Raphe Malik Quartet: Last Set: Live at the 1369 Club (2004)
Last Set may not change any of that, but it's a particularly valuable document because it brings to light the high-flying dynamics that went on under the radar during the mid-'80s. Recorded in 1984 at Boston's 1369 Jazz Clubfive years before the venue went belly upthe performance also features the late cult hero Reverend Frank Wright on tenor saxophone, William Parker on bass, and local Syd Smart on drums. It's hardly the first time these players got together: Malik met Smart when he was 19, Wright three years later. Parker was Malik's regular bassist for ten years before this recording was made.
The recording consists of three long pieces from ten to thirty minutes in length, and while the composition credits formally go to Malik, it's pretty clear that there's a whole lot of free improvisation involved. The second piece features some heavy duty blowing by the horns, together and separately, Malik and Wright darting around the high end of their respective instruments. A full-on blowout toward the end strangely morphs into polyrhythmic swing, Parker riffing away on odd niblets underneath in his own inimitable way.
Be warned that in addition to his unpredictable, edgy saxophone playing, Wright also does his share of "singing," if you want to call his nearly unintelligible rough-and-tumble vocal performance that, but it's well-received by the other players, particularly Malik, who lends a sympathetic ear. The trumpeter's slurred notes near the conclusion of "Companions #2" evoke broad swaths of sound, hinting at and dancing around a melody before the final clarion call comes.
As a snapshot in time, Last Set reveals the focused intensity with which these players approached the avant-garde continuum. But there's also something timeless about the way they share the risks and rewards of group improvisation, teetering on the edge but always pulling through together.
Track Listing: Sad C; Companions #2; Chaser.
Personnel: Raphe Malik: trumpet; Frank Wright: tenor sax, voice; William Parker: bass; Syd Smart: drums. Recorded September 13, 1984 at the 1369 Jazz Club, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Record Label: Boxholder Records
Style: Modern Jazz