The New York Art Quartet was a short-lived group. Its first recording was the eponymous New York Art Quartet (ESP Disk, 1964), with the original line-up of alto saxophonist John Tchicai, trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Lewis Worrell and drummer Milford Graves. It was a highly intense band that parlayed free jazz into stunning directions. Worrell left the band at the end of 1964 and was replaced by Reggie Workman who played on the second record, Mohawk (Fontana, 1965).
Tchicai went back to Copenhagen in the summer of 1965, where he set up concerts for the Quartet. Of the original band, only Rudd was able to join Tchicai, who filled the bass spot with the adventurous Finn von Eyben and the drum seat with the ever inventive Louis Moholo-Moholo. The group played two shows which were broadcast live on the radio and are now finding a welcome home on this recording. Both von Eyben and Moholo turned out to be empathic and instinctive colleagues, and helped create an impressive document.
Rudd and Tchicai find a symbiotic cord not only in their on-the-spur improvisations but also in the way they change the fabric of a composition, an approach that is underlined by "Old Stuff" which they performed at both shows. On the first, Tchicai and Rudd introduce the melody before it dissipates, as Rudd shards the atmosphere with fleet darts. Tchicai pays attention to form, and while his logic is secure, the direction is not. His lines snake in and around and find unique visualization. Secured by an innate understanding, Rudd and Tchicai intertwine their voices on the second outing. Rudd is the more pervasive voice as he turns the melody into a resolute presence. Moholo drives the rhythm in a cascade of percussion and accents, engaging in a short but effective conversation with Rudd on the first. Von Eyben is pliant, his suppleness seen to advantage on his solo spots.
"Karin's Blues" is testimony that the band could play within a structured framework. The theme is developed through Tchicai's buoyant lines, with Rudd the counterpoint before he sets out on his own musical odyssey. Moholo and von Eyben add to the excitement with an edgy, crackling piece of dialogue.
The music of the band is still vital. Time has not effaced its impact.
Personnel: John Tchicai: alto saxophone; Roswell Rudd: trombone; Finn von Eyben: bass; Louis Moholo: drums.