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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Byard Lancaster - Live At Macalaster College (Porter, 1972 - re-issue 2008) ****

In the catalogue of late 60s and early 70s free jazz records that are currently being re-issued, this one is easy to recommend. Tenorist Byard Lancaster plays in a true post-Coltrane mode, with lots of references to the master, yet adding his own elements, from spirituals to African, sometimes more intimate, but most appealing in the longer more expansive pieces. The record starts with the very great"1324", on which Byard blows with an incredible wild intensity, subtly supported by bass and drums. The second track "Last Summer" is totally different in approach, slow, more reflective, intimate, and very Coltrane-like, also because of Sid Simmons' piano playing. Then, contrast again : "War World" is wild, starting with a drum solo of the wonderful J.R. Mitchell, joined by Lancaster after two minutes for an electrifying free duet, evolving into a trio when the arco bass joins. The next track starts in the middle of another Coltrane-like, and very varied improvisation "Live At Macalester", and the only track that appears to be really live, with a very responsive and enthusiastic audience. "World In Me", now starts with eery sounds on the bass, then develops into a free blowing romp, with several saxes, yet not credited on the liner notes, with a sudden shift to afro-cuban percussion, leading to a more contained ending. The last track is again Coltrane-ish, in very free mode though, with several horns and electric guitar.

It is not always clear who plays what on which track, because all pieces seem to come from different performances. Credits are : Byard Lancaster on horns, J. R. Mitchell on percussion, Calvin Hill on bass, Paul Morrison on electric bass, Lester Lumley on conga & percussion, Sid Simmons on piano and Jerome Hunter on bass.

This album is a great testimony of the best free jazz of the early 70s, showing lots of wonderful musical explorations into soul, jazz, instrumental prowess and just the fun of blowing. Not all tracks are great, but the album as a whole certainly is.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef