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Friday, June 23, 2023

Milford Graves, Arthur Doyle, Hugh Glover – Children of the Forest (Black Editions Archive, 2023)

By Nick Ostrum

Coming off their astounding 2022 release Historic Music Past Tense Future , Black Editions Archive digs even deeper into Milford Graves’ trove of recordings to present us with Children of the Forest. Featuring Arthur Doyle, Hugh Glover and Graves himself, this album was recorded at three separate sessions (in order of appearance on the album): March 11, January 24, and February 2, 1976.

The first session catches the trio in full force. Doyle wields his tenor saxophone, flute and bass clarinet (per a note from Arrington de Dionyso), Glover his klaxon and vaccine (a Haitian trumpet), in addition to various percussion, and Milford Graves his drum set. Together they produce some of the most exciting, infarction-inducing music I have heard in a long while. Part of that impression admittedly comes from this release’s historic value. Much, however, comes from its intensity. It is urgent but also celebratory, a step or two further out from John Coltrane and Rashied Ali’s Interstellar Space. (This is a trio recording, but the sound of the album merits the comparison.) And, it is fun, but also biting. Listen to the guffaws of unknown origin (klaxon? vaccine?) cutting into the dance between the flute and drum on March 11, 1976 III, or Doyle’s almost desperate howl through his sax through much of the rest of the pieces recorded in March.

The second session, recorded in January, features just Glover and Graves. These three tracks inevitably lose a little of the anguished gale that Doyle’s horn lends, but not as much as one might assume. Glover tends to play a complementary, rather than frontman, role. Still, he squeezes some curious sounds out of his tenor and bleats out some soaring scales. He also lends more space than Doyle does, which gives Graves, already louder due to the mic set-up, the spotlight.

This brings me to the final track. Recorded on February 2, this one has Graves and only Graves. It is short, but really brings his rhythmicism to the fore. Here, he has no one to respond to or bounce ideas against or steer the music in one direction or another. Rather, he presents a straight-ahead, but complex rhythm that seems to feed off its own energy. The performance lasts for 3 minutes but is so textured and polyrhythmically and repetitiously hypnotizing that it feels like it could go on indefinitely.

All in all, Children of the Forestis a raw, effusively energetic and absolutely essential contribution to each of these musicians’ catalogs. (I am less familiar with Glover but can confidently state this is and will remain among my favorites in my Graves and Doyle collections.) It is free jazz at its best, its most destructive (or deconstructive). Yet, it still proudly proclaims the influence of its two decades of predecessors. Children of the Forest is a statement that is powerful precisely because of its abstraction and its defiantly DIY (but well recorded, all things considered) origin and its bold claim to musical space. And, for all of the fuzz and the few abrupt cuts in the recording, it still sounds radical today. 


And just one more thing...

 By Gary Chapin

It feels almost naive to say that this recording is primal and chthonic. Of course, Milford Graves will be primal and chthonic. Along with Ayler, Graves is the species exemplar of "primal and chthonic," but it always comes as a shock, especially after you've been away from Graves for a while. Having the date verbalized at the beginning of each set makes these feel especially personal, like diary entries. Grave, Arthur Doyle, and Hugh Glover come at us inexorably, somehow sprinting a marathon. It is surprising that this music can exist and when you hear it--especially, as I say, after you've been away for a while--it is appropriate to say, in wonderment, "Wow, that is primal and chthonic."