After leaving the Cecil Taylor Unit in 1979, Raphe Malik seemed to have disappeared until his first record as a leader appeared in 1989 ( 21st Century Texts
). Last Set
proves that Malik was not only playing, but he was cutting some incredible chops.
Taken from the last set of a two-night engagement at Boston's 1369 Club in 1984, Last Set is an amazing exercise in live free improvisation. It features the late free jazz icon Reverend Frank Wright, William Parker and Boston native Syd Smart, who all have crossed paths at various points. Malik had been using William Parker for quite some time in his bands. As well, Parker was a veteran of Taylor's bands, while leading some fine ones of his own. The only player here that maybe unfamiliar to some is Syd Smart, a longtime associate of Malik, teacher in the Cambridge area, and founder of Friends of Great Black Music Loft and the John Coltrane Memorial Concert.
The disc is laid out over three tracks that vary in melody and style. Working all within the free idiom, the chops are blazing left and right. The centerpiece "Companions #2" is a stellar 30-minute piece featuring some heavy blasting from Malik, wicked backbone and bow work from Parker, and an excellent skin workout from Smart. The track also features some unintelligible vocals from Wright that give the piece a bizarre but interesting charm. It's not really scatting nor singing, but certainly a style of vocalization that seems to be all be his own. "Companions #2" trips all over a melody, but comes on full force near the end.
According to the press information, both sets were recorded. This is the only one that Malik has found and released. But if the other set is anywhere near as solid as this one, it will be a welcome release. Last Set: Live at the 1369 Jazz Club is a great "lost" recording from some of the genre's premier musicians. And like much of the music from this style, it still sounds fresh. Fans of free and avant-garde will be in for a treat.