Individual voices making up a coherent collective sound has always been a hallmark of authentic and accomplished improvised music in the "Jazz" tradition from the earliest Dixieland to postmodern neo-bop, and in other traditions, it is no doubt a significant characteristic as well. This is as true of this re-release that captures these 1964 and 1965 dates in New York City, originally on the ESP label, as any meaningful music you can think of, with the added ingredient of being a snap shot of a turbulent and creative time in modern jazz.
The turbulence in the music can be easily understood in relation to the social context of the times with increasingly abstract and simultaneously afro-centric ideas about music making that emphasized an anarchic/collective spirit instead of the top-down, outward-inward dynamic favored by players of popular song vehicles produced in the context of a commercial product. Tunes like "Sweet/Black Dada Nihilismus" and "Banging On the White House Door" attest to the political facet, while pieces like "Rosmosis," "No. 6," and "Rufus 3rd" evince the fervor of creative avant-gardism of the time, abstract expressionism brought into the sphere of sounds.
What we get here is innovative music of a sublime quality, with the meeting of the talents of drummer Milford Graves, trombonist Roswell Rudd, alto saxist John Tchicai, and bassists Lewis Worrell and Reggie Workman (alternating on the dates), whose creative playing is a joy to experience. Even when playing the two standard vehicles, Charlie Parker's "Mohawk" and Adair and Dennis' "Everything Happens to Me," the aforementioned individuality of the voices work themselves into strand upon strand of musical lines, strings of sounds intertwining in articulate and cohesive evolution of the sonic material, set up in the composed elements that are bolstered by inspired improvisation, collective soul searching and deep listening.
The names of Graves, Rudd, Tchicai, and Workman are likely well known to readers, while bassist Worrell stands out as obscure. His playing, however, provides an interesting contrast to Workman's more familiar sound (although in this context we get a much more creative sampling of his musical thinking than even in the Coltrane group, for instance). While these two sessions feature essentially the same quartet, the change of the bass player and the dramatic difference it makes to the collective sound is evidence of the numinous alchemy that creative music-making involves, and the results that can be quite varied with one element altered.
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