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Pianist Lowell Davidson was a man of many parts. A biochemist, he found his muse in music and a strong one it was. He not only played the piano, he also played drums with the New York Art Quintet. He was into avant-garde and free jazz forays that he raised to a new level through his manipulation of notes. The last is evidenced in the marvelous imagery that rises on this, his only record. Lowell had Gary Peacock on bass and Milford Graves on percussion, a rare pairing that gives insight to his vision. They work well in the free flowing and changing dimensions he sets up, ready for his every whim, alert to his agile shifts.
Davidson could make the piano speak in many different ways. His mainstay was improvisation, and he let his right hand find founts of inspiration and invention in beautifully flitting notes as well as deep emphasis. Davidson did not let space dominate the intervals. He let it in judiciously. And when he did, Peacock and Graves moved in.
There are five tunes on the CD, but "Strong Tears" and "Stately 1" show how Davidson could ramp up improvisation and let melody set the path for him.
Davidson sets up a repeated vamp on "Strong Tears" as Graves thuds with bass kicks and lets the rhythm hit a lighter flex with his rim shots on the cymbals. Davidson ups the pace and the depth and as intensity storms in, he darts about before cutting loose and hammering home a welter of well conceived notes. But it is not all boil and fury. Peacock takes over, drawing in the propulsion and getting Davidson and Graves to soak in the calm. It's well-crafted, with the groundwork paved with rich imagination.
The delicate melody of "Stately 1" is gently unfolded by Davidson. Graves is a tad too busy on percussion, but he does not detract from the effect. Davidson gives the melody more momentum before he fragments it. From then on the trio rides the open range executing ideas at the turn of a beat. When they have satiated themselves, and the listener, they return to acknowledge the melody. Davidson has used his take-off point with affecting dexterity.
ESP says that they hope to acquire tapes of Davidson performing in Boston. Meanwhile this recording serves well to define the extraordinary talent that was Lowell Davidson.
Track Listing: L; Stately 1; Dunce; Ad Hoc; Strong Tears.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.