Rashied Ali is most commonly associated with his short tenure as John Coltrane's drummer on Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1967). His significant participation in the New York loft-jazz movement by opening "Ali's Alley in 1973 is also frequently cited. His most recent collaborations with saxophonist Sonny Fortune continue the conception of Ali as an explosive participant in free improvisation. Nevertheless, Ali's Judgment Day, Volume 1 is a strictly mainstream outing where he focuses his efforts as a teacher to those relatively uninitiated in the jazz world.
Ali did not compose any of the nine tracks, which range from six to nine minutes in duration. Rather, established Dutch-born, New York-based bassist Joris Teepe wrote two of the compositions, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark penned the title track, and trumpeter Jumaane Smith wrote the hard driving "Shied Indeed. These efforts by band members display a remarkable hard bop style facility.
Teepe is perhaps the most recognized name in the group, having played with Ali for some time, and on the drummer's forthcoming record Raw Fish (Knitting Factory Records). His anchoring sonority is, at times, quite dominant and certainly reminiscent of bassist Stafford James.
Smith, originally from Seattle, studied with Warren Vache and performed with the Julliard Jazz Orchestra. His playing, however, is more akin to Freddie Hubbard's hard expressivity than Vache's gentle lyricism. Clark's role is often that of a supporting character. Pianist Greg Murphy studied with Ellis Marsalis, and has played with Ali for many years. His style displays an integrity to the genre, and contributes tastefully.
Several of the selections demand particular attention. Wayne Shorter's rarely performed "The Big Push, from The Soothsayer (Blue Note, 1965), is played with style and honesty in celebration of the original. Jaco Pastorius' "Dania, a tribute to a Florida beach, is a frenzy. Don Cherry's quirky "Multi Culti closes the session as an effervescent celebration of the art of improvisation. Ali's deft cymbal tinting and rambunctious style, not surprisingly, illustrate that the role of a talented and original percussionist is not that of time keeper. Rather, tone painting and forceful phrasing are dominant expressive forms to Ali.
Judgment Day, Volume 1 is an effective display of Ali's straight-ahead chops and his ability to organize a group of relatively younger musicians. Volume Two has already been released. Look for another thoroughly enjoyable record.
Personnel: Rashied Ali: percussion; Jumaane Smith: trumpet; Lawrence Clark: tenor saxophone; Greg Murphy: piano; Joris Teepe: bass.