Thursday, December 21, 2006

Various Artists - Wildflowers 2 (Douglas, 1976)

This was the second LP in a five record set docummenting the avant-garde jazz "loft scene" that flourished in and around Sam Rivers' Studio RivBea loft in New York City in the mid-1970's. Both veteran musicians and newcomers to the scene were docummented, and the entire set was reissued by Knitting Factory on compact disc in the 1990's. On this record, a group called Flight to Sanity featuring drummer Harold Smith and soprano saxophonist Art Bennett establish a groove of swirling, vaguely Middle Eastern sounding soprano saxophone over piano, bass, drums and percussion. The pianist, Sunelius Smith comps heavily while Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago simmers on hand percussion. Flautist Ken McIntyre plays a flighty and birdlike improvisation on "Naomi." Anthony Braxton leads a very complex improvisation called "73-S Kelvin." The music is as complex as the title indicates, with no set melody to hang onto. The band plays freely and Braxton takes some high register squeaking solos on alto saxophone and clarinet. Marion Brown takes a solo alto sax feature on "And Then They Danced" playing in a slightly caustic but not overblown manner. He tells a fine story, but runs a little long. Finally trumpeter Leo Smith leads a free group including Stanley Crouch on drums (!) through a jittery performance where instruments pop up and and drop out at will. There is some very fine music throughout this whole set and fans of free jazz are encouraged to track this down as either an LP or CD.

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