It is a travesty of fateand of the American jazz establishmentthat violinist Billy Bang never received the recognition he merited. Hosannas have been sung to him, many of them after he died, but the fact remains that he was kept on the periphery despite an admirable body of work. His virtuosity can be witnessed on recordings like Valve No. 10
(Soul Note, 1991), and Vietnam: The Aftermath
(Justin Time, 2001) and Vietnam: Reflections
(Justin Time, 2004), which were extensions of his experiences during a war that had a strong emotional impact on him.
Bang made five recordings with drummer Barry Altschul
and bassist Joe Fonda
as the FAB Trio, which serves both as an acronym and underline of their artistry. The fit is perfect, given that Altschul and Fonda have been vital ingredients in improvised jazz, with Anthony Braxton
and Roswell Rudd
, and Herb Robertson
and Michael Jefry Stevens
Given the trio's nature, the expansive "Homeward Bound" is a stylistic exposition of its creativity. Bang gives the melody its due, the haunting strains resonating deeply from the emotional soul of his violin, while Fonda and Altschul thunder against the grain. The ebb and tide of tempo does not escarp from the intuitive journey, and swinging passages find comfortable companions in free-flowing characterization. The passion reverberates and goes around, turning this journey into a resplendent one full of rich hues and impressions.
Bang sets the ambience for "Implications" by plucking the strings of his violin and opening a whole new parallel for improvisation. Intuition is the key, as Altschul and Fonda lock in to the dynamics and set up individual edifices that sustain the sonic landscape. The pulse is stimulated into high gear, a quicksilver manifestation that rides a scorching trail. The switch is seamless, as much appealing in its calm progression as in its incendiary nature.
"For Bea," a ballad written for Beatrice Rivers, saxophonist Sam Rivers
's spouse, offers contrast, illumining Bang's distinctively warm and earthy playing. With Fonda and Altschul responding with seminal instinct, the mood is electrifying.
This final recording from Bang is not only testimony to his remarkable prowess, it stands as a cornerstone of music that is consummate and insightful.
Homeward Bound; Implications; For Bea; From Here to There; Chan Chan ; History of Jazz in Reverse; One for Don Cherry; From the Waters of New Orleans.
Billy Bang: violin; Joe Fonda: double bass; Barry Altschul: drums.