During an extended stay in England in 1973, cornetist Bobby Bradford found kindred musical spirits in reedman Trevor Watts, drummer John Stevens, and bassist Kent Carter. They only recorded once, live during a week’s residency in a Parisian club. Parts of those shows make up Love’s Dream, the latest release of this material from Emanem. Of the six tracks only two are complete, the other four edits. Two tracks are previously unreleased, with all compositions by Bradford.
The title track gets off to an Ornette-ish start. Stevens plays it straight, Carter roams, and Watts leisurely strolls the outlands on alto. Watts seemed to have been listening more closely to Carter, and Bradford seems more attuned to Stevens. His incisive playing wryly dices the melody and brings more pop to the rhythm section. The first take of “Coming On” shows the quartet warmed up and blowing. Watts skates all over the tune with its propulsive tempo, but Bradford makes him sound stuck. His ideas spin through like a ninja blade. The second version takes it slower, and Watts uses more conventional phrasing. Stevens and Carter feel in closer sync. Bradford plays it glib with that dry tone. Watts rejoins for a few bars, then Carter plays understated with Stevens.
“She” has Watts moving to soprano and Stevens joining Bradford on cornet. The expanded horn section plays atmospheric long tones. Bradford shapes a bluesy melody in a call/response with Stevens and Watts, Carter adding occasional bowings, both straight and overtones. Bradford solos acapella to close it showing off his control of drama and phrasing. Carter’s solo gives “Roswita’s Dance” a snaky prelude. After the band plays the theme, spotlight returns to Carter. After his fitful improv Bradford returns with Stevens and takes them sailing. Watts plays shorter phrases, with Stevens and Carter truly cooking. Bradford returns with even more fluent sheets of melody, and Watts answers with a stream of music that twists and curlicues. Unintentionally, there’s a near Mingus feel at times. Bradford ends it a capella again, again making the impossible sound easy.
Carter again solos to open, this time “HM Lous I.” The band manages to evoke a taste of New Orleans before swinging into something else. Watts and Bradford roll the theme around like a couple of pups, Watts emerging to solo. He dances with the rhythm section, until Bradford plays a charge and creates a fourway conversation. After strong interplay Watts drops out and Bradford runs with Carter and Stevens.
With Bradford’s picture in the dictionary next to “under-recorded” this live collection taped just before Bradford settled into the life of an Angeleno adds an important page in the documentation of this important artist’s development.
Personnel: Bobby Bradford, cornet; Trevor Watts, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Kent Carter, double bass; John Stevens, drums, cornet.