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Aimez-vous Prokofiev? Granados? These composers' piano pieces are good markers of the genre of most of this set, which is based on compositions by the most fascinating individual jazz pianists. The chosen pianists were (and some still are) idiosyncratic and individual, although some were nearer than others to "Legit techniques and 20th Century piano music.
There's no doubting Madsen's ability to analyse and dismantle the original compositions of these distinctive, unique, non-routine stylists. He also has the considerable compositional ability needed to shape the derived material into structurally strong independent works, and the stylistic command needed for transitions between idioms.
That is marvellously obvious in the Herbie Nichols and Hassan Ibn Ali material. While most of this music starts far from the original idioms, it's amazing the way Madsen homes in, even homes into Nichols' style, and to an individual Monk-related style which presumably was that of Ali (whose one album with Art Blakey Madsen took years to findI've never seen it in over twenty years of hunting!).
Andrew Hill's music is individually recognisable too, but the pianist whose sound Madsen probably comes closest to overall is Randy Weston. Weston's later more African-directed music is less jazz-inflected than his much earlier, often light and melodic work. Weston came to sound a bit nearer some African pianists, and on the one Weston composition Madsen tends to sound a shade too much like a pastiche of Weston. Dick Twardzik's own all too few recordings are now at last available, and a lot of Mal Waldron is out there, though not I fear Hassan Ibn Ali. This is rather a suite of Madsen's music, based on at times distant originals, than a demonstration of top-line non-standard jazz piano.
It would also be good if some pianists listening to this set found indications of ways of finding a new voice on the pianoan individual voice, like one of these guys. The title (and title track) are indeed from Sun Ra. Others represented include Cecil Taylor ("Rick Kick Shaw is on the edge of bombastic, middle-period Taylor), Lennie Tristano and Muhal Richard Abrams.
Track Listing: Boo; Subterfuge; Three-Four vs. Six-Eight Four-Four Ways; The Bird Song; The Third World; Rick Kick Shaw; A Portrait of the Living Sky; Blues for Africa; The Girl From Greenland; Leave Me.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.