The final recording of the late violinist Billy Bang from February 2011, days before his final performance in the TUMfest 11 in Helsinki, is a celebration of his life as musician. Bang chose for this recording compositions of innovative musicians in the history of jazzDon Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins that were part of his quintet repertoire for years. His trusty quintet supports his musical ideas and improvisations beautifully, and the album booklet features touching and insightful poems that were recited by poets Amiri Baraka, Quincy Troupe and Steve Dalachinsky in the memorial event that was organized for Bang in New York on September 2011.
Bang was already in the latter phase of the lung cancer illness at the time of the recording but his playing is assured and joyful, as if stressing the healing power of music, even if this power lasts for short, fleeting periods. He is accompanied by a tight, hard swinging ensembletrombonist Dick Griffin, veteran of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Sun Ra bands, and regular members of his quintetpianist Andrew Bemkey, bassist Hilliard Greene.
Bang's imaginative introduction for Cherry's "Guinea," written for the debut recording of the Old And New Dreams quartet is an arresting testimony to his gifts as an improviser. Bang, in this introduction and later through his solo, sings soulfully with his violin. He frets, strums and bows the strings as if he was possessed by a powerful spell, turning at times the violin to a kind of shamanic string-percussion instrument. Bang's "Daydreams," originally performed solo by Bang on Commandment (for the sculpture of Alain Kirilli) (No More Records, 1997), is another vehicle for a dramatic and masterful solo of Bang, along impressive solos of Griffin and Greene. The following covers of Coleman "Law Years," Davis' "All Blues" and Rollins "St. Thomas," are performed in a relaxed, spirited mode. The quintet shines throughout these highly enjoyable versions of these inspiring standards.
A beautiful reminder of Bang the master musician, composer, improviser and a great human being.
Da Bang; Guinea; Daydreams; Law Years; All Blues; St Thomas.
Billy Bang: violin; Dick Griffin: trombone; Andrew Bemkey: piano;
Hilliard Greene: bass;
Newman Taylor-Baker: drums.
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