Byard Lancaster: It's Not Up to Us (2003)
Originally released in 1968 on the Vortex Label, this eight-track gem was Lancaster's debut as a leader. Lancaster is a very important musical entity and also very unspoken - his work with Sun Ra, Philly Joe Jones, Sunny Murray, Larry Young and Fred Hopkins didn't exactly make him a superstar (he would often perform on Philadelphian street corners). Lancaster, influenced by children's songs, folk music, Beethoven and James Brown, writes, teaches and plays flute, clarinet, alto, tenor and soprano saxophones. Lancaster's "new jazz" movement, with the help of Sonny Sharrock on guitar, paved a way through the embrace of rock, folk and classical during the '70s. Like his business card says: "From Love Supreme to Sex Machine" - Lancaster can do it all.
Leading off, on the album's title track, where Lancaster makes good use of the flute, but more impressive is the underlying syncopation of drums and congas. On "Last Summer," the flute remains Lancaster's instrument of choice, and the guitar, bass and drums fly free. Erroll Garner's "Misty" gets a good revamping, followed by Sharrock's "John's Children" - he viewed himself as a spiritual heir to John Coltrane - which proves to be the standout track on this album. "John's Children" has a very sincere, spiritually elevated feeling to it, with moments of thunderous exaltation and a consistency of steadfast expression. All the power of a revival meeting in just six minutes.
"Mr. A.A." and "Dogtown" are two Lancaster originals, both with an English folk tone and impressive drumming by Eric Gravatt. Ending the album is the nine-minute "Satan", showcasing Sharrock's advanced strumming and technical ability.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. It's Not Up to Us (Lancaster) - 4:53 2. Last Summer (Lancaster) - 3:25 3. Misty (Burke/Garner) - 5:06 4. John's Children (Sharrock) - 6:12 5. Mr. A. A. (Lancaster) - 4:18 6. Dogtown (Lancaster) - 4:09 7. Over the Rainbow (Arlen/Harburg) - 4:35 8. Satan (Hunter/Lancaster/Sharrock) - 9:03
Personnel: Byard Lancaster - flute, alto sax; Sonny Sharrock - guitar; Eric Gravatt - drums; Jerome Hunter - bass; Kenny Speller - conga.
Record Label: Vortex-Water Music
Style: Modern Jazz