Alto saxophonist Noah Howard was a key player in the free jazz movement of the 1960s. He moved into the realm of that decadea time when the atmosphere was rife with saxophonists primed to the calling. Born in New Orleans, Howard characterized his approach with a distinctive sensibility for gospel music that unraveled enticingly in his explorations. His improvisations revolved on the turnstiles of a ripe imagination, and it was no surprise, then, that his first record as a leader, Noah Howard Quartet (1965) was for the avant-garde ESP Disk label. After Noah Howard at Judson Hall (ESP Disk) the following year, Howard went on to play with several free jazz heavyweights including saxophonist Archie Shepp, pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Sunny Murray.
Howard was a man of many parts: he travelled extensively, working with poets and musicians in India, Africa and Europe; after living in Paris, Brussels and Nairobi, he returned to the USA, recording extensively and playing several concert dates. A live radio broadcast in Bremen, Germany on January 1, 1975 now sees the light of day, thanks to Jan Ström, who aims to support the participating artists with the proceeds of this CD-R.
Even as he stamped his presence as an exponent of free movement, Howard never forsook melody. "Olé Negro" is right up front, captivating with an irresistible musical loop that sways and beckons. Howard keeps his tone light and agile before turning hard into invention as corkscrew phrases replace sweet intonation. His easy essaying of structure and improvisation is absorbing and heady. He is well met by pianist Kakashi Kako who sustains the momentum with flowing excursions and a hard-driving rhythm section that help elevate this to a high plateau.
"New Arrival" is a lovely ballad that basks in the glow of Howard's altothat is, until Kako stirs the pulse with a clasp of notes that dovetail and churn. The complexity is made manifest in the center as Howard returns to play with compelling majesty.
This CD is a worthy addition, not only to Howard's discography, but to the catalogue of all excellent jazz as well.
Ole Negro; Pearl Stream; New Arrival; Ziki.
Noah Howard: alto saxophone; Kakashi Kako: piano; Kent Carter: bass; Oliver Johnson: drums.
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