Rashied Ali has always been unfairly typecast as the guy who usurped Elvin Jones from Coltrane's Classic Quartet, enforcing the dividing line between A Love Supreme and Trane's final phase, when the leader became all dissonant and difficult. Trane knew better than us, of course, but Ali's career after Trane didn't do much to change the perception that he was strictly a free jazzer, thanks to first-rate duet work with the late Frank Lowe, stellar performances in trios led by Peter Brötzmann, Ivo Perelman and Charles Gayle, and by leading Prima Materia, a band that assayed the work of Coltrane and Albert Ayler.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the music on Judgment Day is much more inside than out, carrying echoes of the sound of the spiritually questing Coltrane before Ali joined, the introspectiveness of mid-'60s Wayne Shorter, and the hard bop of the Jazz Messengers.
Ali puts himself in Art Blakey's role of elder statesman to the young horn men, Lawrence Clark (tenor) and Jumaane Smith (trumpet), both of whom play with fiery conviction and the technical virtuosity of seasoned veterans, blaring their instruments in unison so that the peaks are frequent and each tune is rendered as a high point. As it should be with drummer-led quintets, the rhythms are key: swaggering on Shorter's "The Big Push, laid-back and swinging on Lowe's "Sidewalks in Motion, and hard-driving on Jaco's "Dania. Nothing burns hotter than the title track, though, when Clark meets Coltrane head on and pianist Greg Murphy drops clusters of notes like propaganda bombs.
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