Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Henry P. Warner, Earl Freeman, Philip Spigner - Freestyle Band (NoBusiness, 2012)

An obscure album rescued from the recesses of time by the Lithuanian label NoBusiness and justly so, because it is a very powerful document of New York free jazz as the loft scene began to wane in the early 1980's. Featuring a band with one of the most original and thoughtful approaches to jazz music at that time. Something in the music reminds me of Henry Threadgill and Air, with the band's wide open approach to music and will to try anything. Clarinetist Henry P. Warner, bass player Earl Freeman, and percussionist Philip Spigner are the three men who made up the Freestyle Band. Much of the music was named for people who lived or worked in The Basement, an informal gathering place for avant-garde musicians to gather and jam. The bass and percussion is particularly impressive, with Freeman's bass getting an oddly distorted sound and Springer's percussion bubbling and simmering brilliantly throughout. The music is spontaneously improvised but shows a great level of musical knowledge and an almost extra-sensory ability to work together toward a common goal. The makeup of the band - clarinet, bass and hand percussion made for a unique sound. Warner was able to coax a wide variety of sounds from his instrument from a woody sound to something akin to an alto saxophone. Yet, the music remains highly accessible, based in blues in hard-bop, but straying and straining from any leash. Freeman doubles on piano as well, particularly on the Charlie Parker nod "Bird Knows!" The short and pithy "Dr. Nunez" leads off the album with a pointed and focused performance where the trio really makes a statement that they are a group to be reckoned with. This was a valuable document of an unjustly ignored band. Ed Hazell contributes an excellent liner essay tracing the band's short lifetime. Kudos to NoBusiness for rescuing another record from the shrouds of obscurity. Freestyle Band - NoBusiness Records

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