Friday, December 21, 2018

Alan Braufman - Valley of Search (Valley of Search, 2018)

Alto saxophonist Alan Braufman moved from Boston to New York City in the early 1970's with fellow seekers like David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore to take part in the city's burgeoning loft jazz scene. They rented a space of their own on Canal Street where they could woodshed and also perform in the first floor performance space. Originally released in 1975 on India Navigation, this album packs a punch with Braufman joined by Cooper-Moore on piano, dulcimer and recitation, Cecil McBee on bass, David Lee on drums and Ralph Williams on percussion. The opening track, "Chant" has an ritualistic feel from the (sounds like a) flute and percussion, one can imagine a religious procession as Cooper Moore begins to speak and moan in a stoic voice about spiritual matters, and bowed bass rises and falls alongside his voice, framed by bells and drums. The moaning and chanting with bells is similar to the work of Leon Thomas with Pharoah Sanders. Braufman's saxophone comes in midway, strong and potent, with the band building to a powerhouse improvisation. Cascading drums and percussion lash the bass and piano as Braufman's scalding saxophone reaches ever higher, soaring and tearing the sky around him with a blistering tone that gradually slows to conclude this visionary piece of music. The band comes out hard and fast on "Thankfulness" building on a theme that leaves them plenty of room for expression, while the leader's gravelly toned saxophone takes the lead. The percussion and drums unit with bass allow for divergent textures opening the music to flow in any direction, and with the addition of Cooper-Moore's free spirited piano, it's like a percussion ensemble plus saxophone at times. Braufman's raw saxophone solo is slightly under-recorded, but it is full of fire and vigor, driving the band forward and leading a full band improvisation that is compelling and very exciting. They come back to the theme at the end, making a strong showing, pushing very hard as a unit to the finish line, propelled by thick elastic bass and supple drums, and moving without a pause into "Love is Real." The rhythm section is tight and organic unit here, adding just a hint of funk and supporting Braufman for liftoff when he solos urgently, playing with blazing speed, and taking the whole group into the outer cosmos, adding throat rending roars that punctuate the urgency of the situation, like Coltrane/Pharoah at Seattle or in Japan. Some member of the band is blowing a whistle, which is a little weird, but they are steaming and nothing can stop the momentum, until they decide to gradually ratchet down the speed, still leaving room for soul cleaving saxophone howls and clattering percussion. "Little Nabil's March" uses pulsating saxophone from the leader and martial drumming and percussion to build a fast and fun tune that moves at a strutting pace. Braufman is all over his saxophone playing in a very populist manner over the tumbling percussion while still managing to take the music farther out a few degrees at at time, but you can still imagine him at the head of the parade. There's a nice feature for drums and percussion that is well done and very interesting, which leads the band into the final track on the album, "Destiny," where a more stoic saxophone plays over bowed bass, shimmering cymbals and shaken percussion, giving the music a sombre air. This track brings the album back full circle, with the dark oaken tone of the saxophone and the overtones of religious incantation leaving the listener realizing that this album is an unheralded landmark of 1970's spiritual jazz. Valley Of Search - amazon.com

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