Byard Lancaster: Live at Macalester College (2008)
Sometimes the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and sometimes it is less. The latter is true for this reissue of Live at Macalester College by the Byard Lancaster unit. The music, deftly played and improvised by all the musicians, is avant-garde and free jazz in character during the leader's various horn solos, more traditional soul-jazz when the rhythm section is in the forefront, and has tinges of Afro-Cuban rhythms when the percussion is the dominant voice. Sometimes these disparate styles are overlaid on one another and sometimes they are only apparent during individual solos. This variety keeps the music intriguing and unpredictable through multiple listens, but the failure of these different styles to coalesce leads to a lack of cohesion in the album. Despite the virtuosic musical ideas flowing out of everyone's instrument the recording itself fails to stand as a single multifaceted unit, but instead has the feel of a hodge-podge of different sounds, ideas and styles.
All the musicians on this record are outstanding and it is surprising that they are not better known, but the one who stands out from the group is drummer J.R. Mitchell whose propulsive rhythms push the others to new and unexplored terrains in their soloing, all the while attempting to preserve a unity of sound and space.
This first-time issue CD adds 25 minutes of new material to the LP with impeccable sound quality and a reproduction of the beautiful cover art of the original.
The music on this reissue is consistently intriguing and stimulating, but fails to form a cohesive whole; ending up as a grouping of a variety of ingenious and creative musical ideas.
Track Listing: 1324; Last Summer; War World; Live at Macalester; World in Me; Thought.
Personnel: Byard Lancaster: horns; J. R. Mitchell: percussion; Calvin Hill: bass; Paul Morrison: electric bass; Lester Lumley: conga & percussion; Sid Simmons: piano; Jerome Hunter: bass.