Albert_ayler-live_greenwich_village_span3 Marion_brown-three_for_shepp_span3 Alice_coltrane-monastic_trio_span3 Dewey_redman-ear_of_the_behearer_span3 Sam_rivers-trio_live_span3 George_russell-new_york_ny_span3 Cecil_taylor-mixed_span3
April 1999

Albert Ayler
Live in Greewich Village: Complete Impulse Recordings
Impulse!
Marion Brown
Three for Shepp
Impulse!
Alice Coltrane
A Monastic Trio
Impulse!
Dewey Redman
Ear of the Behearer
Impulse!
Sam Rivers
Trio Live
Impulse!
George Russell
New York, N.Y.
Impulse!
The Cecil Taylor Unit/Roswell Rudd Sextet
Mixed
Impulse!

The latest batch of Impulse! reissues is mainly comprised of titles combining tracks from more than one LP. Only Marion Brown's Three for Shepp and George Russell's New York, N.Y. (originally released on Decca) merely replicate the original album. The repackaging strategies range from collecting materials scattered throughout the label's ‘70s two-fer anthologies to joining two largely unrelated sessions led by different musicians. While a few questions are raised by these processes, a significant chunk of the Impulse! New Thing legacy has nevertheless been restored to print.

Albert Ayler's Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings truly benefits from 20-bit remastering. The cleaner sound sharpens the clarion quality of the saxophonist's unisons with trumpeter Don Ayler and violinist Michel Sampson. The unmuddied low end allows for cellist Joel Freedman and bassists Henry Grimes and Alan Silva, who alternate teaming with Bill Folwell, to be heard, and not just felt. The stylistic contrasts between drummers Sunny Murray and Beaver Harris are more crisply delineated (Murray is featured on the first of the ‘67 sessions, Harris on the other two). The enhanced sound reveals the improvisations linking Ayler's patchworks of hymns, children's songs, and folk melodies to be more crafted than is generally accepted, which, in turn, makes the ecstatic message of Ayler's music all the more clear.

Three for Shepp, altoist Marion Brown's ‘66 debut, seconded the tenor saxophonist's position that the new music was pan-stylistic. On this quintet date with platooned pianists (Dave Burrell and Stanley Cowell) and drummers (Bobby Capp and Beaver Harris), Brown deftly used Archie Shepp's compositions to help make the point: "Spooks" has a Herbie Nichols-like touch, which is underscored by Cowell's stride solo; Cowell also supplies much of the calypso tang on "West India." Brown's touching ballad "Fortunato" also diffused stereotypes about the new jazz; Brown, pianist Dave Burrell, trombonist Grachan Moncur III and bassist Sirone solo with decidedly unsentimental lyricism. Three for Shepp is a well-constructed album that has retained its freshness.

This expanded version of A Monastic Trio, Alice Coltrane's ‘68 debut as a leader, is roughly divided into three parts, with a newly released unaccompanied solo from the Expression sessions added as a coda: quartets with Pharaoh Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Ben Riley (two of which were issued on Cosmic Music); and sets of piano trios and harp trios with Garrison and Rashied Ali. While not as fully formed a statement as Ptah, the El Daoud, the album is an intriguing snapshot of Coltrane stepping into her own light. Outside the context of her husband's music, Coltrane's piano takes on a earthiness not that far removed from the soulful chants of Bobby Timmons and the Afrocentricity of Randy Weston. Combined with her cascading harp, she emerged from this date as an unique, multi-faceted artist.

Saxophonist Dewey Redman's quintet with trumpeter Ted Daniel, cellist Jane Robertson, Sirone, and drummer Eddie Moore was one of the more interesting ensembles of the early ‘70s. On The Ear of the Behearer, they blend Redman's take on harmolodics, blues, and Middle Eastern music into a cohesive ensemble identity. This engaging program includes such Redman essentials as the riveting "Walls-Bridges" and "Boody," a Texas-dripping blues. Three trios with Sirone and Moore and a quartet with violinist Leroy Jenkins from Coincide, Redman's second and last Impulse! date, are tacked on without a compelling discographical reason; we can assume the rest of the album is consigned to oblivion.

Multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers' Trio Live is a much-needed consolidation of performances scattered among several LPs. However, the tenor section of "Suite For Molde" is still truncated by a painfully long fade-out, a curiosity given producer Michael Cuscuna's usual fastidiousness in annotating partial performances. Rivers' ‘70s trio sets share specific characteristics-sections for tenor, soprano, flute, piano, and sometimes voice, often containing common elements (exclamatory shouts, sprint-like tempi, in-the-pocket grooves, and Eastern drones-yet, Rivers inevitably gave each performance a distinctive shape. These two ‘73 concerts are no exception. The fluidity of Rivers' trio music requires something resembling telepathy; this disc finds drummer Barry Altschul and bassists Cecil McBee (on the Yale concert) and Arild Andersen (on the Molde) in sync with Rivers' action painting-like methods.

A large-scale work incorporating texts written and narrated by Jon Hendricks, New York, N.Y. documents the late ‘50s budding of composer George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept. This piece has a more streamlined, happy-go-lucky sense of swing than later, rock-infused works like the late ‘60s "Electronic Sonata for Those Loved by Nature."

The rotating big band cast includes John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Art Farmer, who conspicuously stretch beyond their established stylistic parameters to do justice to Russell's innovative charts. While there are other fine Russell recordings with mid-sized groups from this period, New York, N.Y best represents the orchestral implications of his concept.

Putting both the three ‘61 Cecil Taylor sides from Gil Evans' Into The Hot and Roswell Rudd's ‘66 Everywhere on Mixed is smart marketing, even if the connection between the two sessions is tenuous (along with trumpeter Ted Curson, the trombonist is added to Taylor's quintet with Murray, Shepp, altoist Jimmy Lyons, and bassist Henry Grimes for "Mixed"). The Taylor sides are an important transitional statement, paving the way for both the expansive improvisations of the Monmartre trio sides and the groundbreaking ensembles on the Blue Notes. Like Brown's album, Rudd's debut undermined the rap against the new music.

This sextet with Harris and twin woodwind players and bassists (respectively: Robin Kenyatta and Giuseppi Logan; Charlie Haden and Lewis Worrell) has plenty of fire, but Rudd's trad roots sprout out in his choice of Bill Harris' title ballad, his stitching of "Three Little Fishes" into "Yankee No-How," and his tribute to Herbie Nichols, "Respects," giving the program a unique shape.

Originally published in April 1999
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