Baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson may not possess the avant-garde star power of downtown New York City brethren like Matthew Shipp, William Parker, or Daniel Carter, but there’s no denying he’s a major player. Best known as a longtime member of Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and a cofounder of Microscopic Septet, and more recently heard in guitarist Brad Farberman’s Middle Blue, Sewelson has a tone as big as his flowing white beard. But his recorded output as a leader has been just the opposite. He first debuted under his own name in 1979 with Synchro-incity; nearly four decades separated that recording and its followup, 2018’s Music for a Free World.
Luckily, Sewelson didn’t make us wait another 40 years for his next disc. On More Music for a Free World, he’s reconvened the previous album’s lineup of bassist Parker, trombonist Steve Swell, and drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith (Archie Shepp, Sun Ra) for another all-improvised set. But while their debut pushed the skronk envelope, More Music for a Free World is lyrical and cosmic. The members of this quartet are all stalwarts of the NYC-based Arts for Art, the not-for-profit dedicated to the promotion and advancement of free jazz, and they’ve sublimely captured the spirit of the shows that organization puts on year-round in these three epic tracks.
The opening “Memories” is a world-class lesson in psychic interplay, as infectious melodic phrases free-float over bluesy bebopping rhythmic fury. It’s 23 minutes of pure bliss and kinetic energy. “Dreams” follows with 27 minutes of similarly effortless euphoric melodicism, before the album concludes with the introspective “Reflections.”
2020 is still young, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better free-jazz record—or one that more deeply oozes the hustle and bustle of NYC—than More Music for a Free World.
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