A post-Coltrane coterie of American free jazz players, including the late sax radical David S Ware and eclectic composer/bassist William Parker, have kept the flame of the 1960s avant garde burning. Drummer Whit Dickey, a former student of free percussion legend Milford Graves and a frequent associate of both Ware and Parker, is a key contributor, too, as this scorching set by his trio confirms. Dickey engagingly calls much of this music “full-bore yang” (he calls it “free-grunge” too) for the yin-yang energies unleashed in its collision of the known and the unknown.
He’s joined by a partner of 30 years, the fine alto saxophonist Rob Brown – and by rising young bassist Brandon Lopez, a player of impassioned drive who has worked with John Zorn and the Sun Ra Arkestra. They all solo, and they all entwine in this music’s tidal ebb and flow. The Outer Edge melts Brown’s early imploring laments into groove-swaps of fast free swing and solemn incantations, while Desert Flower is introduced by Lopez’s seismic rumble and sitar-like slides, before Brown breaks out in dense, scurrying lines. Lee Konitz’s cool tones and Albert Ayler’s haunting cries seem joined in Brown’s playing on the title track, Möbius and The Opening fuse Brown’s soaring-seagull wails, Lopez’s bowed-bass throb, and Dickey’s mix of crisply propulsive accents and churning, cymbal-hissing flux. It’s good to hear two august elders of free jazz and one inspired newcomer keeping the edge of this niche tradition so sharp.
Also out this month
Much feted as an idiosyncratically original singer-songwriter, Esperanza Spalding is also a jazz artist of eloquence and heart. Live at the Village Vanguard, a Bandcamp EP download only available during June as a fundraiser for musicians impacted by coronavirus, catches her in sublime vocal partnership with brilliant pianist Fred Hersch. Young UK guitarists Rob Luft and Chris Montague show how creative but distinctively different they are on Luft’s Life Is the Dancer (Edition) – a joyous mix of Celtic, west African, ambient and Pat Methenyesque influences, with trumpeter Byron Wallen guesting – and Montague’s Warmer Than Blood (Whirlwind), on which the leader’s densely wrought originals absorbingly stretch his classy trio with pianist Kit Downes and bassist Ruth Goller. And UK piano virtuoso Andrew McCormack, after 15 years as a bandleader, finally unveils his gifts as an unaccompanied player with Solo (Ubuntu) – a rich mix of good originals, standards and scintillating improv.