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Pittsburgh native Eric Kloss (b. 1949) was one of the most distinctive, original voices to emerge on alto sax in the mid-60s. He was only 16 when the first of his eleven Prestige albums was released in 1965. These records featured the cream of the crop of New York musicians and the young Kloss more than held his own with heavyweights like Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, Chick Corea, Cedar Walton, and most notably, guitarist Pat Martino.
Kloss switched to the Muse label in 1972 and debuted with this outstanding quartet recording, One, Two, Free ; which remains his finest achievement. In a group featuring Martino on guitar and Ron Thomas on electric piano as well as bassist Dave Holland and fellow Pittsburgher Ron Krasinski on drums, Kloss pushes and pulls his group to take chances that explore the outer edges of bop, fusion and even funky pop music.
The 18-minute, three-part title track is clearly influenced by Bitches Brew (on which bassist Holland also participated). But here, like on the surprisingly substantial funk of Carole King's "It Too Late," Kloss's arched sound and searing style move the ostinato vamp in a more avant-garde direction (the way Arthur Blythe later would). Martino gets a notable share of the solo spotlight and never ceases to amaze in his mixture of cool chordal comps and fleet runs up and down the fretboard.
Kloss's beautiful ballad, "Licea," guided by Dave Holland's moody, signature string work, is the jewel of this collection and probably deserves to be better known. Martino waxes lyrically before Kloss enters for a rueful countenance that's worth the price of admission.
32 Jazz was wise to bring One, Two, Free back into circulation - and maintain Don Schlitten's beautiful cover-art photography too. Priced well below other recent jazz reissues, One, Two, Free is a significant chapter in 1970s jazz and provides a great opportunity to discover the interesting music of Eric Kloss (who, despite no widespread releases since the early 1980s, still performs infrequently at Pittsburgh events with his vocalist wife). Even though there's 42 minutes of music here, one wishes creative interaction this good kept on going. Recommended.
Songs:One, Two, Free Suite: Pt. 1, One, Two, Free; Pt. 2, Elegy; Pt. 3, The Wizard; It's Too Late; Licea.
Players:Eric Kloss: alto sax; Pat Martino: guitar; Ron Thomas: electric piano, tambourine; Dave Holland: bass, electric bass; Ron Krasinski: drums.