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Bobby Bradford Extet: Midnight Pacific Airwaves

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Veteran cornet player and jazz educator Bobby Bradford has a disciplined, individualistic sound, but he’s sometimes remembered best for his associations: performing with Ornette Coleman’s groups in the ’50s and ’60s and working in tandem with John Carter from 1969 until the clarinetist’s death in 1991.

This live radio recording from Los Angeles in 1977 captures a forward-thinking Bradford jousting with flutist James Newton alongside Richard Rehwald on bass and John Goldsmith on drums. The compositions were all written by Bradford, save a smart, emotive rendition of “Blue Monk.” Bradford reveals his skills as a cooperative player, leading his Extet with easy confidence and remaining consistently responsive to Newton’s expositions on flute. The rhythm section of Rehwald and Goldsmith play quite well together, energetically propulsive when appropriate and providing plenty of space for the soloists to explore the tunes. Both Bradford and Newton solo extensively, and they do so with thoughtful skill and controlled passion. The 1977 tracks also display a great amount of free playing, but the music is well grounded and rarely reaches the outer limits of the avant-garde.

The centerpiece of this live collection is Bradford’s composition “She,” which the Extet stretches to nearly 19 minutes. The song is then reprised with the disc’s lone bonus track, a duet version of “She” performed in 2003 by Bradford and clarinetist Vinny Golia. Although he shows some of Ornette’s influence as a composer, Bradford has always been his own man, and an extraordinarily talented one at that.