191

Raphe Malik: Last Set & Sympathy

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
What is sometimes sorely missed among the current crop of players in the jazz "tradition" (and by "tradition" I mean both straight-ahead and free music) is a sense of weight. This weight, or gravity, is both sonic and metaphysical and improvised music is at a loss without it. While he was a regular member of the ensembles of Cecil Taylor and altoist Jimmy Lyons in the '70s, it is somewhat rare to hear Malik leading his own ensembles and stepping out from behind such specific compositional contexts; Malik's gifts as both composer and improviser are extremely noteworthy. Culled from archival and recent recordings, these two discs offer a clearer picture of Malik's art.

In vanguard jazz, the trumpet is not the most dominant instrument and many of its most noteworthy practitioners have seemingly built a foundation on a language of broken phrasing, growls and smears—what could be called "technical limitations."

Raphe Malik
Last Set
Boxholder
2004

Don Cherry, Alan Shorter and Bill Dixon all follow this stylistic model, trading bravura for subtle motifs. Malik, however, has built an improvisational language on clear, insistent phrasing, repeating and disassembling short phrases at high energy and punctuating with the occasional blurred arpeggio a la Albert Ayler ("Sad C" from Last Set is an excellent example of this). Culled from a 1984 live performance at the 1369 Jazz Club in Cambridge, Mass., Last Set offers a glimpse into one of Malik's early ensembles.

The group features the trumpeter's regular trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Syd Smart, both of whom figured prominently in the Lyons-Malik band, augmented here by tenor saxophonist Frank Wright. Often considered one of the true tenor firebrands in the wake of Coltrane and Ayler, Wright's R&B roots were always more directly on the surface and by the date of this recording, had synthesized bop, R&B and freedom into a unique lexicon with more than its share of humor (Wright's fabled vocalizations are in fine display here, too). Finally, though there is a slight bit of phasing on the tape, the recording quality and condition are excellent for a 20-year-old live master and only the most severe audio nuts need not apply.


Malik/McPhee/Robinson
Sympathy
Boxholder
2004

Recorded almost twenty years later, Sympathy features Malik in a trio with cornetist/saxophonist Joe McPhee and drummer Donald Robinson, whose significant work with Malik tenor foil Glenn Spearman has been documented (albeit not frequently enough). Hearing Malik next to McPhee, it is clear that the former is far less of a smearer than the latter, even in a setting where blurred multiphonics are the starting point for an improvisation. The stylistic differences between the two players make for very interesting listening, Malik the stately, melancholy bluesman and McPhee the sprite; McPhee the Don Cherry to Malik's Albert Ayler. Robinson's subtle, polyrhythmic swing is the perfect underpinning for the two trumpeters, Malik's poise especially benefiting from such wonderfully understated rhythms. It is fair to say that, whereas Malik's recordings with Wright, Spearman and Lyons are distinct and forceful outings, this trio with McPhee and Donald Robinson is a more textural affair. The compositions are less immediately arresting, but the reward is a unique entry in Malik's catalog. With these two very different sessions from Raphé Malik, the presence of improvised music is affirmed. And in a music where saxophonists, pianists and drummers seem to lead the march, the call from the brass chair is something not to be underestimated.


Last Set

Tracks: 1. Sad C (15:11); 2. Companions #2 (30:07); 3. Chaser (10:19).
Personnel: Raphe Malik - trumpet; Frank Wright - tenor saxophone; William Parker - bass; Syd Smart - drums.

Sympathy

Tracks: 1. Testament (9:14); 2. Resolving a Quote (7:43); 3. Velocity (4:53); 4. Space March (7:33); 5. Hypersonic (10:03); 6. Motivic (8:19); 7. Untitled Dialogue (6:41); 8. Call and Response (8:20); 9. Escape Route (12:35).
Personnel: Raphe Malik: Trumpet; Joe McPhee: Soprano Sax, Pocket Trumpet; Donald Robinson: Drums.


Shop

More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Three from Henry Kaiser on Balance Point Acoustics" Multiple Reviews Three from Henry Kaiser on Balance Point Acoustics
by John Eyles
Published: May 11, 2016
Read "Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One" Multiple Reviews Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2016
Read "Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas" Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Christmas Roundup 2016: Aguankó, Jeff Collins, & Vinnie Zummo" Multiple Reviews Christmas Roundup 2016: Aguankó, Jeff Collins, & Vinnie Zummo
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Albert We Hardly Knew Ye" Multiple Reviews Albert We Hardly Knew Ye
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 3, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!