This 2020 reissue of the New York Contemporary Five recordings from 1963-64 can't help but draw one's attention to the social unrest occurring in America in 2020. In 1964 the riots in Harlem and Philadelphia over police brutality were followed by similar riots a few years later in Watts, Newark, Detroit, etc. In the growing civil unrest these recordings were born. The New Thing was the equivalent to what Chuck D of Public Enemy claimed when he said rap music was the Black CNN.
Agree of disagree with the above statement, but there is no denying this is the musical equivalent of ripping a band-aid off a wound. Like most things revolutionary, this amazing ensemble lasted for just one year. Saxophonist Archie Shepp joined NWC5 as his partner trumpeter Bill Dixon took time off from performing. Cornetist Don Cherry left Sonny Rollins' quartet after an apprentice with Ornette Coleman and Danish saxophonist John Tchicai entered as a new émigré to the New York scene. The changing rhythm sections finds bassist Don Moore and drummer J.C. Moses on the 1963 Consequences session and bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Sunny Murray on the 1964 session.
The music is the quintessential time capsule of the era, pulling together the revolutions of Dixon, Coleman, Mingus, Rollins, and Monk and anticipating the coming of Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. The title track (covered by both quintets) penned by Cherry pulls from his Coleman experience, but also dips heavily into bebop with Shepp quoting "We're In The Money" from 1933. The music is a stepping-off point from bebop into free music. Maybe Dixon's composition "Trio" is the best example of this transitional music. The thoroughly written piece eventually opens into levitating free solos by Cherry, Shepp and Tchicai. But then there is this beautiful unswerving take of Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie, " played with all due consideration to the composition. The addition of trumpeter Ted Curson to the the final two tracks of 1964, "Like A Blessed Baby Lamb" and "Consequences," draws the music closer to that of Charles Mingus and the direction Shepp's music would take in the coming years. This reissue is a musical archeologist's dream.
Sound Barrier; We We; Consequences; Rufus; Crepuscule With Nellie; Trio; Where Poppies Bloom (Where Poppies Blow); Like A
Blessed Baby Lamb; Consequences.