When South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza passed away in 1975 at age thirty, a mere eleven years after leaving the oppressive regime of his native country, jazz lost a musician who bridged the gap between Freddie Hubbard and Don Cherry.
"Mongs," as he was affectionately called, was not an avant-garde player or a trad playerrather he was pure energy, directed in a tight beam at whatever group of musicians he was working with: the members of the Blue Notes, the Brotherhood of Breath, his trio with Johnny Dyani and Okay Temiz, or with the Bernt Rosengren Quartet on this new archival release by Ayler Records.
Feza was brash and unpredictable; he brought a new sensibility to European trumpet playing that had many fine exponents, but few that could match his verve. Like other members of the Blue Notes, Feza participated in a range of products and, as Free Jam amply demonstrates, usually dominated them. Ayler Records, which releases live recordings from figures like Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, has the chance to play with history a bit on the release. Feza was a guest performer with Rosengren's quartet (the saxophononist being the other well-known participant) and probably brought along Temiz with whom he had been working during that year (1972). What was a trio of Stockholm performances in November and December is packaged as a Feza album, the song titles presumably made up and Feza vaulted into the role of leader. Not that he would have minded-his playing throughout the double disc is confident and bears the full weight of his experiences.
Free Jam is least successful when it rambles; whether Feza would have liked to have this performance released is unanswerable. Its triumphs, usually at the end of these rambles, are when the band locks into joyous grooves reminiscent of the best ensemble work of the Brotherhood of Breath. Such moments come during the aptly titled "Themes of the Day" (I or II). The tight flow of Rosengren's saxophones against Feza exclamations, propelled along by a band that probably never heard such sounds in their life (to borrow a phrase), makes this a valuable document. Being a jazz trumpeter seems to be dangerous work but at least Mongs made the most of his time on this planet, and sincere thanks to Ayler for giving today's listeners a chance to hear him.
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Personnel: Mongezi Feza: trumpet;
Bernt Rosengren: alto sax, tenor sax, flute, piano;
Tommy Koverhult: tenor sax, flute, euphonium;