still recording with a vast array of young upstarting white kids who I guess do know better all I gotta say is...where are all of those tapes of him with Grey, like that live duet they did at CB's 313 Gallery back in '89? You woulda thought somebody was smart enough to at least record that!!!
But still we got stuff like this, a live set that, although pretty much a Blue Humans gig with the addition of bassist Wilbur Morris, is clearly Doyle's show. Maybe it ain't quite Blue Humans...no all-out sound sear here, this is more or less slow-burn free jazz with Doyle doing fine whether on alto/tenor voice-o-net or a particularly ear-twisting flute (as on "Flue [no sic] Song") while Grey sorta buzzes in the background when not taking a solo and Morris indulges himself in a lotta arco bass. Like many of Doyle's recent projects (though this was recorded in '95---close enough I guess!) there seems to be a strange electronic undercurrent to things, but its one that truly fits in with Doyle's own method of operation taking jazz into yet another high stratum that you know most aficionados of the form never really could understand (which is wny these jazzbos have to rely on the opened ears policy of more than a few rabid, frothing rock & rollers out there! Unfortunately there seem to be few in attendance at this live show since the audience response is pitiful!).
Additional note...the liner notes to LIVE @ THE COOLER are by none other than the late Sumner Crane of Mars fame and prove that the guy shoulda been a serious writer as well as musician (too bad he hadda bail out on both prospective careers to do who-knows-what!). Crane is a guy who would be well suited to doing liner notes for this 'un, after all he and Grey interviewed Doyle for an issue of some West Coast punk rag...not DAMAGE or SLASH, but one of those tabloids with a lotta gross imagery I'll bet (VOLUME???) and it was a doozer esp. w/Doyle telling his eager subjects that his music was actually new wave African rhythm or something along those lines! I gotta dig that thing up and read it again...I remember how inspirational it was during the day, and perhaps it'll force me to search out the Doyle discography and relive past jazz concerns which, at least judging from all the drool I've emitted today, still lives on as much as it did way back when I was first discovering this brazen form of "self expression!"
Sunday, January 28, 2007
A JAZZ-SATURATED HIGH SIX FOR ONCE