As Andrey Henkin pointed out
last January, Sirone is under-represented on CD, particularly given his illustrious history. The 2005 release of the debut album from the Sirone Bang Ensemble has helped the situation; now comes this historic reissue.
Dating from 1981, Live is both a valuable historical snapshot and a curate's egg of an album, very good in parts. I found the opening track, "Flute Song," featuring Sirone on wood flute, to be rather too long and a tad self-indulgent. In 1981, it may have been justified in the name of celebrating diversity; today, it just raises the question, "Why?" The wood flute is shrill and does not stand up to repeated listening.
Far better is "Eyes of the Wind." Sirone has been quoted as saying, "The music has been abused by that word 'free.' Sometimes you get a lot of noise." This track is a powerful antidote to that tendency: noisy or anarchic it isn't. Claude Lawrence articulates a clear theme with his bell-like tone, followed up by a sequence of solos as structured and disciplined as any by a hard bop group, with Dennis Charles shining in particular. In similar vein, Sirone's extended solo on "The Journey" demonstrates why he was highly rated by such luminaries as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. Free it may be, but it does not sacrifice musicality or logic as a result.
At this point, let me interject a warning for audiophiles: Although it is not acknowledged anywhere, this CD has been recreated from an LP source, judging by the amount of hiss, pops, clicks, etc. At times, this is a mild distraction, but then I'm no audiophile. If you are, consider yourself warned.
"When It's Over" with its extended trombone solo is the biggest surprise here. No one is credited with trombone, but Sirone himself played it is his younger days. (I can find no recent evidence of him playing the instrument.) Nonetheless, based on this evidence, he is no slouch. In tandem with Charles, he gives a bravura performance. The closer, "Vision," displays further evidence of Sirone's past, owing a considerable debt to Ornette Coleman as a composer. Its mournful, wailing theme is investigated at length by Lawrence, whose own sparse discography is both a mystery and a tragedy on this evidence.
Overall, this album makes a very welcome return to Sirone's catalogue.
Personnel: Sirone: bass, wood flute, trombone (uncredited); Claude Lawrence: alto sax; Dennis