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Buddy DeFranco: Free Fall

Originally recorded for Choice in 1974, Free Fall is the first jazz combo album DeFranco made under his own name in ten years, the interim largely having been devoted to leading the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When he did reemerge, however, it was when fusion was all the rage, as is clearly evident on this recording. Here, such up-tempo jazz tracks as “Free Fall” and “Yesterdays” are offset by current tunes written in the then popular bossa and modal styles. With one exception, the funky “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” the remaining numbers reflect the fashion of the day. Typically, the rhythm section is both more intrusive and more prominently favored in the mix than DeFranco needed, but while his four-part “Threat Of Freedom” is also mostly fusion, it does contain some quicksilver bop clarinet. Like “Free Fall,” the Latinized “Free Sail” is also heard in two takes, but the sequence of the alternates as printed on the trayback is reversed.

By contrast, the 1996 duo recording on Concord is mainstream jazz of the highest order, with the pianist a one-man rhythm section and DeFranco at his warmest and most creative. Apart from his swinging blues title tune and “Anthropology,” all of the numbers are standards, with the clarinetist playing at his peak throughout. The combination of DeFranco, a confirmed bopper and McKenna, whose unique style is rooted in swing rhythms, may at first seem a strange one, but the clarinetist had gone through some changes of his own during the years. Rather than playing higher and faster than he did in the past, he has since cut down to the core of personal expressivity. Indeed, in over 50 years of top quality playing the sound he projects here is the most emotionally revealing he has yet disclosed on record.

Originally Published