Charles_mcpherson-horizons_span3 Jaki_byard-the_jaki_byard_experience_span3 Don_friedman-metamorphosis_span3
April 1999

Charles McPherson
Horizons
Prestige
Jaki Byard
The Jaki Byard Experience
Prestige
Don Friedman
Metamorphosis
Prestige

These late, 60's records are particularly successful examples of mainstream modern reactions to the implications of free jazz. They would make strong evidence for the case that this was the natural evolutionary course of the music, cut short by the economic pressures that jazz rock enabled business interests to wield and by the truncated understanding of the music engendered by the jazz schools. More important they are great listening.

Altoist McPherson stretches his Parker-based conception with a wacky sextet-guitar, vibes, piano, bass and drums. Pat Martino, Nasir Hafiz, Cedar Walton, Walter Booker, and Billy Higgins prove their abilities in making this unwieldy combination jell, and the soloists are consistently interesting-you can forget how good Martino could be in those days.

His duo with McPherson on "Lush Life" is a high point, but the highly evolved original writing and intelligent arranging carry the day. "Metamorphosis" is the most avant of these records. Friedman and Attila Zoller work together unbelievably well-it's so hard for pianists and guitarists to stay off each others' toes-and Richard Davis and Joe Chambers are a dream in this context. Some of the music is loosely modal while other pieces evoke Tristano and Bauer with a (much) hotter rhythm team. Davis' playing is as good as I remember from him, his vocabulary expanded from the classic earlier sessions that are familiar, and Chambers shades every nuance beautifully and contributes moments that are uncanny.

The pairing of Roland Kirk and Jaki Byard might recall Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so well do these outlaws work together. They don't really go out but their exuberance approaches deconstruction at times, as they wreak havoc in Bud's "Parisian Thoroughfare" and make Eubie's "Memories" stretch from The Blackbirds of 1930 to space colonization.

The funk-based "Shine on Me" doesn't quite work but the rollicking "Evidence" more than makes up for it. Neither man ever sounded better, and Davis and Alan Dawson aid and abet with aplomb

Originally published in April 1999
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