Beyond its initiates, the so-called New Thing which emerged in mainly, but not exclusively, Black US jazz in the 1960s/70s, was perceived so amorphously that prairie-wide distinctions between its practitioners went unregarded. Among the general jazz audience, the musicians were lumped together as a horde of crazed zombies who lacked all technique, and who had replaced creativity with noise and anger, and beauty with ugliness.
Tenor saxophonists were particularly prone to such dismissal and, given the number of untutored wannabe John Coltranes who elbowed themselves forward, that was not altogether surprising. But often the perception was so wide of the mark that one wondered if the naysayer had actually heard the musician they were dismissing or was simply parroting something they had read by Leonard Feather or a.n.other establishment gatekeeper.
Frank Lowe of The Jazz Doctors was one such tenor-playing target. In reality, Lowe prized technique highly, as highly as he valued melody and a well-defined tonal centre. Although he could shriek and scream on occasion (not on this album), he had nothing to do with untutored energy players. His style grew out of an older generation of tenor saxophonists, prominent among them Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry. The Doctors' nominal leader, violinist Billy Bang, a Vietnam veteran, was, politically speaking, perhaps more overtly fired up than Lowe, but musically he too was rooted in an earlier generation of players, notably Stuff Smith.
There was, in fact, little in either player's style to frighten all but the most skittish horses, and much in the rough-hewn elegance of their music to appeal to a wide audience. There was more than enough substance, too, to give their music lasting relevance and appeal.
All of which rather lengthy preamble is to commend to you Intensive Care: Prescriptions Filled. The 80-minute CD contains two albums, Intensive Care (Cadillac, 1984) and Prescriptions Filled, recorded in 1984 but never released. The two albums were recorded, in studios, during separate tours of Britain a year apart, hence the different bass and drums teams: Don Rafael Garrett and Dennis Charles on one, Wilber Morris and Thurman Barker on the other.
The material includes originals by Bang (three) and Lowe (one). There are six covers, each delivered with a couture flourish: Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae," Rashied Ali's "Blood On The Cross," Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" (check the YouTube below), Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You," John Coltrane's "Mr Syms" and Sonny Rollins' "Pent Up Suite."
Prescription, indeed, filled. Patient making speedy recovery.
Little Melonae; Ballad With One L; Spooning; Loweology; Blood On The Cross; Lonely Woman; Suite For Gamma Pt 1; Suite For Gamma Pt 2; I Mean You; Mr Syms; Pent Up Suite.
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