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Friday, September 21, 2007

Norman Howard - Burn Baby Burn (ESP, 2007) *****

If you can, try to get hold of this record (available on iTunes). It brings long-lost and/or long-forgotten music by Norman Howard, who used to be a trumpeter with Albert Ayler, recorded in '68 with Joe Phillips on sax, Walter Cliff on bass and Corney Millsap on percussion. And it's completely remastered on top of it. It's free jazz at its best, not far removed from its cradle, but the sheer raw power, the emotional expressiveness, the anything-goes-attitude are truly magnificent. But it's not a free-for-all blowing contest, the music is controlled without being too composed, opening up full of possibilities, expressing basic emotions such as anger, sorrow, joy too at moments, with a refreshing directness and musicality. The drums and bass are still strongly anchored in hard-bop, but the trumpet and sax screech, swirl and circle around each other at times without restraint, or in close unisono carrying the tune, but at other times they both weep in sorrow in long melodic lines to the arco bass of Cliff, as in "Sad Miss Holiday", one of the longest pieces and definitely one of the highlights of the album. The whole album is great without any weak points. It is coherent, visionary, powerful, emotional, expressive, ... in a word: fantastic! We love ESP for digging this one up and releasing it again. Respect!