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Giuseppi Logan

Logan leaves behind a small body of recorded work, but his standing in the improvised avant-garde is considerable. He emerged just as free jazz was beginning to crest as a movement, and even amidst a crowded field of iconoclasts, he distinguished himself as an original.

In 1964, shortly after his arrival in New York, he participated in The October Revolution in Jazz, alongside artists like trumpeter Bill Dixon and pianist Cecil Taylor. Several weeks later he recorded The Giuseppi Logan Quartet for ESP- Disk, with impeccable partners: pianist Don Pullen, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Milford Graves.

Logan’s second album, More, was recorded live at The Town Hall during a concert of ESP-Disk artists on May 1, 1965. (The same concert yielded saxophonist Albert Ayler’s classic Bells.) His group worked often over the next year or two, notably on a college tour organized by the label; he also appears, playing flute, on College Tour, by the avant-garde vocalist Patty Waters.

In performance, Logan would not only play saxophone and flute but a range of other instruments, with varying degrees of technical facility. Reactions were mixed, with many “New Thing” converts on one end of the spectrum; the other end held a good many detractors, including the bulk of jazz’s critical establishment.

Whitney Balliett, reviewing a performance at Judson Hall for The New Yorker, noted that Logan and his band “had the air of mediums possessed.” That furious intensity wasn’t a turn-on, as Balliett made painfully clear. “Logan’s sheer dexterity masks sly sins,” he wrote, and proceeded to enumerate a few:

His violin work, made up of a million short, scratchy notes, was demonic; his trombone was equally congested; his trumpet playing was high and strangled; his alto and tenor saxophones — he dangled each instrument from his mouth like a cigarette — were a mockery of Ornette Coleman; his Pakistani oboe was a Pakistani oboe; and his vibraphone sounded as if he were pouring loose change into it.

A short film from 1966, by Edward English, shows Logan in his East Village neighborhood with his family. A hand- lettered sign on his door reads “GIUSEPPI LOGAN / Music Teacher / All Instruments / Vocal Coach.” At one point, he is heard in voiceover: “If people in any other profession are able to support their families by doing what they do, I mean, why can’t I?” he says. “Or other musicians that are doing something that’s good for society?”

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