178

Billy Bang: Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man’s Blues / New York Collage

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble

Black Man's Blues / New York Collage

No Business Records

2011

With Black Man's Blues / New York Collage, the Lithuanian based No Business label presents another thrilling installment in its invaluable documentation of the New York loft jazz of the 1970s, following on from 2010's acclaimed Muntu Recordings Box and Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1980-1983. Featured artist this time out is the late violinist Billy Bang, who died of lung cancer in April 2011, while this issue was in preparation. Like its predecessors, this double CD presentation comes with an attractive and informative booklet penned by the insightful Ed Hazell.

Bang stretches out on two live performances with his Survival Ensemble in a package uniting his first date as a group leader with a previously unreleased session from a radio broadcast some 12 months earlier. Both sets spotlight the youthful rhythm section of bassist William Parker and drummer Rashid Bakr (now known once more as Charles Downs) as well as little known saxophonist Bilal Abdur Rahman.

What we have here is a vital slice of loft jazz history. While the visceral excitement pegs this as fire music, none of the pieces are straightforward blowing vehicles. It's clear that the Survival Ensemble was dedicated to collectively examining novel structures for its expression, and most of the time, Bang's violin and Rahman's tenor are heard in exuberant unison, especially on the first disc. Frequent recitations announce an overt political agenda of black nationalism and post-Vietnam radicalization, though it didn't play such an explicit role for much longer in Bang's oeuvre.

Bang's rhythmic drive is much in evidence, though he had yet to unleash the soaring melodic swing which came to define his work over the years. Consequently, high energy is the most prominent aspect of his playing, with pyrotechnics and hypnotic dissonance never far away. Rahman, who soon after disappeared from view, reveals himself to be a combustive presence with a strong sense of line and dynamics, whether gruffly insistent or passionately overblowing. Even this early in his career, Parker demonstrates an unrivalled ability to fuel long form improvisations with a stream of non-repeating patterns and expressive bow-work, while Bakr forms a responsive foil for the bassist and maintains an undemonstrative but effective roiling undercurrent.

Although each track on Black Man's Blues includes a poem, either from Rahman or Bang, there is more than enough incendiary excitement to keep the most poetry averse jazz fan happy. On "Albert Ayler/Know Your Enemy," after the violinist's spoken word introduction over bass and percussion, tenor saxophone and violin develop a simple staccato line into a high octane interchange, with Parker bowing furiously to an intense crescendo. Yet more coruscating interludes grace the lengthy "Ganges/Enchantment/Tapestry," the highlight of the set, which comprises a suite of compositions by the bassist, starting with overlapping duets for first Rahman's thoughtful tenor and Bakr's rumbling drums, then spidery arco bass and pizzicato fiddle. Both Rahman and Bang get a chance to shine separately on the title track after some theatrical sermonizing, before a screaming conclusion. Though raw and unvarnished, with some slightly raggedy unisons, this is heady stuff and a real find.

Out of print for many years, New York Collage makes a welcome appearance on CD. Recorded in May 1978, the Survival Ensemble was already tighter, in spite of expansion to a sextet with the addition of Henry Warner's alto saxophone and Khuwana Fuller's congas. "Nobody Hears The Music The Same Way (Dedicated to John Coltrane)" starts with a theme comprising a sequence of repeated motifs, typical of the time, before opening into a swirling free for all, a series of solos and an eventual return to the opening gambit. "For Josie Part II" suggests that the lady in question might have a stern, even dour demeanor, before the drifting soundscape metamorphoses into a seething brew. "Illustration" boasts the only reading of the session, with Bang declaiming over a bass groove and riffing horns. Rahman's "Subhanallah" makes for a rabble rousing closer, with a wailing mass of feral horns and see-sawing bass. Bang was never quite this wild on disc again, making this double dose a piquant memorial to the departed violinist, as well as yet another fascinating chronicle of a largely unsung era.

Tracks: CD1: Spoken introduction; Albert Ayler/Know Your Enemy; Ganges/Enchantment/Tapestry; Black Man's Blues. CD2: Nobody Hears The Music The Same Way (Dedicated to John Coltrane); For Josie Part II; Illustration; Subhanallah.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin, poetry, bells, shaker, percussion; Bilal Abdur Rahman: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, voice, bull horn, percussion; Henry Warner: alto saxophone, bells, shaker, percussion (CD2); William Parker: bass; Khuwana Fuller: congas (CD2) ; Rashid Bakr: drums.

Track Listing: CD1: Spoken introduction; Albert Ayler/Know Your Enemy; Ganges/Enchantment/Tapestry; Black Man's Blues. CD2: Nobody Hears The Music The Same Way (Dedicated to John Coltrane); For Josie Part II; Illustration; Subhanallah.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin, poetry, bells, shaker, percussion; Bilal Abdur Rahman: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, voice, bull horn, percussion; Henry Warner (CD2): alto saxophone, bells, shaker, percussion; William Parker: bass; Khuwana Fuller (CD2): congas; Rashid Bakr: drums.

Title: Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man’s Blues / New York Collage | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Da Bang!

Da Bang!

TUM Records
2013

buy
Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man’s Blues / New York Collage

Billy Bang's Survival...

NoBusiness Records
2011

buy
 

Billy Bang - Bill Cole

Point of Departure, WMPG-FM
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Heaven & Earth: Live and in the Studio 1997-2008 Extended Analysis
Heaven & Earth: Live and in the Studio 1997-2008
By John Kelman
June 8, 2019
Read Greatest Other People's Hits Extended Analysis
Greatest Other People's Hits
By Doug Collette
September 9, 2018
Read Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 Extended Analysis
Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967
By Doug Collette
September 8, 2018
Read Naima/Live in Berlin Extended Analysis
Naima/Live in Berlin
By Duncan Heining
August 30, 2018
Read Kaya 40 Extended Analysis
Kaya 40
By Nenad Georgievski
August 25, 2018
Read Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis
Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
By Doug Collette
August 4, 2018
Read Wodgi Extended Analysis
Wodgi
By Duncan Heining
August 4, 2018