Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Towards Essence

At the risk of sounding like an ol’ geezer, it must be said that they don’t make ’em like Muhal Richard Abrams anymore. Few, if any, free-jazz pianists in their 30s and 40s can come within spitting distance of Abrams in terms of skill, originality and spirit. This album comprises a live solo performance at the 1998 Guelph Jazz Festival. Not exactly hot off the presses, but in the nine years since this was recorded, there haven’t been many better. The music is split into three lengthy tracks, but was improvised without pause in one sitting. Abrams draws on nontonal classical elements and disparate jazz styles, imbuing them with his characteristic grace and a thorough absorption of many and varied influences. The music flows continuously, with each phrase, each episode flowing meaningfully from that which preceded it. Beautiful, affecting stuff by an all-time great.