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Bobby Bradford/Francis Wong/William Roper: Purple Gums

Rex  Butters By

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The San Francisco-based Asian Improv label continues to release remarkable sessions with Purple Gums, a wind trio with Bobby Bradford, William Roper, and Francis Wong. The resulting disc shows a band deeply attuned to each other's whims, and skillful in extending musical conversations.

"Baleen and Porpoises" begins with Roper's low notes on tuba. Bradford enters with a cornet fanfare, then Wong, and the two of them chase each other like pups. Roper's round smooth tone and fluency makes him an equal in these group improvisations. Wong introduces "Patois" with short bursts of notes, soon to be joined by Bradford playing patterns that Wong harmonizes and imitates, with Roper adding percussion. When Roper plays a short figure on tuba, they continue to play their close listening game.

The first of Roper's spoken pieces, the title track, tells an unsavory story of guy "in the mood," but the otherwise attractive women he meets have advanced gingivitis: purple gums. Bradford backs the funny monologue bluesily, and all three improvise between Roper's recitations. "A Boy Like You," again has Wong and Bradford in uncanny co-creation with Roper providing percussion, then tuba.

"Bugle Boys" starts out in a blues funk phase that recalls the World Saxophone Quartet. Wong plays a blues tenor while Bradford and Roper improvise short bursts. Bradford plays some reveille variations with Roper, then Wong and Bradford get back to their soul riff. "You a Square" features Roper trying to give a friend a clue. Wong on flute works with Bradford, and when Roper joins, they play funny little pizzicato variations. "Falling Water" shows the musicians at their most empathetic, gracefully branching out and maintaining common ground.

"Li'l Sister" has Roper reciting gospel cliches while Wong and Bradford dig into some gospel variations. Bradford intones a more earthy sentiment and the gospel becomes the blues. The serious "Procession of the Pall" closes the set with a last look at group improvisation well shaped, crafted and coherent.

Visit Asian Improv on the web at .

This review first appeared in All About Jazz: Los Angeles .

Track Listing: Baleen & Porpoises, Patois/ Purple Gums, A Boy Like You, Bugle Boys, You a Square, Falling Water, Li'l Sister, Procession of the Pall

Personnel: Bobby Bradford- cornet, voice; Francis Wong- tenor saxophone, flute; William Roper- tuba, voice, percussion

Title: Purple Gums | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Asian Improv Records


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