A Night In November
This is unenjoyable—not just listening to A Night in November but savaging an album by two of improvised music’s all-time greats. Saxophonist Kidd Jordan and drummer Hamid Drake have made plenty of jaw-dropping recordings over their lengthy careers. They even did so together in 1999, along with saxophonist Fred Anderson and bassist William Parker, on the marvelous 2 Days in April. Here, they seem lost and out of synch.
Hard to believe, but this is Jordan’s first duo album. He says he’s more comfortable playing off of piano and bass, and it shows. There’s a lot of aimless, repetitive squealing, squawking, honking and noodling amid these 70-plus minutes, and it’s evident that he doesn’t always know how to react to Drake’s rhythm-making, which often seems uncharacteristically tentative. From the beginning, something seems off. Drake, known for his relentless energy and restless genre-jumping, can’t quite settle into anything, can’t quite get his thoughts down, which is a real shame because he may be the greatest drummer free jazz has ever seen. Jordan, meanwhile, repeats phrases—or, rather, bunches of notes—over and over, going nowhere.
Maybe they set their expectations too high. Though the album is subtitled Live in New Orleans, it’s not a real concert album. The duo invited an audience to the Piety Street Recording studio for a pretend concert. As a result, there’s no magic and the effort feels forced. The disc is divided into two sets comprising five self-explanatory tracks—“Alto and Drums,” “Drums,” “Tenor and Drums,” “Tenor—Wade in the Water” (still mostly improvised) and, again, “Tenor and Drums.” As those titles suggest, Jordan and Drake didn’t have anything to say.