Thursday, December 07, 2006

Frank Wright - Unity (ESP, 2006)

Fire breathing saxophonist Frank Wright burst into the free jazz world immediately following the exploits of Albert Ayler. He locked on to the spiritually informed, high energy playing of Ayler and Pharoah Sanders and then made his own way, playing as a journeyman until his death in the early 1990's. This disc was recorded live at the Moers Jazz Festival in 1974 with Bobby Few on piano, Alan Silva on bass and Muhammad Ali on drums. Although the first blush heyday of free jazz had passed, the crowd is very enthusiastic and establishes a great rapport with the band. This concert consisted of a non-stop improvisation just short of one hour, broken on the disc into two parts. The music recorded here is very loose and freewheeling, to the point of nearly flying apart at times. Silva's bass is lost for the most part except when he is soloing, and the loud percussive power of Ali's drums and Few's McCoy Tyner meets Cecil Taylor piano style dominates with Wright blasting squalls of tenor saxophone (and a little harmonica and melodica) over the rumbling foundation. Yes, things do get a little sloppy at times, this isn't intricate bebop or arranged swing, it's a free for all sausage factory style... messy but pretty tasty in the end. Wright hasn't been to popular amongst jazz critics because he was a one trick pony, but if you happen to enjoy that trick, it's not bad. Fans of ecstatic old-school free jazz should find a lot to enjoy here, because it's an exciting, crowd pleasing performance.

Send comments to: Tim