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Rashied Ali Quintet: Live In Europe

The late drummer Rashied Ali was probably best known for his role as a ripe drum foil in the last, exploratory phase of John Coltrane’s career. But the fervent and imaginative drummer’s musical life went in intriguing directions and surfaced in various locales, settings and musical landscapes, as we’re telescopically reminded on Live in Europe, a recording with his impressive, loosely avant-spirited quintet, and released on Ali’s own Survival Records.

For this live set, cleanly recorded and passionately played at the famed autumn festival known as the “Jazz Happening” in Tampere, Finland, Ali’s quintet engagingly splits the difference of freedom and structure. Tenor saxist Lawrence Clark’s tune “Lourana” is the set’s “ballad,” with a lovely and cerebral melody, and effectively moody aura. From more energized turf, two originals by James “Blood” Ulmer, an occasional bandstand ally of Ali’s, venture inside and out and clock in at around a half-hour each. It opens with the free-range “Theme From Captain Black,” a ripe vehicle for Ali’s organic instrumental prowess and poetry, and a dynamic inside/outside outing from pianist Greg Murphy.

But with Ulmer’s “Thing for Joe,” dedicated to the late, great Joe Henderson, the treatment yokes closer to a suitably Henderson-esque, hard-bop model, while also liberally detouring into collective-improvisation zones. At one point, during trumpeter Evans’ increasingly outward-bound solo, muscular bassist Joris Teepe briefly quotes the “A Love Supreme” riff. Later, a roiling drum/sax tete a tete with Clark can’t help but trigger “Interstellar Space” memories, and comparisons with his Coltrane encounters of 40 years hence. Ali’s real artistic sense of direction ran simultaneously forward and backward while always managing to sound current.

Originally Published