The avant-garde has never really endeared itself to the trumpet. More players seemed to have gravitated towards the snarls of the saxophone or the vox humana quality of the trombone.
Bobby Bradford is a lesser known but no less accomplished member of the progressive trumpet ranks, even replacing Cherry in Ornette Coleman’s band in the early ‘60s. He is best known for a long collaboration with the late clarinetist John Carter, one of the more successful long term relationships in jazz history.
Another collaboration that is less known but as compelling, in a much different way, is his work with the late British drum legend John Stevens, mastermind behind the seminal Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) and, by extension, the whole “scratch n’ sniff” free jazz movement.
Emanem has reissued a later recording of the pair, joined by a period lineup of the SME—Trevor Watts on alto and soprano saxophones and longtime Steve Lacy bassist Kent Carter. On Love’s Dream, Bradford sticks solely to cornet, a less common doubling choice for trumpeters than the flugelhorn. Many labels re-release their material; Emanem does it with good reason since most of its LPs are quite scarce and the label almost always sweetens the deal with substantial amounts of unreleased material. The original LP consisted of three tracks spanning 45 minutes; the second issue added eight minutes. This release adds two more numbers bringing the total length to just over 77 minutes of live music recorded in mid-November, 1973.
For all of their innovations in free jazz, musicians of this era were still firmly rooted, if privately, in Charlie Parker-era traditionalism. Love’s Dream wears this proudly on its sleeve. There are as many swinging moments and organized solos as free excursions. All the material is Bradford’s and his English collaborators execute in a nice ragged manner. This was a short-lived working band and there are moments of indecision and segments that do not gel—the SME had only had the very different sounding Kenny Wheeler in the trumpet chair before Bradford. What makes this recording valuable is a sense of fun that pervades throughout. Much of Stevens’ music was impenetrable. Love’s Dream shows Stevens and company looking around rather than looking forward.