Delmark’s been a watering hole for AACM musicians since the latter organization’s inception. The mutually supportive relationship is such that many of these musician’s have returned to the label over the years, some sporadically, others more frequently. Case in point, Roscoe Mitchell who cut his first session for Delmark (the seminal Sound
) in 1966 and returned nearly three decades later to release a handful of new titles ( Sound Songs
, Hey Donald
, In Walked Buckner
). Malachi Thompson, an early student with the AACM has been more consistent in his associations recording seven albums for the label in the last ten years.This new disc gathers material that predates most of Thompson’s previously issued catalog and is culled from recordings cut for the small loft jazz label Ra as well as studio sessions featuring variations on his regular working group from the 1980s. The Ra sessions that make up the first half of the disc are heavily informed by Fusion influences and feature electric instruments prominently. “The Quest” wallows a little in forced exoticisms from Jeffries willowy vocals, but the quintet on “Street Dance” picks up the pieces running and places the groove firmly back on track. Robinson’s bulbous bass fills and Brown’s amplified comping smooth out a slick surface for the horns to slide across and Dodd’s vampish tuba work lays on a thick, but flexible harmonic layer between. “Two Nights In Malakal” starts out rather predictably with a simple unison horn chart, but once rhythm section kicks in things improve considerably. Chicago South Side R&B receives a nod on “The Ali Shuffle,” a tune that when compared with the quality of much of the rest on the disc deserves to get lost in the shuffle. “Some Free-bop For Monk,” which includes intrusive vocal breaks by a quartet of vocalists, is a similarly well-meaning idea gone awry. “Yesterdays,” sits in sharp contrast to these misfires and is a beautiful ballad feature for Thompson and guitarist Horn.
The second act, comprising the final six pieces on the disc are more in line with the free-bop esthetic Thompson’s forged throughout his career. Blustery brass and reed bursts buoyed by the loose rhythmic pulse of King and Abadey. Of these numbers the final three are especially focused and intense finding Thompson in the company of only bass and drums sounding crisp and clear from his clarion horn. Thompson’s Delmark association has been lengthy and rewarding both for himself and for the label. This collection compresses years into minutes and lays bare the roots of his style and development making it possible to witness the ascension of formidable trumpet talent who’s still going strong.
Tracks:The Quest/ Street Dance/ Two Nights In Malakal/ The Ali Shuffle/ Yesterdays/ Some Free-Bop For Monk/ They Stole Einstein’s Brain/ A Picture Of/ Worm Hole/ Ghost Guest/ Take A Look/ Flesh Against Steel.
Collective Players:Malachi Thompson- trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet; Sonny Seals- tenor saxophone; Kirk Brown- piano, electric piano; John Thomas- guitar; Curtis Robinson- bass; Bob Crowder-drums; Penny Jeffries- vocal; Jesse Taylor- tenor saxophone; Aaron Dodd- tuba; Billy Salter- drums; Harold Barney- electric piano; Carter Jefferson- tenor saxophone; Rafik A. Raheem- keyboards; Marvin Horn- guitar; Paul Ramsey- bass; Greg Bandy- drums; Karen McPherson- vocals; Miambi Steele- vocals; Drake Colley- vocals; James King- bass; Nasar Abadey- drums; Bill Striggles- poetry reading; Scat City Singers- vocals.
Recorded: May 1972, April 1974, Chicago, IL; August 1982, Brooklyn, NY; September 6, 1986, August 4 & 5, 1988, Hyattsville, MD.
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