A history of Jazz Music

by Piero Scaruffi
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.
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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Jazz Music")

Creative music: jazz post-modernism in New York

In the 1970s in the "loft scene" of New York the border between late purveyors of free jazz and young pioneers of creative music was blurred. Several schools of jazz adopted a rather broad definition of the genre, notably the Creative Music Studio, founded in 1972 in Woodstock by German-born vibraphonist Karl Berger (a former Don Cherry affiliate who had relocated with him to New York in 1966) along Buddhist-inspired principles.

Miami-born trumpeter and saxophonist Joe McPhee did not have any major experience before he started rocking the "loft scene" of New York. A quartet comprising McPhee (on tenor saxophone, trumpet, pocket cornet, alto horn), Reggie Marks (soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, organ), Tyrone Crabb (bass) and Ernist Bostic (vibraphone, drums, percussion) recorded Underground Railroad (april 1969), particularly the 23-minute Underground Railroad, a spectacular display of collective free improvisation that was frantic and spirited. John Coltrane's influence was more evident on the live Nation Time (december 1970), recorded with equal enthusiasm by an unusual quintet of piano, bass, two percussionists and McPhee on trumpet, soprano sax and tenor sax (the 18-minute Nation Time) that was expanded to an octet with propulsive alto saxophone, electric guitar and organ for the explosive, funky 13-minute Shakey Jake. McPhee was one step away from the funk-jazz-rock revolution. Black Magic Man (same concert) showed his more orthodox free-jazz side, especially in the 17-minute Hymn of the Dragon Kings, influenced by Cecil Taylor, as did the acrobatic 28-minute Ionization and the funky and bluesy Delta on Trinity (november 1971), that debuted his bass-less trio with piano and drums.
McPhee's intimate, lyrical, multiphonic and polychromatic language at the various instruments was crystallized on the solo album The Willisau Concert (october 1975), that contained Baliamian Folksong, Touchstone and Voices. It was followed by several more solo improvisations: Rotation (september 1976), Tenor And Fallen Angels (october 1977), the double-LP Graphics (june 1977), perhaps the most powerful expression of his eclectic ego (the 12-minute Graphics 3/4, the 15-minute Legendary Heroes, the 14-minute Anamorphosis, the eleven-minute Trumpet), Variations on a Blue Line (october 1977), Glasses (october 1977).
However, McPhee had been preparing to abandon the language of John Coltrane for something more futuristic. The pioneering duets between his horns and John Snyder's synthesizer (notably the 23-minute Windows in Dreams/ Colors in Crystal) on Pieces Of Light (april 1974) found a place for electronic music in jazz improvisation. The atonal sax-piano-guitar trio of MFG in Minnesota (june 1978) evoked the creative noise of Derek Bailey. Old Eyes and Mysteries (may 1979), including the four-movement Women's Mysteries, Topology (march 1981), including the 28-minute reed duet Topology, and Oleo (august 1982), including Pablo for two reeds, bass and guitar, adapted philosopher Edward DeBono's strategy of "lateral thinking" to jazz improvisation (or "po music"), which in practice meant a calmer, deeper exploration of sound. More "po music" surfaced on A Future Retrospective (may 1987) and Linear B (january 1990). Pauline Oliveros' "deep listening" music became a major influence on Common Threads (october 1995), mostly taken up by the 47-minute Spirit Traveler (dedicated to Don Cherry) for a quintet with avantgarde composer Stuart Dempster on trombone and didgeridoo, Evynd Kang on violin, bass and cello. In that vein McPhee composed Unquenchable Fire (premiered in august 1997).
Less interesting was his return to free improvisation, enacted via a myriad of recordings: the trio with reed player Ken Vandermark and bassist Kent Kessler of Meeting In Chicago (february 1996), the solo improvisations of As Serious As Your Life (may 1996), the duets with flutist Jerome Bourdellon of Novio Iolu: Music for a New Place (may 1995) and Manhattan Tango (april 2000), the duets with trombonist Jeb Bishop of Brass City (october 1997), the duets with bassist Dominic Duval of The Dream Book (august 1998) and Rules of Engagement, Volume 2 (january 2004), the duets with tenor saxophonist Evan Parker of Chicago Tenor Duets (may 1998), the duets with bassist Michael Bisio of Zebulon (july 1998), the duets with drummer Johnny McLellan of Grand Marquis (august 1999), the duets with percussionist Hamid Drake of Emancipation Proclamation (june 1999), the live solos of Everything Happens for a Reason (november 2003), and assorted combo performances such as Abstract (october 2000), Remembrance (october 2001) and Mr Peabody Goes to Baltimore (september 2000).
McPhee mainly formed the Bluette Quartet with microtonal reed player Joe Giardullo and two bassists (Michael Bisio and Dominic Duval). After In the Spirit (march 1999), a tribute to spirituals, and No Greater Love (same session), with Strangers In A Strange Land, they excelled at the postmodern melodic exercise of the suite Let Paul Robeson Sing (september 2001), structured in four "episodes": the 21-minute Harlem Spiritual, the 15-minute Peekskill 1949 in three movements, the eleven-minute For Paul, the ten minute Water Boy/ Deep River/ Ol' Man River.
The same free-melodic concept was explored by the Trio X, formed by McPhee with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen, with more elegiac overtones although at times quite self-indulgent: the four-movement Watermelon Suite on Watermelon Suite (may 1998), the 47-minute Lift Every Voice and Sing on the live Rapture (december 1998), the 17-minute Sida's Song on the live In Black And White (june 2001), Journey and Autograph on Journey (february 2003), the 17-minute The Sugar Hill Suite on The Sugar Hill Suite (october 2004), Burning Wood on Moods Playing with the Elements (october 2004), etc. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

A tenor saxophonist influenced by John Coltrane, Frank Lowe, a Memphis native who relocated from San Francisco to New York in 1966, participated in Alice Coltrane's World Galaxy ((november 1971) and Don Cherry's Relativity Suite (february 1973).
After a creative Duo Exchange (september 1972) with percussionist Rashied Ali, Lowe debuted as a leader with Black Beings (march 1973), leading a quintet with saxophonist Joseph Jarman, bassist William Parker, violin and drums that careened through Lowe's 25-minute In Trane's Name and Jarman's Thulani. After Fresh (march 1975), a skewed tribute to Thelonious Monk with trumpeter Lester Bowie, trombonist Joseph Bowie, cellist Abdul Wadud and drummer Charles Bobo Shaw, Lowe achieved his personal form of free-jazz on The Flam (october 1975), unleashing his energetic playing across the 14-minute Flam and the ten-minute Third St Stomp in the company of Joseph Bowie, trumpeter Leo Smith, bassist Alex Blake and Shaw.
A quartet with Butch Morris on cornet recorded Tricks of the Trade (december 1976), containing Navarro's Tomorrow, and The Other Side (december 1976), while Olu Dara and Leo Smith on trumpets helped out on Doctor Too-Much (may 1977), containing his signature theme Doctor Too-Much. These recordings boasted a creative ebullience that harked back to the heydays of free jazz. Lowe began to move beyond free jazz with the eleven-piece orchestra (including Joseph Bowie, Butch Morris, Billy Bang, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, alto saxophonist John Zorn) that he assembled for Lowe And Behold (october 1977). The 14-minute Heart in Hand and the 13-minute Heavy Drama presented a masterful composer and arranger disguised as a free improviser (under the influence of Morris rather than Coltrane). And Morris helped arrange again the sprightly compositions of both Skizoke (march 1981), for saxophone, cornet, vibraphone, guitar, bass and drums (Originals, The Skizoke, Some Do Some Don't, Close to the Soul), and Exotic Heartbreak (october 1981), for a quintet with Morris, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, bass and drums (the bluesy Exotic Heartbreak).
Lowe also played in the Jazz Doctors, a free-bop quartet with Billy Bang, that released Intensive Care (august 1983). Generally speaking, his music was becoming less revolutionary and more respectful of the tradition. In fact, a spectacular sextet with trumpeter Don Cherry, trombonist Grachan Moncur and pianist Geri Allen, ended up cutting his most conservative album, Decision In Paradise (september 1984), with Dues and Don'ts.
The Saxemple documented on Inappropriate Choices (april 1991), a four-reed ensemble featuring baritone saxophonist James Carter, bass saxophonist Michael Marcus, alto saxophonist Carlos Ward and drummer Phillip Wilson (but they played a total of eleven instruments), was basically Lowe's response to the success of the World Saxophone Quartet, displaying, yet again, a less radical side of Lowe (Loweology and Fuchsia Norval). The ensemble later expanded to six reeds but SaxEmble (may 1995) was largely uneventful, mixing bebop, free jazz and rhythm'n'blues.
After the conventional sax-bass-drums trios of Bodies & Soul (november 1995) and Vision Blue (february 1997), paying tribute to the giants of free jazz while toying with pop, soul and world music, the quintet with piano and trumpet of the live Soul Folks (february 1998) marked an attempt to refocus his program on composition (Tubby's Night Out, Eddie's Dream, Ms Bertha's Arrival). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

The post-jazz and post-classical ambitions of Texas' trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, who moved to New York in 1970 and played with Gil Evans from 1971 until 1984, were revealed by the five-movement suite for orchestra Children of the Fire (1974), that also inaugurated his spiritual and pan-African leitmotiv. This work marked the birth of the Sunrise Orchestra, the banner under which Peterson recorded several smaller-scale works, for example the five pieces for chamber ensemble of The Light (may 1978). At the same time Peterson gave a personal interpretation of Don Cherry's free jazz with the trumpet-centered jams of The Angels of Atlanta (february 1981) with tenor saxophonist George Adams, pianist Kenny Barron, cellist Diedre Murray, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Dannie Richmond, and with the 20-minute quintet improvisation of Africa, off Poem Song (november 1981). The crowning achievement of his career was African Portraits (may 1995), a large-scale oratorio for symphony orchestra, choir, African instruments and blues, gospel and operatic vocalists. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Virginia-born pianist Don Pullen, who, after playing briefly in Chicago in Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band, moved to New York in 1964, was one of the musicians who bridged blues and free-jazz piano. When he backed such free-jazz gurus as saxophonist Giuseppe Logan (1964-65) and drummer Milford Graves (1966), Pullen mainly displayed a acrobatic technique (famously sounding like two pianists) that allowed him to do just about anything (as free as he wanted to be) while still playing melodies. It thus came natural to him to extend the technique at the piano to bring it in line with the experiments being carried out at the saxophone. The result sounded very similar to Cecil Taylor's style, but Pullen had reached the same point via a different path: not the brain, but, quite simply, the fingers. He composed a requiem for Malcolm X (1965), but could never perform it.
He was sidestepped for a few years until he was rediscovered by Charles Mingus (1973-74). His Solo Piano Album (february 1975) revealed an eclectic and mesmerizing performer, and, thanks to the 15-minute Sweet Suite Malcolm (the first movement of the requiem) a ten-minute Big Alice (destined to remain his most famous theme) and a nine-minute Song Played Backwards, a composer with an uncanny ear for melody and rhythm (he rarely recorded other people's compositions). Pullen then jumped from the free-jazz generation straight onto the "creative" generation, working with David Murray (1976-77), Hamiet Bluiett (1977-80) and Joseph Jarman (1979). It was the beginning of one of the most spectacular late careers in the history of jazz.
The solo concerto continued with two more imposing installments: the tour de force Five To Go (july 1975), that contained two side-long improvisations, Five To Go and Four Move, and Healing Force (october 1975), perhaps the most mature of the three although less spontaneous than the former, structured in four balanced pieces: Pain Inside (15:50), Tracey's Blues (8:30), Healing Force (8:25), Keep On Steppin' (18:40).
Another quartet with saxophonist Sam Rivers cut Capricorn Rising (october 1975), dominated by Rivers' compositions but also by Pullen's eleven-minute Capricorn Rising. And yet another quartet recorded the live Montreux Concert (july 1977), that included Pullen's side-long Dialogue Between Malcolm and Betty. Best of all these quartet sessions was Warriors (april 1978), with tenorist Chico Freeman, that delivered the 31-minute Warriors as well as the shorter (13 minutes) Land Of The Pharoahs. The piece de resistance, overflowing with catchy melodies and propulsive rhythms, despite the harmonic anarchy, was Pullen's definitive aesthetic statement. Somewhat influenced by Charles Mingus, the music was able to metabolize a broad spectrum of styles. Due to his versatile ambiguity, he became an unwilling evangelist of free jazz among the listeners of non-free jazz.
Milano Strut (december 1978) had four sophisticated duets with percussionist Don Moye, notably Conversation, Communication and Curve Eleven Adding Joseph Jarman on flute, piccolo, tenor, soprano and clarinet, they recorded The Magic Triangle (july 1979). The quartet with Adams recorded his memorable 16-minute Double Arc Jake on Don't Lose Control (november 1979).
For a while Pullen's main output was directed towards the quartet with Adams, yielding Earth Beams (august 1980), Lifeline (april 1981), with Adams' Nature's Children and Pullen's Newcomer Seven Years Later, City Gates (march 1983), dominated by Adams' compositions, Live At The Village Vanguard (august 1983), with The Necessary Blues, Decisions (february 1984), with Trees And Grass And Thangs, Breakthrough (april 1986) and Song Everlasting (april 1987), until Dannie Richmond died in 1988 and the quartet disbanded. This was Pullen at his more accessible. Pullen and Adams also recorded a duo album, Melodic Excursions (june 1982).
Until 1988 Pullen's main output was directed towards that quartet, that presented Pullen at his more accessible. However, Pullen's mature music was better represented by Evidence Of Things Unseen (september 1983), with Evidence Of Things Unseen, Victory Dance and the 18-minute In The Beginning. A quintet with altoist Donald Harrison and trumpeter Olu Dara penned In the Beginning, The Sixth Sense and Tales From The Bright Side, pieces that were typical of Pullen's stylistic blur, on The Sixth Sense (june 1985).
The sound of the quartet was further streamlined by New Beginnings (december 1988), a sonic gem of trio jazz with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Tony Williams, although of little substance. Pullen's second trio album, Random Thoughts (march 1990), was more cerebral than the first one, thanks to longer tracks (Random Thoughts, Indio Gitano and Ode To Life) that displayed his mature technique. The quartet and trio works amounted to a commercial sell-out (short melodic pieces with an emphasis on soothing atmospheres), although they still proved Pullen's magic at the piano. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

While accompanying Charles Mingus (1973-78) and Gil Evans (1974-84), tenor saxophonist George Adams, formed a quartet with pianist Don Pullen that debuted on Jazz A Confronto (march 1975), credited to Pullen. That quartet reached its zenith with Suite For Swingers (july 1976), containing Adams' 22-minute Suite For Swingers and the 15-minute Melodic Rhapsody. After indulging in the lightweight fusion jazz of Imani's Dance on Sound Suggestions (may 1979), with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tenorist Heinz Sauer, pianist Richie Beirach and bassist Dave Holland, and the introverted Yamani's Passion on the tenor-drums duet Hand To Hand (february 1980), Adams penned two of his best, Mingus Metamorphosis and City Gates, on the quartet's City Gates (march 1983), besides Nature's Children on Lifeline (april 1981). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

The career of California-born tenor saxophonist David Murray went through at least three well-defined phases after he moved to New York in 1975: a confrontational free-jazz phase in which he developed a wildly dissonant style of playing, an erudite phase in which he focused on composition rather than performance, and a phase in which his performance and composition came together into an elegant (as opposed to furious) display of idiosyncratic languages at the instrument that also mirrored a rediscovery of jazz tradition.
An alumnus in Los Angeles of Horace Tapscott's Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, itself an outgrowth of the Underground Musicians' Association (UGMA), formed in 1961, Murray started out as an angry young man of jazz. While he was joining the World Saxophone Quartet, Murray recorded Flowers for Albert (june 1976) with trumpeter Olu Dara, bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Phillip Wilson. The album contained Murray's Flowers For Albert and Ballad For A Decomposed Beauty (virtually a long solo) as well as Butch Morris' Joanne's Satin Green Dress, and introduced a visceral vibrato a` la Coleman Hawkins gone awry. The trio session of Low Class Conspiracy (june 1976), without the trumpeter, yielded more extreme sounds in Extriminity, Dewey's Circle and Low Class Conspiracy, and became the name of a band, the Low Class Conspiracy, featuring cornetist Butch Morris, pianist Don Pullen, bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Stanley Crouch. After Solomon's Sons (january 1977), that contained solos and duets with flutist James Newton, including Murray's Theme For The Kidd and 3D Family besides Newton's Solomon's Sons and Monk's Notice, and some solo live performances, such as Conceptual Saxophone (february 1978), Sur-real Saxophone (february 1978) and Organic Saxophone (february 1978), and several live albums such as 3D Family (september 1978), in a sax-drums-bass trio, containing colossal versions of his classics Patricia and 3D Family, a quartet with Morris recorded Interboogieology (february 1978), that contained Morris' Namthini's Shadow and Blues for David, and Murray's Interboogieology and Home, and a trio (Fred Hopkins on bass and Steve McCall on drums) recorded Sweet Lovely (december 1979), with The Hill and Hope Scope. These recordings marked a progression towards more and more sophisticated compositions. A supergroup with altoist Henry Threadgill, trumpeter Olu Dara, cornetist Butch Morris, trombonist George Lewis, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist Wilbur Morris and drummer Steve McCall crafted The Fast Life and Jasvan on Ming (july 1980), much better versions of Last Of The Hipmen and 3-D Family, besides the new Santa Barbara And Crenshaw Follies and Choctaw Blues, on Home (november 1981), and (having replaced Dara with trumpeter Bobby Bradford, and Lewis with trombonist Craig Harris, and Davis with pianist Curtis Clark) new versions of Sweet Lovely and Flowers For Albert, besides the new Murray's Steps and Sing Song, on Murray's Steps (july 1982). This was Murray's second period, when the radical style at the instrument was sidestepped to make room for the composer.
An outgrowth of the octet was David Murray's Big Band, documented on At Sweet Basil (august 1984): trumpets (Dara and Baikida Carroll), trombone (Harris), saxophones (Murray and Steve Coleman), tuba, French horn, clarinet, piano, bass, drums and Butch Morris conducting. They performed some of Murray's most exhilarating postmodernist compositions: Bechet's Bounce, Duet For Big Band, Dewey's Circle, Roses.
A new octet (with Baikida Carroll and Hugh Ragin on trumpet, John Purcell on alto) recorded New Life (october 1985), that contained Train Whistle and Blues In The Pocket.
In parallel Murray pursued a less ambitious (but much more prolific) career as a leader of smaller ensembles devoted to simpler material and that frequently recycled old compositions and indulged in tributes to old and new masters. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Black pianist Anthony Davis (1951), who was raised in the white intellectual milieu of Princeton University, exposed to European classical music before jazz, and educated at Yale University, formed Advent in 1973 (with Gerry Hemingway on drums, George Lewis on trombone, Wes Brown on bass and Hal Lewis on saxophone), debuted on record with Leo Smith (1974) and then relocated to New York. His solo piano album Past Lives (june 1978) was still influenced by Thelonious Monk (Crepuscule - A suite for Monk) but already elaborate (Locomotif No. 1) and poignant (Of Blues & Dreams). His compositional skills fully blossomed with the 29-minute three-movement Suite for Another World, on Of Blues and Dream (july 1978), featuring violinist Leroy Jenkins, cellist Abdul Wadud and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff. Another creative quartet (with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Ed Blackwell) penned the 12-minute ethnic suite Song for the Old World and the bebop tribute An Anthem for the Generation that Died on Song for the Old World (july 1978). The series of impressive combos continued with Hidden Voices (march 1979), for a quintet with flutist James Newton, trombonist George Lewis, bassist Rick Rozie and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, that included Davis' Sudden Death and Past Lives as well as Newton's Crystal Texts Set I Pre-A Reflection.
The solo-piano masterpiece Lady of the Mirrors (1980) contained at least two elegant compositions that did not belong to any jazz tradition: the ten-minute Five Moods From an English Garden and the 12-minute Under The Double Moon, inspired by the Indonesian "wayang" style, besides the Duke Ellington tribute Man on a Turquoise Cloud and a couple of moody meditations. The same "wayang" was the centerpiece of a duo with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, Under The Double Moon (september 1980), and the centerpiece again, in a version that was both more extended (29 minutes) and arranged (for octet), of Episteme (june 1981) The latter, performed by trombonist George Lewis, violinist Shem Guibbory, cellist Abdul Wadud, flutist/clarinetist Dwight Andrews, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, xylophonist Warren Smith and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, displayed a careful, calculating intelligence in the way the instruments were combined, sequenced and juxtaposed. This phase peaked with Variations In Dream-time (1982), scored for a sextet of piano, trombone (Lewis), cello (Wadud), clarinet/flute (JD Parran), bass and drums (Aklaff), and containing only two side-long compositions: the 24-minute Variations in Dream-Time and the 22-minute three-movement Enemy of Light. Davis, far from rejecting bebop, cool jazz or even swing music (or, for that matter, African or Indonesian music), was working outside the free-jazz paradigm, determined to restore composition to its dominating role. His non-virtuoso style at the piano was little more than a guide for the development of the composition, a practical expression of an intimidating musical plot. Despite the obvious similarities in intent, there was little in these extended suites that recalled European classical music, other than the occasional romantic melody. It was, indeed, a unique form of art.
After I've Known Rivers (february 1982), a trio With Newton and Wadud containing Davis' Still Waters, Wadud's Tawaafa and two Newton compositions (Juneteenth and After You Said Yes), the 39-minute five-movement ballet suite Hemispheres (july 1983), scored for piano, trumpet (Leo Smith), trombone (Lewis), flute/clarinet (Andrews), violin (Guibbory), cello (Eugene Friesen), vibraphone, clarinet, bass and drums (Aklaff), recycled some old themes but mainly increased the degree of structure. Davis continued to experiment with rhythmic movement and instability, pitting constant pulses against angular tempos, extracting pathos from the collision of instrumental parts in different tempos. Davis' compositions were layered, having at least a lower layer of rhythmic organization and a higher level of lyrical/melodic soundpainting, and relying on the continuous contrast between the two levels for the spontaneous emergence of meaning.
The display of sophistication continued with the 15-minute Middle Passage, on Middle Passage (1984), that also contained Earl Howard's 16-minute Particle W for piano and tape, Davis' first encounter with electronic music, with the four-movement Wayang 5 (1984) for piano and symphonic orchestra, first recorded on The Ghost Factory (may 1988), that also contained the three-movement violin concerto Maps (1987), and especially with Undine (june 1986), that contained two 23-minute compositions, Still Waters and Undine, scored for piano, cello (Wadud), vibraphone/percussion (Gerry Hemingway), bassoon (David Miller), violin (Guibbory), flute and clarinet (Marty Ehrlich and JD Parran).
Seven years after the fact, Davis returned to the format of the trio With Newton's flute and Wadud's cello Trio2 (october 1989), with Davis' Who's Life (1978) and Newton's Invisible Islands.
Davis' most ambitions compositions were for the theater: the political opera X - The Life and Times of Malcolm X (premiered in 1986), the science-fiction opera Under the Double Moon (premiered in june 1989), the historical opera Amistad (premiered in november 1997), about a slave rebellion, based on the music of Middle Passage, the opera Tania (premiered in june 1992), about a famous kidnapping case, and music for two plays, Tony Kushner's Angels in America Part I - Millennium Approaches (premiered in april 1993) and Angels in America Part II: Perestroika Sounds Without Nouns (premiered in november 1994).
But Davis also composed orchestral works: Notes from the Underground (1988), Violin Sonata (1991), Jacob's Ladder (premiered in october 1997). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Oklahoma-born bassist Cecil McBee, who moved to New York with Paul Winter's ensemble in 1963, was an influential figure both as a bassist and as a composer. He went on to play with Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Dollar Brand, Chico Freeman, etc. He composed some of their material, notably the 19-minute Undercurrent on Freeman's The Outside Within (1978).
His first album, Mutima (may 1974), belonged to Chicago's "creative" generation rather than the free-jazz crowd he had been grown up with. With a strong spiritual emphasis, McBee intoned the eleven-minute psalm From Within for two overdubbed basses and their feedback, and conducted the chamber concerto of Mutima for small ensemble. A sextet featuring Freeman, trumpeter Joe Gardner, pianist Dennis Moorman and percussionists Don Moye and Steve McCall, was documented on two two live albums: Music From the Source (august 1977), with the 19-minute Agnez, and the inferior Compassion (same sessions). Alternate Spaces (december 1977) for a sextet with Freeman, Gardner, Moye, another percussionist and pianist Don Pullen contained Alternate Spaces, Consequence and Expression. The zenith of his chamber jazz was perhaps the quintet of Flying Out (1982): violinist John Blake, cellist David Eyges, cornetist Olu Dara, drummer Billy Hart. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Los Angeles-born flutist James Newton became a full-time flutist in 1973 in a band with saxophonist David Murray, and moved to New York in 1978 where he played with pianist Anthony Davis. Classically trained, Newton absorbed Roland Kirk's and Eric Dolphy's jazz influence. He also nurtured a passion for the musical traditions of Japan, India, Africa and South America.
For his first album, Flute Music (september 1977), containing the first version of Solomon's Sons, he surrounded his flute with piano/harpsichord, guitar, bass and drums. Paseo Del Mar (november 1978), for a quartet with pianist Anthony Davis, cellist Abdul Wadud and drummer Phillip Wilson, contained two lengthy compositions, Lake, basically a tribute to Eric Dolphy, and San Pedro Sketches, a dynamic and soulful piece with some overdubbing of the flute. From Inside (july 1978) was his first solo effort, highlighted by his Pinky Below. Binu (august 1977) was a quartet with a koto player, bass (Mark Dresser) and drums. Newton's elegant, spiritual and eclectic form of chamber jazz blossomed with the Wind Quintet (John Carter on clarinet, John Nunez on bassoon, Charles Owens on oboe and English horn, Red Callender on tuba) that recorded Mystery School (march 1980), in particular the suite The Wake
A few Newton compositions appeared on Anthony Davis albums, notably Crystal Texts Set I Pre-A Reflection on Hidden Voices (march 1979) and Juneteenth and After You Said Yes on I've Known Rivers (april 1982).
James Newton (october 1982) marked another dimension of his fusion of classical music and jazz music. The septet was his first ensemble to include drums and bass, but the other instruments, flute, piano (Davis), violin, trombone and vibraphone (Jay Hoggard), engaged in highly technical counterpoint (Ismene was basically a tribute to Thelonious Monk). Ditto for Portraits (november 1979), a quintet with flute, piano (Bob Neloms), cello (Abdul Wadud), bass (Cecil McBee) and drums (Phillip Wilson). This process culminated with Luella (1983), scored for a three-piece string section (two violins and Wadud's cello) and a four-piece rhythm section (Hoggard's vibraphone, piano, bass and drums), particularly the mournful 17-minute Luella.
In between, Newton tried the solo format, the one favored by the "creative" school. However, the solo flute trance-like impressionistic improvisations of Toil And Resolution (march 1980), Axum (august 1981) and Echo Canyon (september 1984) had little of the virtuoso, scientific approach of Chicago's soloists. Newton showed little interest for timbral or textural explorations. His music was more similar to mood music. It expanded the vocabulary of the instrument only insofar as it absorbed techniques from other ethnic cultures. Thus it bordered on both world-music and new-age music.
The tentet effort Water Mystery (january 1985) for flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, harp, koto, tuba, bass and drums was another zenith of Newton's chamber arrangements: Lone Hill juxtaposed a quintessential western instrument (the harp) and a quintessential eastern instrument (the koto) that interacted with a jazzy wind quintet, while Water Mystery was African folk in nature.
Newton matched that magic moment in The Evening Leans Towards You for an septet (Steve Turre on trombone, Geri Allen on piano, Abdul Wadud on cello, Jay Hoggard on vibraphone, bass and drums) on Romance and Revolution (august 1986), and in the 32-minute four-movement Suite for Frida Kahlo for flute, two trombones, piano, clarinet/sax, bassoon, drums and bass on Suite for Frida Kahlo (august 1994). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Los Angeles-based alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, who played with pianist Horace Tapscott in 1960, relocated to New York in 1974, developing his baroque style at the instrument in the combos of Chico Hamilton (1975-77), Gil Evans (1976-78), Lester Bowie (1978), Jack DeJohnette (1979), McCoy Tyner (1979), etc. The live Metamorphosis (february 1977) and The Grip (same concert) by a sextet with trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, cellist Abdul Wadud, tuba player Bob Stewart, drummer Steve Reid and percussionist Muhamad Abdullah, featured adventurous and spirited pieces such as Metamorphosis, Spirits in the Field the 18-minute Duet for Two (with Wadud) and (on the latter) the twelve-minute As of Yet that introduced a creative improviser, a proficient composer and a subtle arranger (specializing in unusual combination of instruments). The elliptic compositions of Bush Baby (december 1977) were arranged for a trio with Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhamed Abdullah on conga. Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1978) transposed the same idea into a more orthodox setting (electric guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer, flutist James Newton, tuba player Bob Stewart, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jack DeJohnette) with the 13-minute Lenox Avenue Breakdown, the free-form Slidin' Through and the haunting Odessa. At the same time Blythe exlored old standards with a quartet, initially comprised of pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall on In The Tradition (october 1978). The transitional Illusions (1980) announced the split to come. Blythe became a strange hybrid of avantgarde improviser and traditionalist, alternating between an electric funk-jazz quintet and an acoustic hard-bop piano-based quartet. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Billy "Bang" Walker (1947), a pupil of Leroy Jenkins who developed his personal style at the violin by imitating Eric Dolphy's style at the reeds (just like Stuff Smith developed his style at the violin by imitating Louis Armstrong's style at the cornet), formed the Survival Ensemble with two saxophonist (who also played all sorts of percussion), bassist William Parker and two percussionists. Their New York Collage (may 1978), containing lengthy jams such as Nobody Hear the Music the Same Way and For Josie Part II, was inspired by both the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and John Coltrane.
Bang's response to the success of the World Saxophone Quartet was the String Trio Of New York, formed in 1977 with white bassist John Lindberg and white guitarist James Emery. The centerpiece of their First String (june 1979) was Lindberg's 20-minute East Side Suite, that demonstrated their elegant blend of structured composition and free improvisation. Successive recordings, such as Area Code 212 (november 1980) and Common Goal (november 1981), lacked the "piece de resistance" to make them worthwhile. Rebirth of a Feeling (november 1983) boasted Lindberg's Utility Grey but Bang left after Natural Balance (april 1986). Nonetheless the String Trio Of New York was one of the most influential free-jazz ensembles.
On the other hand, Bang's solo Distinction Without A Difference (august 1979) displayed both his broad range of innovative techniques and his skills at mixing free-form and melodic passages (Theme For Masters, Loweski, Sometime Later), while the three lengthy "improvisations", notably the the 21-minute Spiritual, for violin and bass of Billy Bang/ John Lindberg (september 1979), emphasized his emotional language at the instrument.
Despite changing format with just about every record, Bang managed to establish his powerful musical vision through a series of impressive pieces. A sextet featuring tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe, alto saxophonist Luther Thomas, cornet player Butch Morris, pianist Curtis Clark bassist Wilber Morris and drummer Steve McCall, delivered the 16-minute A Pebble Is A Small Rock (co-arranged by Morris), on Sweet Space (december 1979). A trio with Parker and Japanese percussionist Toshi Tsuchitori yielded the three exuberant and cerebral pieces of Changing Seasons (june 1980): Summer Night, Aduwa In Autumn, Winter Rains. Bang employed a piano-based quintet with saxophonist Charles Tyler for the kaleidoscopic Rainbow Gladiator, off Rainbow Gladiator (june 1981), and An Addition To Tradition, off Invitation (april 1982). The quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry of Untitled Gift (february 1982) produced the atmospheric Echovamp 1678 and Maat. A 12-piece orchestra conducted by Butch Morris (with Frank Lowe, two additional violinists, clarinetists David Murray, Charles Tyler and Henri Warner, vibraphonist Khan Jamal, percussionists Sunny Murray and John "Khuwana" Fuller) performed Bang's 19-minute volcano Conception and Seeing Together on Outline No 12 (july 1982). Air Traffic Control came from a duet with drummer Dennis Charles on Bangception (august 1982). Intensive Care (august 1983), by the Jazz Doctors, a free-bop quartet with Frank Lowe, contained Bang's Ballad with one L.
Bang had coined his own genre, a melodic free-jazz or an abstract bebop, and proceeded to cash in on his invention with his sextet (trumpet, electric guitar, bassist William Parker and two percussionists), thanks to the Latin-tinged The New Seers, off The Fire From Within (september 1984), and Abuella, on Live at Carlos 1 (november 1986).
Having left the String Trio Of New York (replaced first by Charles Burnham and then by Regina Carter), Bang was swallowed into the black hole of Sun Ra's Arkestra until 1995.
Despite Valve No 10, introduced by a quartet with Lowe, bassist Sirone and drummer Dennis Charles on Valve No 10 (march 1988), and the "creative" duets with percussionist William Hooker on Joy (june 1994), including the 17-minute Sweating Brain, Etheric Redemption and Joy, Bang's output became more and more oriented towards hard-bop (or even swing). The acrobatic pieces of the period were Spirits Gathering, off Spirits Gathering (february 1996), for a guitar-based quartet, and Spirits Entering, off Bang On (april 1997), for a piano-based quartet.
The exceptions were sometimes intriguing, such as the rap-jazz fusion of Forbidden Planet (1997), or the solo improvisations of Commandment (march 1997), recorded live in a loft (notably Daydreams), or the trio Tri-Factor of If You Believe (april 2000) with percussionist Kahil El'Zabar and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett (notably Dark Silhouette), or the new edition of the Jazz Doctors on One for Jazz (june 2001), actually credited to the Billy Bang Quartet (Echoes), but not visionary.
Bang, who fought in Vietnam in the 1960s, invented his own form of (austere and eclectic) political art with Vietnam - The Aftermath (april 2001) and Vietnam - Reflections (may 2004). The former concept album used a piano-based quartet with pianist John Hicks as the foundation, adding other instruments as needed: a trumpet (Ted Daniel) to Yo Ho Chi Minh is in the House and Tunnel Rat, trumpet (Ted Daniel) and tenor saxophone (Frank Lowe) to Bien Hoa Blues, flute (Sonny Fortune) to Fire in the Hole, trumpet (Ted Daniel), tenor saxophone (Frank Lowe) and flute (Sonny Fortune) to Saigon Phunk, etc. The latter, conducted by Butch Morris, was a more homogeneous work, featuring trumpeter Ted Daniel as well as flutists James Spaulding and Henry Threadgill and structured as a series of poignant meditations (Reflections, Lock & Load, Doi Moi, Reconciliation 1, Reconciliation 2).
His compositions continued to straddle the line between free jazz, tradition, world music and popular music. Transforming the Space (february 2003), by a trio called FAB with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul, contained Bang's The Softness of Light and Tales from Da Bronx. Configuration (november 2004), by a quartet called Sirone Bang Ensemble, contained Bang's 15-minute Jupiter's Future. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.