Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Frank Wright : Unity

Not a reissue but a blazing, heretofore unreleased set culled from the ESP vaults, Frank Wright’s Unity captures the late tenor saxophonist’s quartet in the prime of their post-Ayler, caterwauling explorations. Recorded on June 1, 1974 at the Moers Festival in Germany, the line-up consists of Wright on sax, bells and vocals, Alan Silva on bass, the underrated Bobby Few on piano and the hard-hitting Muhammad Ali on drums and percussion. For those looking for introspective, lyrical passages, look elsewhere: This set-broken into two parts-is a perfect, if slightly predictable, example of the “Fire Music” (as pioneered by Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and post-1964 Coltrane) that so alienates the jazz mainstream. From the moment Ali introduces the piece with heavy cymbal accentuations, clanging metallic percussion and the thunderous bass drum thudding he’s known for, the intensity and momentum never stop.

Wright quickly swoops in with a demented-yet-fierce marching-band theme a la “Bells” or “Spirits Rejoice,” constantly developing it despite wailing at full volume. Few, certainly a disciple of Cecil Taylor and peer to Dave Burrell, colors the performance with a chromatic torrent of notes and jarring block chords, occasionally quoting the Chinese pentatonic scale, reminiscent of his composition “China” [off Wright’s One for John (BYG, 1969)]. Silva provides a steady foundation while also contributing texture with his exceptional arco playing.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published