Friday, June 15, 2018

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble - Ancestral Song (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"The music falls somewhere between Africa and the delta. Midway through, Zabar switches to a trap set, the tempo is kicked up and suddenly we are in contemporary Chicago. " 
Robert Iannapollo, Cadence, May 1989

If you're a modern middle-aged urban black man living in the U.S., what is your ethnic heritage in music? Is it the hot or sweet music that poured forth from those oldtime tube sets? Is it the lullabies your mother sang? Or the music of the marching bands? Or the sounds from the big bands and r&b groups at the local dance hall? Surely it's a bit of all this and probably much more. 

Underlying all the concrete musical manifestations of black America you will find two main sources: the African and the Eurasian. From Africa comes the group feeling, the collective music-making, the emphasis on sound and rhythm – echoes of bush schools and community rites. From Eurasian sources come the long solo lines, the emphasis on melody and text – echoes of the bards singing their lengthy epics. These musical heritages impinged when the Jihad of Islam swept Africa in the 8th century and again when the European colonial powers moved into Africa and the Americas in the 15th century, and again when the global music industry moved into every corner of the planet in the 20th century. 

When you listen to the music of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble you are getting close to the very core of today's Afro-Euroasian music. All the basic features from Africa and Eurasia are present in the music of this group, and still it is a distinctly unique music. The ethnic heritage of black America has here been filtered through three original musical minds, the master mind being that of Kahil El'Zabar. 

The session was recorded before an audience at Fasching Club in Stockholm on May 3rd, 1987. The various titles on the album can be considered as parts of a large open-ended composition starting long before this performance, moving through it, and continuing long after it. A metamorphosis is going on. The musical material is homogenous. The melodic material, that is to say the tonal and rhythmical structures and the way of treating these compositional elements, is consistent throughout the session.

The main source for it all seems to be found in the sound structures produced on the uniquely African instrument named "thumb piano" or "sansa" by 19th century European discoverers, but which has a variety of African names in different languages such as mbira, likembe, kalimba, marimba, kasanzi, agidigbo, etc., mbira being the most commonly used. Most traditional playing of the mbira results in a musical structure that is typical of many kinds of African music

A few musical phrases which each contain a limited number of notes and rhythmic patterns are twisted around and thus constantly form new patterns, much like the components of a kaleidoscope. This process of making music has been named "kaleidophony" and is an essential part of the African heritage. One Afro-American extension of this technique is the riff structure of the swing bands. Riffs are also frequently used in the music on this album.

Another quality of mbira music and many other kinds of African music, is the changing timbre. A wide variety of different pieces of metal, strings of rattling seeds, etc., are fixed to the instrument to make the sound buzz and shift. The way the members of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble treat their instruments reflects this heritage. The timbre is constantly being changed.

The musical phrases are short. Rattles and other percussion instruments are thrown into the sound picture and then suddenly withdrawn. Vocal sounds are used to add greater variety to the timbre. And here it is easy to recognize another heritage from the blues of Chicago's South Side, a music that has always been a part of the life of these three Chicago-based musicians. When Kahil El'Zabar shouts the blues in Loose Pocket he is right in his own backyard. 

Another important part of the music of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is evidenced in solo flights that devolve from a Eurasian background. These are always backed by the other members of the group and all three make quite stunning contributions to the great heritage of jazz solos. 

In Papa's Bounce, Edward Wilkerson handles the unusual alto-clarinet in an intensive solo and then shows off a great talking tenor in Loose Pocket. In Ancestral Song he pushes the beat and chews his way towards a climax that is backed by vocal outbursts. In Mamma's House he talks again, ending up with a stream of rapid statements of stature. Wilkerson's extraordinary playing on this album clearly demonstrates that he is one of the greatest reedmen around. 

Just as mbira players in Africa usually do, Kahil El'Zabar mixes his mbira solo with vocal sounds towards the end of Papa's Bounce and again at the start of Loose Pocket. Towards the end of Loose Pocket he shows that he is also a major talent in a traditional jazz drumset solo.

Joseph Bowie stands for the mainstream jazz heritage. His solo in Loose Pocket, and indeed the Max Roach-like inflections of Kahil El'Zabar, are full of bop memories. He growls his way through a mass of "jungle sounds" in Ancestral Song that are produced by means of hand-drums, rattles and the tenor sax mouthpiece. This has the effect of making him finally freak out in a wild frenzy in and around the basic melodic material.

He plays rough in Mamma's House, but at the same time produces elegant phrases that remind of oldtimer Vic Dickenson, juxtaposed with magical sounds of air just puffed through the horn. 

Together the members of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble play a World Music – a music that draws, directly or indirectly on most of the musical heritages of the world. But unlike the music produced by the transnational music industry it is not a synthetic hybrid music without roots in any single ethnic group.

The music of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is a music that has grown organically out of the historical experience of blacks in the U.S.A., an experience of how to handle cultural clashes and turn the music of others into your own thing. If men of all heritages could learn to accept and use the culture of strangers without losing their own cultural identity there would be better chance of peace on earth.

Krister Malm

1. Papa's Bounce 09:35
2. Loose Pocket 15:15
3. Ancestral Song 13:25
4. Mamma's House 10:39
5. Three and a Half 08:17
6. Kahil's Blues 06:02

Kahil El'Zabar sansa, drums, earth drum, percussion, voice
Edward Wilkerson tenor saxophone, clarinet, percussion
Joseph Bowie trombone, marimba, percussion

Michael Bisio Quartet - In Seattle (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"This is fine and varied modern jazz from Seattle; cleanly executed, intelligently structured, well focused and quite hot..." 
Kevin Whitehead, Cadence, October 1988 

"Bisio is definitely someone to watch, and his horn players are right behind with their full-bodied sound. This is a tremendously good record, typical 80s jazz with a background in the music of Mingus and Ornette Coleman, together with the work of Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and their ilk." 
Birger Jorgensen, Aahus Stiftstidende, March 14, 1988

I was talking to Michael Bisio in his basement studio in Seattle one Saturday afternoon not too long ago – our families had gotten together for a barbecue – and I said, "You know – it's strange, Mike, your new record, it's very 'inside' music – there are tunes and then improvisations on the chord changes of the tunes – but it's not like so many records that you hear today where you feel like the players don't even know that 'outside' players like Albert Ayler and Don Cherry ever existed." Mike smiled. "That's it, that's exactly how I hear it." 

It's not often that a jazz writer gets to check his perceptions against a musician's, so this was a welcome confirmation, one made convenient by Michael Bisio's delightful presence in Seattle these past years. Since his arrival in 1976 it has been a pleasure to watch Bisio's music grow. Trained as a classical bassist, first at the State University of New York at Albany, then at the University of Washington (where he graduated in music in 1979), Michael makes his living playing the double bass. In symphony, ballet and opera orchestras; on casual dates; or in jazz groups, Bisio's generous, woody sound can be heard all over the Northwest, bowed, plucked or otherwise.

His jazz talents were first tapped locally by the great trumpet, Barbara Donald, who used him on her 1982 album "Pasts and Tomorrows", (Cadence CJR-1017). Bisio went on to record one of the most exciting albums to ever emerge from our area, his 1983 "Ours" (C.T. Records CT1), voted by the critics at Cadence as one of the ten best albums of that year. 

Bisio's influences as a bass player are easy to cite – the wide, soulful sweep of Charles Mingus and the probing, moody double-stops of Charlie Haden. In Bisio the composer, I hear Mingus again in the young bassist's dark and slinky horn parts and in his insistence on continuously-evolving forms that follow emotional content instead of dictating it. I hear Ornette Coleman, too – his lonely, passionate wail; his blues; his open space. Mike's new record has a different element – a spare, minimalist quality, a skeletal clarity of intention that calls to mind Max Roach's pianoless groups.

But spare doesn't mean simple. Bisio's music is complex. That same afternoon we spent talking together, Mike related that on a recent gig where altoist Rick Mandyck had to call a sub, the hapless surrogate, wiping his brow with exhaustion, said, "Man, you guys make this stuff look easy!" Part of what makes it look easy is that Bisio and Teo Sutton hook up so well. "Teo is the only drummer I've worked with who really understands my music," Mike says. "So many guys, they figure, Oh hey, free music! – let's go wild – and you feel like you're in Vietnam." What Michael's looking for is subtlety and clarity, and he gets it from Teo on complicated meters and patterns, such as the two-against-three figure on "Babs' E" (and its 7/4 coda); the weird, ticking, 16-beat bass vamp on Mandyck's exquisitely dark "For Pamela"; and the bright and easy calypso written for Michael's three-year-old son, Anthony, "A.M."

Sutton, originally from Philadelphia, has been a sometime sideman on the Seattle scene with Barbara Donald, tenor man Hadley Caliman and others. He recently put in some time with organist John Patton, back in Newark, New Jersey. Trumpeter Ron Soderstrom is a Seattle native who has recorded with pianist Scott Cossu and worked on the R&B and show band circuits in the Northwest. There aren't too many trumpet players who have absorbed both Freddie Hubbard and Don Cherry, but Ron's burbling and articulate excursion on "For Pamela" lets you know he's one who has. Saxophonist Rick Mandyck, who started out on guitar but has been playing sax for eight years, comes out of the Seattle rhythm and blues scene. Dig Rick's sharp attack, fleet phrasing and tone – a cross between Dolphy and Jackie Mclean. 

There's a wealth of music on this album. "For Harry Carney," a Sy Johnson tune that Bisio was inspired to interpret from one of Charles Mingus' albums, starts off with a lonely and distant trumpet, then features a stately bass vamp under the horn solos. "A Laugh for Rory" by Roland Kirk, is a short, staccato shot in the arm that's over fast, like a shooting star, and just that flashy, too.

"A.M." is a bright and loping calypso that perfectly captures the happy, early morning mood of a kid running around the house. "Blues for Melodious T," as you might expect, works minor-second magic at a Monkish, medium tempo and then surprises you when the horns come in behind Bisio's solo and end the tune all by their lonesomes. Perfect! "Bab's E" sets up a dark bass complemented by the tom-toms; the two horns have an animated conversation in the foreground that builds until it has to explode somewhere, which it does, into another tempo. Only two of "Greenpeace Suite's" four parts are played here – "Birds" and "Whales."

The first section flies, indeed, at times like a nervous swallow and at others like a graceful bird of prey.

"Whales" is a sad, aching cry, – a plea for survival? "For Pamela," with Mike's wife Barb on hand percussion, has all the qualities that make this an exciting and mature jazz album. Structurally it is brilliant, not only in the way the alternating and unexpected bass pattern bounds beneath the stretched, suspended-in-time horn line but how, after the solos, it suddenly opens up into a new theme, as if all the dark intensity that went before had to break open to some bright, new place. Wow! 

These are the kinds of moments we're used to getting in the most intense and committed "free" music – the little surprises and twists, the big shifts of perception. But here they all are, within the "inside" framework of tunes and changes. That's a lot of what jazz in the 80's is all about, and Michael Bisio is right up there with the best. At least that's exactly how I hear it.

Paul de Barros

1. For Harry Carney 09:40
2. A Laugh for Rory 02:03
3. Greenpeace (Take 2) 07:58
4. A.M. 05:34
5. Blues for Melodious T. 07:17
6. For Randy Weston 02:32
7. Babs'e 07:19
8. Greenpeace Suite 06:54
9. Darkness 03:15
10. For Pamela 09:25
11. Sonny Miles 02:03

Michael Bisio bass
Ron Soderstrom trumpet
Rick Mandyck alto sax
Teo Sutton drums
Barbara Bisio percussion

AVAILABLE TODAY + appearing tonight at Hasselblad (solo) & Monday at NuBlu 151 (trio) :: Tenor Saxophonist JD Allen Releases "LOVE STONE" :: Long Awaited Ballad Record on Savant/High Note June 15, 2018

RSVP for Hasselblad, 6.15, HERE

TICKETS FOR LPR Presents at NuBlu, JDA3, Monday, 6.18, HERE


“If you’d like to measure an improviser’s sincerity under a harsh light, ask him to play an entire album’s worth of ballads. Without quick tempos or ready-made energy to lighten the load, cracks reveal themselves quickly. But this tenor saxophonist has somehow managed to pull it off. He plays in a style guided closely by his antecedents — Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Branford Marsalis — but it’s personal and steadfast enough to establish its own convictions. At Nublu 151, Mr. Allen celebrates the release of “Love Stone” — nine ballads, mostly sourced from the back pages of the great American songbook — joined by the bassist Gregg August and the drummer Rudy Royston.” – GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO, NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS’ PICK (6.15)

“The first thing that comes to mind when you think of tenor saxophonist JD Allen may well be power — the full-toned, heavy-tread intensity he can bring to any musical setting. But on his new album, Love Stone, he seeks out beauty in the most straightforward form, with tenderness and low-flickering calm… it’s an all-ballads affair, but one with plenty of swirling intrigue underfoot….the smoke of his tone and the drawl of his phrasing, which remains rooted in melody.” – NATE CHINEN, WBGO’S TAKE FIVE

“The tenor saxophonist and composer JD Allen is at the zenith of the jazz saxophone scale, which isn’t difficult to understand when you hear him play. He has a big bold tone like Sonny Rollins that runs through your soul, and then you are hooked…“Love Stone” is a collection of ballads that gives him an extended opportunity to spread a little tenderness.” – RON SCOTT, THE AMSTERDAM NEWS

“…an abiding emotional inclusiveness to the album that allows listeners to feel unrestrictedly in on the affair.” – DEREK TAYLOR, DUSTED

“All those marvelously deep notes are imprinted on our minds, uttered with warm tones and infallible precision. They uplift the spirit...In a quietly revolutionary mode, JD deftly reimagines familiar tunes with a sharp, affective, and pragmatic vision. The pristine glow of his saxophone brings us back the joy of listening to these sweet old songs. Tradition has its place in the modern jazz and this impressive album is probably what your ears have been aching for.” – FELIPE FREITAS, JAZZTRAIL

“JD Allen plays Vanguard tenor; worthy of comparison to Sonny and Coltrane with Elvin at the Vanguard, the music that got to me as a teenager and has stayed with me ever since…JD’s concept, his sound and his execution took me there.” – BOB BLUMENTHAL, lauded jazz critic & author of Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins

“… this beautiful and intensely interesting ballads album is an assured milestone in his career to date. There are patented JD-isms…proves again that it is one of the most highly accomplished small groups in contemporary jazz.” – REPUBLIC OF JAZZ

“Passion & Poetry….There was an emotional depth to Allen’s playing that transformed blues lines into poetry….melody counts mightily to him, whether written or improvised...grace and passion…” - Bill Beuttler, THE BOSTON GLOBE

“I wanted to play as avant garde as I, myself, could get in today’s dark times - by simply trying to play something beautiful.” – JD ALLEN





One of the most prolific, thoughtful and consistent tenor saxophonists gracing the scene today, JD Allen, will release his long-awaited Ballad record, LOVE STONE (or Loves Tone!), on the Savant Recording label, June 15, 2018. A gorgeous collection of ballads harkening back to yesteryear and played with the subtlety and grace that has become the JD Allen signature sound. His most selfless album to date, JD’s goal was to simply make “beautiful music in an ugly ass world.” His only requirement ton himself, was to “play pretty”.  With beauty in mind and at the forefront, this album is for the people and made especially for them in today’s crazy times. “I wanted to play as avant garde as I, myself, could get in today’s dark times by simply trying to play something beautiful.”

For a decade now, tenor saxophonist JD Allen has anchored his eponymous trio, supported by drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Gregg August. Allen’s ragged, searching tone is redolent of jazz’s blues heritage, and his playing reflects his pedigree as a grandson of the Delta, a son of Detroit, and a leader of modern jazz. The New York Times praised Allen’s “fearless approach to a formidable tradition.”

Love Stone features JDs long standing trio, known as “the three headed monster” (Burning Ambulance) plus special guest, guitarist Liberty Ellman (Henry Threadgill, Vijay Iyer) adding new colors to each ballad. The collection of ballads from the opening Tony  Bennett classic, Stranger in Paradise, to the American Folk music ballad originating from Appalachia, “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies”, the album plays like a love letter to the listener that, in fact, JD included into his liner notes. His most personal statement to date, the artist wears his heart on his sleeve throughout this stunning collection.

“Originals didn’t feel like being original anymore,” explains JD Allen on why he took a departure to record a record filled with some of the most beautiful ballads ever written. “I had a desire to play like a singer and really incorporate some vocalist qualities into my playing this time. I really just wanted to try and play beautiful….no math and science….a great melody, great tone and instead of making a ‘musician’ record this time around, I decided to make this one FOR THE PEOPLE.”

“The spirit of serious jazz tenor saxophone endures in JD Allen.” – JAZZTIMES

JD has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, in The Atlantic, in The New York Times (on the blues) and hailed by one of JDs first champions, jazz critic Ben Ratliff as, “a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” JD Allen is one of the most thoughtful jazz saxophonists on the scene today. Winner of Downbeat, JazzTimes & NPR polls in categories including NPR’s Best Jazz of the Year, Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, Composer of the Year and Rising Star of the Year and JJA WINNER Short Form Jazz News Documentary, Mario Lathan, for VICTORY! – The Making of JD Allen’s Victory in 2012. “For roughly a decade, the tenor saxophonist J. D. Allen has accomplished what is now a rarity in jazz: He has held together a trio without reshuffling its personnel — deepening a collective language and sharpening his voice as an improviser” (The New York Times).  The Detroit natives apprenticeship has largely been in New York, where he has performed, recorded, and toured with legends running the gamut from Betty Carter and Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris to contemporaries Meshell Ndegeocello. Since making a strong impression in his early years in New York and serving an invaluable tenure with Betty Carter, JD has come a long way - now fully possessed of his own sound. JD has appeared on WNYC’S Leonard Lopate Show, NPR's Jazz Perspectives, WNYC's Soundcheck, WKCR's Musician's Show and festivals and venues worldwide including headlining at New York’s Village Vanguard, Newport, Saratoga and Summerstage/Charlie Parker Jazz Festivals, among others. At the request of saxophone colossus, Sonny Rollins and filmmaker Dick Fontaine, JD was invited to open up ceremonies for the screening of the lauded, “Sonny Rollins – Beyond The Notes” at The 2013 Woodstock Film Festival to great acclaim. JD also appeared in Fontaine’s documentary on Betty Carter some 20 years ago.  JD Allen performs regularly with his own trio and quartet, featuring guitarist Liberty Ellman.

Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet - Namesake (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"The open air of this music contrasts with its density of ideas. Many of Gonzalez's notions are simple, even irreducible, but his group organization is intuitive and magical. The whole area of post-Coleman jazz seems to stretch through their playing: a tradition comes to life, full of generosity. These are marvelous recordings, not to be missed." 
Richard Cook, The Wire, March 1988

The concept of synergy is essentially a simple one, best expressed as the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. While it is often mentioned it is rarely realized, particularly in musical terms. The album you are holding is the exception, the recorded evidence of a musical experience that subtlety and satisfyingly defied the laws of physics all the while delivering music that remains enlightening as well as entertaining.

Dennis Gonzalez is much more than a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor, and arranger. He is the acknowledged leader of the surprisingly healthy new-music scene in Texas and a growing force on the world music scene that recognizes no borders. His activist approach to the music has carried his career far from his base deep in the heart of Texas. He leads a new music workshop orchestra in Yugoslavia, performs in England, Sweden, and assorted other European countries, and is constantly widening his circle of activities. 

Gonzalez's recordings, both on Silkheart (Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Quartet SHCD-101) and on his own DAAGNIM label, have aurally documented his open attitude to making music.

This album demonstrates that his substantial skills as a communicator, coordinator and catalyst for experimental musical activities are as important as his other talents. Gonzalez, tapping his experience as a teacher, was able to clearly articulate and share his musical vision with the other participants of the recording in a way that is unfortunately rare in the studio. The result, full of musical passion and percussion, is a coherent and cohesive statement from the mind of Gonzalez, expanded and embellished by the ensemble into a universal musical anthem.

Gonzalez chose widely and wisely to assemble a band for the session. His fellow horn players' influences literally span the globe while his rhythm section consistently manages to keep one foot firmly anchored and the other stepping boldly into brave new musical worlds. 

Tenor saxist Charles Brackeen, a tragically under-recorded artist capable of a much wider range of expression than even his fans are aware of (check out his Charles Brackeen Quartet SHCD-105), frequently took the first solo on the album. His stratospheric flights set a questing tone that the other players used as a benchmark by which to measure their own efforts. Even without the obvious synergistic success of the ensemble or the unveiling of new Gonzalez compositions, this album would be significant just for bringing Brackeen's voice back into circulation, so immense and unusual is his talent.

Jamaican born Douglas Ewart has been a major force in Chicago's AACM avant-garde movement for many years. His multi-instrumental work, particularly on bass clarinet and his beautiful handcrafted flutes, is among the best to come out of the AACM musical mothership. He was originally schooled in the improvisational process by Muhal Richard Abrams, Joseph Jarman, and Roscoe Mitchell but has long since made his own distinctive musical personality evident. His playing, colored by a wide spectrum of ethnic styles ranging from Caribbean to Oriental, has a lovely lyrical sensibility that speaks of and to an inner peace while still stretching the musical limits in a confident and aggressive manner.

Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, a veteran of Sun Ra's intergalactic exploratory unit, brings an equally diverse and unusual mixture of influences to his playing. Abdullah's fusion of elementary Arabic scales with basic American blues is a music whose time has come, although it may be years before it receives the commercial acclaim it so richly deserves. Abdullah's sound effortlessly eludes easy categorization, blowing through stylistic genres like a desert breeze. In fact, Abdullah occasionally sounds like the late, great Lee Morgan playing modern music in the deserts of North Africa, an incongruous but not totally inaccurate image.

Malachi Favors, the Art Ensemble of Chicago's immaculate Buddha of the bass, always calm and serene in the midst of wild experimentation and always connected to the core of the music, served as the ultimate cohesive element for the music. While Alvin Fielder's propulsive work on drums and percussion provided an insistent motivation and direction, Favors was everywhere he was needed, not only ready to pull soloists to safety when necessary, but frequently using his almost telepathic powers of anticipation to be there waiting for them. 

The album begins with one of Gonzalez's most successfully realized compositions, Namesake, a deceptively simple sounding piece in 7/4 written in memory of Gonzalez's father. One of the true marks of musical mastery is the ability to make the complex appear uncomplicated and Gonzalez's work on Namesake amply qualifies for such a designation. Through creative voicings, Gonzalez uses the four horns to invent an amazingly expansive and evocative sound, more like a large horn choir performing in a massive cathedral than a mere quartet playing in a recording studio. The tune's block chords and deliberate pacing produce a mood of what might be called positive patience. A five chord structure pulls things together amidst excellent soloing by all. Gonzalez's solo is somewhat uncharacteristic however, as it is comprised of long 'church' notes instead of the trumpeter's more rapid-fire style. The piece, originally commissioned by the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, premiéred in Austin, Texas in November 1986.

The Separation of`Stones is a gentle tune inspired by waking from a dream that carries the mood of another dimension with it. Subdued, yet exciting solos by Gonzalez (on muted trumpet) and Abdullah (on fluegelhorn) retain the dreamy feeling. Hambe Khale Qhawe (Farewell, Dear Hero in the black South African Xhosa language) is a percussion piece that is a prelude to Hymn for Mbizo. Ewart's geographic and genre-spanning flute prevails while Favors' bowed bass and assortment of traditional African instruments provide a flexible foundation. The tune is a paean to the life of South African bassist Johnny "Mbizo" Dyani who died in exile while performing at the Berlin Jazz Festival in October 1986.

4 Pigs and a Bird s Nest, composed by artist/musician James Sharper and arranged by Gonzalez, is a lighter piece distinguished by a fine Gonzalez solo on muted pocket-trumpet. Hymn for Mbizo finds Gonzalez's work at its most emotional and allows its major influences of church and African derived musics full rein. Based on the old American Baptist hymn Holy Manna, the piece is the fifth reworking Gonzalez has done with the composition and it is as successful as its predecessors, if admittedly removed from them in style. 

Good Friends, an uplifting and engaging tune, became the unofficial theme song of the recording sessions. It served as a musical affirmation of the friendship and camaraderie that existed during the sessions, not only among the musicians but also among their wives, friends, and even those who just wandered onto the scene. Its festive air, with more than a little circus music slyly infused, gave the players a final chance to shed what few musical inhibitions remained and the soloing reflected it. One of Brackeen's hottest solos is featured but the general mood of friends at play dominates.

Gonzalez, also an accomplished visual artist of note, believes that his music contains hidden elements to trigger a variety of responses. He says, "The strength of my music is in the inadvertent imagery that happens." While this is undoubtedly true it is also a typical Gonzalez understatement, one that fails to recognize a multiplicity of more conspicuous musical attractions.

The deeply spiritual nature of Gonzalez's work is readily evident throughout this recording, but once again there is a subtle and satisfying twist. Gonzalez is not a believer in the dour prophets of fire and brimstone. His belief, like his music, is one that celebrates life and does so with joyous creativity. To Gonzalez, life seems to be a challenge to excellence, an opportunity to produce beauty as well as to partake of that already existing. This album finds Gonzalez transcending mere music to ably meet and master that challenge. 

Michael Point
Down Beat Magazine

Austin, Texas

1. Namesake 15:31
2. The Separation of Stones 09:09
3. Johnny-Johnny 08:17
4. Hamba Khale Qhawe 01:36
5. Four Pigs and a Bird's Nest 05:36
6. Hymn for Mbizo 11:35
7. Good Friends 05:16

Dennis Gonzalez trumpet, pocket-trumpet, fluegelhorn, pao de chuva, Pakistani bells, kalimba, vocal 
Ahmed Abdullah trumpet, fluegelhorn, balafon 
Charles Brackeen tenor sax, conga 
Douglas Ewart alto sax, bass clarinet 
Malachi Favors bass, vocal 
Alvin Fielder drums, percussion

Charles Brackeen Quartet - Bannar (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Gonzalez, Favors and Fielder play key roles on Bannar, the first recording in 15 years by Brackeen, a former Texan with something of Coleman's emotionally fortright delivery and rustic accent." 
Francis Davis, Philadelphia Enquirer, April 7, 1988

"There is nothing studied or academic about this music; if anything Brackeen's compositions have a beautiful folk quality to them which is all the more aided by an ensemble of players who convey a deep sense of regional and spiritual place." 
Ludwig Van Trikt, Cadence, September 1988

To better understand or pinpoint an artist's musical approach, most listeners are bound to make comparisons that will give them an easy starting point. Such is the case with saxophonist Charles Brackeen. Let listeners hear Charles' wide vibrato in the altissimo range, and he or she will say, "Well, he plays like Albert Ayler." Or, play Charles' Rhythm X LP with Charlie Haden, Don Cherry and Edward Blackwell, and the same listeners might say, "Charles sounds a lot like Ornette Coleman." Although Brackeen acknowledges both Ayler and Coleman as influences, there can be no such comparison. After listening to this album, it becomes apparent that Charles Beackeen carries his own Bannar.

Charles Brackeen was born in Eufaula, Oklahoma on March 13,1940, where he lived until he was 11. Charles began his musical studies at the age of 6 when he started taking piano lessons, and soon thereafter gravitated to the violin and finally to the saxophone at age 10.

When he moved to Paris, Texas at age 11, Charles' Stint in the Gibbons High School marching band gave him the confidence he needed to continue on saxophone. When Charles moved to New York City at age 12, he spent his weekends playing in dance bands, rock and roll bands, and whatever else he could get involved with. According to Charles, "Music always paid off for me." 

Charles' big move, however, came at age 16 when he first moved to Los Angeles. He soon married and met ambitious musicians such as Don Cherry, Charlie Hayden, Billy Higgins, Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley and Art Farmer, among many others. It was in California that Brackeen became immersed in the New Jazz scene, learning concepts that remain in his music until this very day. 

Moving back to New York, Charles kept experimenting with new styles, but at the same time continued to play all sorts of music. "I wanted to feel that I could call myself a musician; that I could play all types of music," says Charles, "I realized that I couldn't put any one type of music above any other." 

Because of his adventurous concepts and his friendships with Cherry and Haden, Charles recorded Rhythm X in 1969 and in due course this appeared on the Strata East label (SES-19736). Although the quartet sounds on the surface much like one of Ornette Coleman's mid-60's ensembles, Brackeen's own saxophone playing shines through with a fresh lyricism that was a unique parallel development, not merely a copy of the master.

The quartet disbanded (to become 'Old and New Dreams' a good many years later, with Dewey Redman) and nothing further was heard of Brackeen until he joined forces with drummer Paul Motian. "It was wonderful!" exclaims Motian, "I thought he played my music really well." This association, which lasted for five years, produced two fine Paul Motian LPs for ECM, Dance (1977) and Le Voyage (1979). 

Aside from the association with Motian, Charles stayed active on the New York jazz loft scene and recorded an unreleased album with the Ed Blackwell Quartet in 1982, which proved to be Brackeen's last record date until the 1987 sessions in Dallas.

Brackeen recorded Bannar after receiving a call from Dennis Gonzalez. "When Dennis called, the idea felt good to me," says Brackeen, "I listened to his voice and the things that he said. He seemed to be warm and friendly, the type of person I like to deal with." Upon hearing Dennis' music, Charles became increasingly excited about working with Dennis and the other musicians on the session. 

Not that it was easy. When the group first began rehearsing, there was some uneasiness in the air as the quartet began dealing with Brackeen's more complex compositions. Although drummer Alvin Fielder had played with both Gonzalez and bassist Malachi Favors on different occasions in the past, the four had never worked together as a group. After the initial discomfort, however, the musicians quickly became a distinctly identifiable unit. There is something folkish about Charles' compositions, a kind of logical transparency. The material on Bannar is challenging and melodic

"Three Monks Suite" is a study in structure; a completely scored tune with no improvisation. Almost nine minutes in length, this piece is made up of seven different segments, each of varying content, which maintain musical continuity throughout.

"Chaos" begins the suite, sounding very much like classical chamber music filtered through a shufflet Brackeen's soprano, sounding very clarinet-like, is bright, fresh, and piercing, much like the first ray of sunlight through a window at dawn. "Sugar Doll" is a delicious tango, featuring Favor's arco responses to Brackeen's melodic call.

Ushering a time change from 4/4 to 3/4, "Waltz With Me" is irresistible, an eminently danceable section. "Snowshoes" is also stunning; a playful, vibrant segment that swings softly but fervently. "Hush and Stop" also swings; featuring an exchange of fours between the group and Fielder. "Cas-Ba" acts as a bridge to "Cheers," a happy-go-lucky ending with a lyricism that's almost child-like.

Although fellow musicians could probably point to a strict use of form for the tune's inspiration, Charles sees the street people with whom became in contact in the last several years in New York and Los Angeles as his motivation for writing "Three Monks Suite". "It's folk music; people music," says Charles. "Understanding all races and nationalities of people taught me a lot of mysterious things about my musical approach. People like music that can talk to them; it's more universal."

"Open" not only talks – it screams with delight. With its ascending head chart and fast, intense pace, the track gives the musicians a chance to stretch their knowledge and musical conceptions to the fullest. Brackeen's solo here is free and urgent but is somehow also well mapped-out when Charles explores many of his tenor's sounds. Dennis Gonzalez solos with equal vigor, splicing triple-tonguing techniques and slurs with deep melodic concepts. Alvin Fielder also solos on "Open". Here, Alvin's playing reconciles the thrashing, sensitive abandon reminiscent of Sonny Murray with the precise polyrhythmic approach first associated with Elvin Jones.

Echoing his faith in the Creator, "Allah" is Brackeen's model of a jazz spiritual. Although it's the simplest tune on this release, "Allah" has much going for it. Over a gospelish bass vamp, Brackeen and Gonzalez stretch long, impassioned notes using both horns and voices. Solo-wise, Gonzalez especially impresses; his "gotta testify" approach on muted trumpet consists of high, staccato blasts which warm the soul.

"Stone Blue" is a blues soaked track with an element of American Indian tribal music in the head melody, perhaps reflecting some of Albert Ayler's endeavors. Brackeen's solo on this tune has a dark sonority about it, as Charles explores the middle registers of his tenor. Bassist Malachi Favors offers a rhythmically buoyant solo, echoing the essence of the beautiful melody. As with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Favors remains true to a tune's intent and purpose.

Brackeen and Gonzalez create a wonderful harmonic frame for "Story", which possesses a marvelous out-of-unison melody line. During his solo, Charles makes use of the tenor's entire range, displaying his subtle altissimo and occasionally dipping into the lower reaches of the instrument. Gonzalez's solo is equally bold. Using the tune's spirit (as opposed to its structure), Dennis contributes gutteral growls and sublime snippets of gospelish melody. 

All in all, Charles Beackeen's banner waves high. With its organic, natural, and spiritual approach, this recording is sure to move all who listen, while melting away any musical preconceptions of a true individual. 

Russ Summers

Contributor to Jazziz Magazine

1. Three Monks Suite (Chaos, Sugar Doll, Waltz with Me, Snow Shoes, Hush and Stop, Cas-Ba, Cheers) 08:52
2. Open 08:01
3. Allah 08:30
4. Stone Blue 09:42
5. Story 09:35
6. Open (Take 2) 09:40

Charles Brackeen tenor and soprano saxophone
Dennis Gonzalez trumpet, fluegelhorn
Malachi Favors bass
Alvin Fielder drums

Ahmed Abdullah Quartet - Liquid Magic (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Abdullah has a good technique and a tone you could roast bread on. His cohorts – Malachi Favors, Charles Brackeen, Alvin Fielder – are enormously capable and experienced. Things really begin to happen and the album blazes with the vigor and sense of self-surprise that marked those that followed Ornette into wonderland in the early 1960s." 
Jack Cooke, The Wire, January 1989

More info... HERE

1. Mayibue 07:37
2. Reflections on a Mystic 05:16
3. Ebony Queen 08:15
4. Mystery of Two 03:22
5. Liquid Magic - The Ruler 10:49
6. Walk with God 06:56
7. The Ruler (Take 2) 09:22
8. Ebony Queen (Take 2) 08:33

Ahmed Abdullah trumpet, fluegelhorn, piano
Charles Brackeen tenor saxophone
Malachi Favors bass
Alvin Fielder drums

Steve Lacy Quartet - One Fell Swoop (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"Yet another excellent album by Lacy, the expatriate soprano saxophonist." 
Francis Davis, Philadelphia Enquirer, 31 March, 1988

"The Music of Lacy and Tyler, providing a strong dose of unadorned creativity, is quite happily unconcerned with being fashionable or appropriate." 
Paul Baker, Jazznews International, April 1988

There are many things in this life that are hard to understand – not only the solid repugnance which greeted Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Eric Dolphy at the beginning of the sixties, but also such observables as the fact that the only people with long hair these days are those (middle-aged car salesmen and Chinese waiters) who in the self-same sixties had short hair and vehemently expressed the wish that long haired youth should he shipped off to concentration camps. Or, the extreme indignation that characterized the white American Olympic tram in Berlin in 1936 when it became evident how the Germans were treating the Jews – which is much the same as the way in which the blacks were treated in the U.S.A. (but without the white indignation).

However, many things have improved as the years have rolled by. IRCAM, in Paris, is a fine example of governmental initiative and this is where Keith Knox and I decided to record Steve Lacy and Charles Tyler between June 11th and 14th, 1986, because, for one reason among many, Charles too (since 1985) lives in Paris. Steve has lived there for the past 15 years, of course. I've listened to Steve since the fifties and have something like 30 recordings by him, of which my favorite is a solo album from Théatre du Chêne Noir, made August 7th and 8th, 1972. The first time I heard Steve Lacy in person was in Stockholm on October 13th, 1982. The first time I heard Charles Tyler live was in New York on December 15th, 1973. Charles had moved from the west coast that day. He had arrived in New York City and gone that same evening to sit in with Dewey Redman's group at Sam River's Rivbea. I still recall with great clarity those careening solos, bursting with ideas, that Charles ripped off that evening. I've bought every one of Charles' records since then. 

The conditions for the recording session in studio five at IRCAM could have been better. Steve's group had an engagement at the Sunset Club that very same week, which began at 11:00 each evening and went on until 3 or 4 in the morning. Charles had been traveling in the south of France and had had no opportunity of working with Steve. Studio time was limited, but the place was staffed by an extremely competent recording team – David Wessel and Didier Arditi.

IRCAM is a highly prestigious establishment. Well known personages came and went. One day Mauricio Kagel came in and listened to a take. It was a very tough rehearsal and recording assignment for all concerned, but especially for Charles with his big heavy copper baritone – a new experimental horn from Buffet. It was anaconda versus cobra, Hershey's Milkyway versus Wrigley's Spearmint, Ingres versus Mondrian – the emotional and eruptive playing of Charles versus the businesslike appearance and watchlike precision of Steve. Steve was pretty much determined that his soprano should be featured throughout the recording – and, although there was some discussion of whether Charles should alternate between his instruments, he was interested primarily in Charles playing baritone as a supporting horn.

Clearly, there was a degree of tension between the two saxists, which lent a dynamic aspect to the various takes. The pressure was eased by Oliver with his odd jokes. When the air conditioning made the studio too chilly for instance, Oliver suddenly shouted, "Let's go out and hunt animals!". Easier said than done, 20 meters from Centre Pompidou where we used to sit and have a beer after each session.

During one of these café visits, Steve and I began to talk about a black American painter I'd been interested in for a long time, Bob Thompson, who lived a brief but hectic life (he died in 1966, at the age of 29), was known in jazz musicians' circles and turned out to be an old and dear friend of Steve's.

Archie Shepp dedicated a tune to Thompson on his 'Mama Too Tight' album (Impulse A-9134 "Portrait of Robert Thompson as a Young Man"), and Steve has made a recording called 'The Forest and the Zoo' (ESP 1060) on which the backliner includes a photograph taken in Rome with Steve, Bob and bassist Johnny Dyani and the front cover features a painting by Bob.

The reproduction of Bob's painting on the ESP album was not very good and Steve thought it was a splendid idea, because of this, to let the front cover of our record consist of a painting called "The Hairdresser", that I knew of. In Steve's mind – and he has considerable familiarity with Bob Thompson's work – the voodooistic hairdresser is intimately coupled with the inner significance of the album title, 'One Fell Swoop'. Strangely enough, it turned out later when we demounted the canvas for photographing that it was painted in 1962/63 precisely in Paris, according to a note on the back of the painting.

The days passed by with the demanding work of rehearsals and with Steve's group at night in the Sunset – Steve, Steve Potts, Jean-Jacques Avenel and Oliver Johnson.

On Friday the 13th, Steve decided that we should include the Monk tune, "Friday the Thirteenth". On Saturday the 14th, Steve had his instrument fixed by the 'horn doctor' and didn't appear at the studio until noon. While we were waiting, I asked Charles to record one of his own tunes with the trio; he was nervous about doing so because it was Steve's gig. As things worked out he recorded an old tune of his, "Ode to Lady Day", and Steve was quite pleased about it because a nice bit of variety was introduced.

Also on Saturday the 14th, Steve Potts was not able to participate at the Sunset because of a huge anti-racist meeting at the Bastille, where 300,000 people were gathered under the banner "TOUCHE PAS A MON POTE".

To finish the recording, we had agreed to rent the studio for several additional hours on Sunday the 15th, during which we completed the project.

I went home to Steve's place afterwards to discuss a further album which was to be recorded in New York. I had an early lunch later with Charles at which we talked, among many other things, about the improbable chain of events that led up to this production. A few lines come to mind from an interview Peter Bull made with Steve Lacy for his film documentary, Steve Lacy: 

Lift the Bandstand. "But these things are sort of mysterious, they sort of fall from the sky and you take them up. It's not really a logical step-by-step... it's more like a series of leaps into the unknown. And each time, well I remember once, I was a kid... I was in a record store and I had never heard any jazz really, and I saw some Ellington records there. And it said, Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra. Well I was just a kid and I wondered why his orchestra was famous, and... so I had some money from my birthday and I bought these records without having heard them. Just... it sort of like smelled interesting, this... it was an album of four records, four 78's. And I took it home, and that was it. That was the beginning of my whole story that I'm still living now. Now, these kind of flashes... like that... are intuitive and mysterious and you can't say much about them."

That's how it was here. The evening I met Charles in New York in 1973 which led to his European tour a few years later: the painting of "The Hairdresser" which I saw at Martha Jackson's in New York in 1976, quite by chance. Charles Tyler introduced me to Keith Knox in Stockholm in 1982, the year I met Steve at Fasching.

It's true: "These things are sort of mysterious, they sort of fall from the sky and you take them up."

Lars-Olof Gustavsson

1. One Fell Swoop (Take 2) 07:52
2. Ode to Lady Day 07:34
3. Wickets 09:46
4. Keepsake 08:44
5. The Advantures Of 07:17
6. Friday the Thirteenth 04:53
7. One Fell Swoop (Take 1) 07:07

Steve Lacy soprano saxophone
Charles Tyler baritone & alto saxophone
Jean-Jacques Avenel bass
Oliver Johnson drums

Steve Lacy Sextet - The Gleam (SILKHEART RECORDS 2018)

"The Steve Lacy Repertory Co. (featuring Irène Aebi's heartily distinctive voice – supported by a gruff voiced Lacy on Usual) is wide awake and fired up on The Gleam, their Silkheart debut. Lacy's assertions concerning the advantage of having a regular working unit with the opportunity to dig into material to make the music thrive and grow are certainly born out here." 
Milo Fine, Cadence, May 1988

You see, one group is built on the group preceding it. It's built on the experience and the sound of the precedent groups and all these different groups that you have, they'll ultimately lead to the group that you stay with. And that's the group that I have now, it is a long enduring group of twelve years now.

My present group has existed since the early seventies. It was formed in Paris and with a couple of personnel changes here and there it's been fairly stable for over a decade now. This is a big advantage, and the reason is that playing with the same people over a period of years you can take chances together because you have a chemistry that works and you have a long experience together and therefore, well, you can be more free together. It's very important to be able to play with the same people all the time, I think, because that way you can make some progress. Because they're friends and they trust you and you trust them. And you have the freedom to take risks together and the possibility of making magic because you know each other so well that you can achieve, well, magic is the only word for it. Not every night, but sometimes.

The other advantage is to play the same material over a period of years so as to know it better, so as also to be able to take more liberties with it. Because you know it over a period of ten years and therefore you can really take chances with it, you can really take it on out. So, if you have the same people playing the same material over a long period of time you can play it very well, but you can also risk to go to sleep if the material is not interesting enough. So this was my whole quest all these years, for interesting enough material played by good enough players so as to really find something truly challenging and alive. And I really think we've got it now with the current band.

STEVE POTTS, the alto and soprano saxophone, we've been together for about twelve years now and what we do is an indissoluble unity. It's like two players making one sound, and I can never sleep with Steve Potts because he always is going to keep me on my toes at all moments, I need this constant challenge. I think that inspiration is very important and on my right hand I have it all the time.

IRENE AEBI, the vocalist and violin and cello player in the band, well we met in '66 in Rome. And basically, that's the voice, it's like the heart of the music and she's got the ear, the golden ear. It's been a long story of collaboration together but basically hers is the voice that allowed me to find the way to use the word in the jazz. And that's no mean feat, because the voice had almost gone out of jazz in the fifties, largely I mean. When the music really got turbulent in the sixties and all that, there was no place for the voice or for the song for that matter. So my job was to bring the song form back into the jazz and Irene had the voice that allowed me to experiment over a long period of years and ultimately to achieve this result, this new substance, which contains the jazz music and the voice and the words.

Now the texts we use for the pieces we pIay, well there are many of them and they're all different. Each one is a different case that might come from a poet, it might be from a letter, a postcard, a wall slogan, something I find in a newspaper. But the important thing is that Irene being the voice, well the primary consideration is simply is it something she can say? Is it something that she would want to say? Will she want to say it again long enough so as to learn how to do it. So the interest of the text is primary. And then after that, it's a question of careful consideration and setting the text to musical pitches and rhythms and then learning them and performing them.

That takes a long time. Sometimes it could take ten or twenty years between the time that you receive the words and you deliver the song. And I think music like that can sound very surprising at first and it may take awhile before it sounds normal, and that's OK, but it's different with every tune really. And it's different with every time, and you can't generalize about it.

BOBBY FEW is the key to this band, of course, the keyboard man. The piano is very important in this group because it's the best instrument to support the voice when singing. For a singer there's nothing better than a piano for accompaniment. So, I mean, even if we have the drums and the bass and the saxophones and all that, well we need the keyboard. Bobby Few comes from Cleveland and is almost as old as I am and he's one of the reasons I moved to Paris from Rome. Because, as I said before, you need good musicians to play with and I saw that there were more and better musicians in Paris around '69 or '70. And so Irene and I moved to Paris and Bobby Few was one of the reasons. One of the flash musicians I met at that time and now he plays with me in our band. Well, it's like a dream come true for me.

JEAN-JACQUES AVENEL at the bass, is our own discovery. We heard him when he was just out of his teens and almost an amateur, and he's been playing with us a long time in Paris. J.-J. is as good as one can get, and getting better! He has a unique approach to a great tradition and is one of the best bassists in Europe, or anywhere. 

OLIVER JOHNSON at the drums; you know, a drummer is the number one requirement of the jazz to me. Jazz to me without the drums is inconceivable, except as a relief sometimes. But really at the heart of the jazz is the drums and so a really good drummer who knows what to plays is my primary need. I've always been very lucky and been associated with many, many good drummers all the time of my playing career. And, well, Oliver has been with us for about ten years now and he's the greatest, that's all I could say.

STEVE LACY, soprano saxophone. I've been working on the soprano saxophone for quite a few years now, maybe 33 years. I went on with it and after awhile I realized that I was all alone. It had been abandoned by the older players and not taken up by the newer players and it was in a state of limbo. This was both fearful and challenging for me, the field was mine. There was nothing to go by and I had to make it in my own fashion, in my own way. I had to find my own guides and models and my own music, because there was nothing suitable written for it. I looked around for many years and tried to write my own music, but until I was able to do that I nurtured myself on many other musics; Charlie Parker, Anton Webern, Ellington, Kurt Weill, old standard tunes, whatever I could find that would fit.

And then one day I discovered Thelonious Monk's music and, well, that music really fit the horn and myself and was exactly what I was looking for. I really explored that music for a long time, both on the saxophone and on the piano, to see how it was structured. And finally, at the end of that long period I began to uncover my own music and started to write my own pieces, which I'm still playing.

1. Gay Paree Bop 09:04
2. Napping (Take 1) 08:58
3. The Gleam 07:41
4. As Usual 12:03
5. Keepsake 10:22
6. Napping (Take 2) 10:28

Steve Lacy soprano saxophone
Steve Potts alto & soprano saxophone
Irène Aebi vocals, violin
Bobby Few piano
Jean-Jacques Avenel bass
Oliver Johnson drums

Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Quartet - Stefan (SILKHEART RECORDS)

"A stunning record, and all the more impressive for making its mark with music that's essentially quiet and considered. The music here is so positive in heart and mind it should give any listener new hope. One of the year's best releases." 
Richard Cook, The Wire, September 1987

I always feel a rush of excitement when I experience the workings of an artist in his or her prime. With Stefan, Dennis Gonzalez has certainly left me with that feeling. 

Dennis' new album is not necessarily about bop, although all the musicians involved can play any note within any chord. It's not about avant-garde or free music although Dennis has played much of that in his musical career. It's not about ''third world" or ethnic musics, although Gonzalez is well-versed in the music of many cultures. The music is all of these, yet none of these. This record is about good solid new music with a strong sense of humanity.

Being fortunate enough to sit in on the sessions and learn about the intent of the music (which is as important as the music itself) as well as the conception and content, I was able to get a good overall idea of the guts of each tune.

The opening "Enrico" reflects Gonzalez's willingness to find musical sources anywhere. The tune contains a bassline composed on piano by 16-year old Eric "Enrico" Palos, a Mariachi student of Dennis' at North Dallas High School. Dennis transcribed the bassline soon after hearing it and later fitted a chord progression to it in half steps against the line in a challenging yet pleasing manner.

The ensemble's sound is firmly established in this tune. Listen to the driving rhythm section of bassist Henry Franklin and drummer W. A. Richardson, the smoothly virtuoso bass clarinet lines of multi-reedist John Purcell, and Gonzalez's expressive trumpet playing. According to Dennis, "Any one musician would have changed the whole sound of the band." And he's right – there's a perfect chemistry here.

Also notable here is Gonzalez's fluegelhorn solo. Whereas Art Farmer and others hear the fluegel as a languid, mellow instrument, Dennis understands the horn's more abstract implications. In his solo, Gonzalez invokes a quiet intensity using a breathy attack and an unusually strident tone.

"Enrico" is dedicated not only to young Palos, but also to Italian trumpet giant Enrico Rava, whose approach has greatly influenced Gonzalez.

"Fortuity" is a peaceful tune with a Satie-like ambience written by drummer Richardson and Dallas multi-instrumentalist Roger Boykin. The piece was originally intended for Richardson's musical drama, City of Glass.

Seemingly simple but actually quite complex, "Fortuity" changes chords on every note. All the musicians play delicately, especially Purcell, whose overdubbed bass flute/english horn lines were a test for his breath and embouchure control.

Against Gonzalez' muted trumpet, the reeds make for a mini-orchestra. The concept of "Fortuity" is breathtaking – the harmonies cause the mood of the tune to change on almost every note.

Gonzalez sees "Fortuity" as a paradox of the simple being complex and vice-versa. "When something is complex, it's right there in front of your eyes or ears; it's easy to explain." says Gonzalez. "When something is simple you have to explain it more thoroughly. 

The theory of simplicity again shines through in "Stefan". The simplicity is in the three-note pattern played over a significantly more complex harmonic structure. Originally penned for Gonzalez's Ambient Music Ensemble, this tune is a dedication to his infant son, Stefan. 

The opening section lends a celestial, church-like atmosphere to the proceedings, with Purcell's synthesizer lines especially appropriate. The section is pensive and uplifting, with a flowing undercurrent provided by Richardson's military snare rolls. 

The second section begins with Purcell's bass clarinet providing a buoyant backing for Franklin's high-register bass solo.

Whether solo or in accompaniment, Henry's playing is most inspiring with a powerful glissando style that is articulate, punchy, and very original. In his ensemble playing, Franklin's sliding pitch approach provides plenty of freedom for the other musicians to play within.

Part three of "Stefan" features the voices of the ensemble, all extending the vocal gymnastics John Purcell explores with his group, Third Kind Of Blue. This vocal section consists of a New Orleans street scene. Here, Purcell is a fruits and flesh merchant, W. A. Richardson is a hard-nosed preacher, and Henry Franklin is a civil-rights activist. Gonzalez represents the much ignored Spanish flavor of New Orleans while he ponders the mysteries of life.

The last section ends as it began with the same celestial, simplistic, church-like atmosphere as Purcell and Gonzalez work together to interweave the three-note pattern with the complex harmonic structure beneath; trumpet against synthesizer – trumpet with synthesizer.

Side two begins with the energetic "Hymn For Don Cherry", based on a double-time version of the traditional hymn, "At The Cross". The introduction and recurring theme breaks the melody into one and a half measures of bass and horns and three and a half measures of solo drums, lending an AACM feel to the tune. This part was particularly tricky for the musicians, resulting in several false starts in the studio before the piece finally took off.

All of the solos are notable here. Purcell's Rahsaan Roland Kirk/James Newton-inspired flute solo screams with delight, aided by his great logic and a respect for the changes. Gonzalez's fluegelhorn solo respects not the changes, but the tune's mood and feel. With this freer approach, Dennis sneaks in strange intervals and notes "in between the cracks", while all the time hinting at Cherry's initial bop influence. Franklin's solo swings more mightily than anything else he plays on the album – a substantial statement. On "Hymn For Don Cherry", the ESP between the players is stunning; this ensemble sounds like a full-time BAND!

"Boi Fuba" is a touching Brazilian cowboy song that Gonzalez discovered while taking a Portuguese language class. After receiving a tape copy, Dennis arranged the music for his group. The introduction consists of Gonzalez on pao de churva (rain stick – a shaker), berimbau, congas, bells, and toy chimes – with Purcell on double-tracked bass flute. John's overdubbing adds depth and richness while contrasting the melody and harmony.

This piece, like "Fortuity", is very short. The melody is stated only twice, while the rhythm section only plays it once. There are no solos here; none are needed. As Gonzalez says, "It makes you want more but leaves you satisfied that the statement is complete."

''Deacon John Ray" is Purcell's sole composition for the album. Purcell, who plays alto here, wrote this jaunty tune to emphasize the group's sound – a sound which encompasses hymn-like "songs".

On "Deacon", the contrast between the differing approaches to soloing is at its most evident. John's solos are basically eighth-note lines played inventively within the chord changes, while Gonzalez's solos are double-time and based on abstract modes that only ''hint at'' the changes. Dennis' solo on "Deacon John Ray" is on pocket trumpet – the instrument Gonzalez feels is the most abstract to approach.

Just as in his DAAGNIM releases which preceded this, Dennis Gonzalez demonstrates on this record that he is willing to keep his music fresh and unique. Dennis is blessed with an open mind, an open set of ears, and a humane approach to music that should keep this freshness alive.

Russ Summers

Contributor to Jazziz Magazine