Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The New York Contemporary Five - Copenhagen 1963 Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2021)

 One of the most overlooked groups of the early 1960's progressive jazz scene, The New York Contemporary Five was just as capable investigating songs by Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk as they are playing their own fiery original compositions. All of this music was recorded at the Jazzhaus Martmartre in 1963 and the group consists of Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on cornet, John Tchicai on alto saxophone, Don Moore on bass and J.C. Moses on drums. "Cisum" opens the album with a fanfare like theme, leading to tight horns and drums which propel the cornet and drums to engage at a fast tempo. The saxophones enter, trading off ideas, as the band develops an acrobatic collective improvisation before a thundering drum solo heralds a return to the theme. Solo bass opens "Trio" before the rest of the band enters in a cascade of vibrant sound. Rising saxophone sounds create a dense web as the musicians encourage each other with cheers, and Cherry's cornet sweeps the deck engaging with Moses's drums as the saxophones riff in the background. This leads to a section of raw and cutting saxophone overblowing and weaving complex patterns of sound. "Consequences" has a complex opening, featuring Cherry's spitfire cornet playing over deeply swinging bass and drums. Saxophones swirl over active drumming and then return the favor by framing another strong drum solo. John Tchicai's "Wo Wo" has a jaunty theme which is taken by the full band, then Cherry along with bass and drums run with it. There are steong lines of cornet with encouraging drums, followed by graceful saxophone retorts. "O.C." by Ornette Coleman has a tumbling lead theme that quickly evolves into into a cascading section for raw saxophone improvising amid dynamic drumming. Punchy cornet and rhythm take the music in a different path, the elasticity of the music offering many possibilities. The group plays of short versions of the Thelonious Monk compositions "Monk's Mood" and "Crepuscule With Nellie". These are beautifully played with gradations of tone and grit from the horns, playing brief themes and variations. The Ornette Coleman's composition "Emotions" with the fast and energetic theme powering the horns to emote over subtly motoring bass and drums. Shepp picks up this thread and uses it, developing a fast pace to take off and push the envelope. This is exciting music that still sounds fresh, the music moving forward by developing a team based and resonant sound played with an youthful vigor. Copenhagen 1963 Revisited - SquidCo

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