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December 2006

Byard Lancaster Quartet
Ancestral Link Hotel
CIMP Recordings

The cover of every CIMP CD contains a “statement of purpose” describing the imprint’s m.o. and including the mandate, “Give [the disc] your undivided attention and it will reward you. CIMP records are not intended to be background music.” These words should be kept in mind, especially while listening to Ancestral Link Hotel’s 21-minute title track. Byard Lancaster begins with a chant and a wail, pulls out the Afro flute for some quick runs and eventually picks up his alto. Drummer Harold E. Smith starts on conch shell and didgeridoo. Two bassists, Bert Harris and Ed Crockett, provide spare but percussive drones that come and go as needed. Anyone expecting “something to happen” misses the point. Anyone listening closely will be swept up by the organic flow of the music.

“Holy Buddy” has an Ayleresque melody with some military drumming from Smith. “Slow Blues in G” reveals the bassists’ ability to walk around each other and proves that Lancaster can travel from free jazz back to the blues and play it with a gutbucket of feeling. Versions of “Milestones” and “Killer Joe” come off a little loose and shambolic, but are fun nonetheless.

Lancaster has spent most of his musical career in hometown Philadelphia, so he’s known mostly as a one-time support player with Sunny Murray, Larry Young and Bill Dixon. Kudos to CIMP for reminding us that he is alive and well and creative.

Originally published in December 2006
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