Leroy Jenkins: Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America (2003)
The reactivation of the Tomato label comes as good news. What other imprint could boast a roster that included Doc Watson, John Cage, Townes Van Zandt, Harry Partch, and Sam Rivers? Now add Leroy Jenkins with his reissued title from 1978, Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America. That this quarter century old artifact sounds as fresh as it does testifies to the vision of its creators.
The all star band includes Andrew Cyrille on drums, a young Anthony Davis on piano, George Lewis on trombone, and Richard Teitelbaum on Modular Moog/Micro Moog Systems. Teitelbaum, who would go on to further distinguish himself as a composer and performer, had played with George Lewis and Anthony Braxton. His unique programming on the Moog protects the session from quaint-sounding 25-year old electronics. The album features a long track with a wide spectrum of mood and well-integrated electronics from Lewis and Teitelbaum; the latter sits out on the last four cuts, which are all acoustic. Jenkins and company work wonders on the collective improvs, gracefully weaving and circling each other.
The title track opens the six-part suite with a burst of radiant sound from the ensemble and the first theme. Teitelbaum’s Moog gives it the Space Minds effect. Portentous thunder and Cyrille’s drums introduce a group improvisation rich in textures and color, with Davis on electric piano, Teitelbaum’s sounds fading in and out, and Jenkins playing the haunting melody. Teitelbaum, Jenkins, and a plunger muted Russell play a notable passage, before Davis gets some different echo effects with his piano in duet with Cyrille. An alarm-like repeated figure introduces a freewheeling improv, with the band wailing around Teitelbaum’s metallic sound slabs. A very deliberate section follows, then Lewis and Jenkins soar over the free rhythm section and atmospheric electronics.
The acoustic set begins with “Dancing on a Melody,” the dancing done by Cyrille’s fleet brush work, soon taken up by Lewis’ trombone, while Davis and Jenkins play andante. “Clowns,” features antic playing on the head before the collective improv. “Kick Back Stomp,” allows the players plenty of blowing room. After Jenkins’ brief figure, the quartet kicks in following his intensifying playing, including plucking and bowing. Davis occupies a space between Lewis and Jenkins, and Cyrille, augmenting the performance. “Through the Ages Jehovah,” after a rather reverent opening, lurches along like an old time gospel number played loose and easy, full of feeling.
While the overall sound of the recording is good, Jenkins suffers from a dampened tone that blunts his highs. That flaw doesn’t disguise his technique or the frisky exchanges with Lewis. Now, if only the vault keeper at Tomato could access the Karl Berger/Don Cherry sessions...
Track Listing: track listing: Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America; Dancing on a Melody; the Clowns; Kick Back Stomp; Through the Ages Jehovah.
Personnel: Leroy Jenkins, violin; Andrew Cyrille, percussion; Anthony Davis, piano, electric piano; George Lewis, trombone, electronics; Richard Teitelbaum, Modular Moog, Micro Moog Systems