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Ronnie Boykins: The Will Come, Is Now

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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For Ronnie Boykins, Sun Ra's bassist, The Will Come, Is Now brings to a close a remarkable sojourn that stretched from his galactic showcasing with the Arkestra at the Judson Hall performances of 1964 to an intellectual deconstruction of bebop. During the years that followed, Boykins appeared with Sam Rivers and was also heard at Ornette Coleman's loft. And on this record, Boykins journeys through the Heliocentric worlds back to his Afro-centric soul at the helm of a fine ensemble with music that cuts to the heart of a spiritualism born of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and Archie Shepp.

The music that Boykins put together for this session is sinewy, sensuous, and gut-wrenching in its soulful sensibility. The title track kicks off the session with a majestic pedal point. Its ominous minor melodic line brightens just a wee bit as the music progresses from the bass line to include the horns and woodwinds. The conversations between saxophones and trombone and bass run riot and swing superbly between the ponderous and the delicate. On "Starlight At The Wonder Inn," Boykins' bass and James Vass' sax are once again entwined in the embrace of glorious glissandos and arco con brio moaning. Johnny Hodges meets Charles Mingus in Vass and Boykins. So animated is the music and so full of human speech-like patterns that it may even be possible to determine ghostly figures in the narrative as bodies entwine in the unabashed lovemaking that the song sets out to describe.

Another unique aspect of the session is its simplicity. Boykins divined a way to tell devious stories and unearth complex emotions—of anger, love, and pathos—by simply mixing the frequencies and ranges of simple saxophones and woodwinds, crossing their breathtaking harmonics and that of his own skillfully plucked and bowed bass with the polyrhythms of the percussionists. The constant chatter of the congas and other assorted percussion draws a simple melodic line through the classicism of Europe and Asia and Africa. "The Will Come, Is Now," "Demon's Dance," "Dawn Is Evening, Afternoon," and "The Third I"—especially the ultimate track of this exquisite record—are fine examples of this beautiful interplay. There is no difference in the wonderfully sensuous and the wildly adventurous. Melodic counterpoint co-mingling with brazen and outspoken Afro-blue impressionistic audacity.

The climax is captured in "The Third I," a song with extreme dramatic tension that is performed almost throughout its choruses by percussion instruments, with the occasional accents of the sousaphone and flute. Until, that is, the music shifts dramatically from the primal rhythms of what appears to be a ritual celebration and delves into the searching of the soul, once again. This time it appears that the resolution is imminent when wave upon wave of percussion dissolves into a swinging jazz ensemble. And so the founder of ESP Disk, Bernard Stollman's patience and permission has paid off and a record to rival the best from John Coltrane to Albert Ayler and Rivers makes a lasting impression in one fell swoop.

Track Listing: The Will Come, Is Now; Starlight At The Wonder Inn; Demon's Dance; Dawn Is Evening, Afternoon; Tipping On Heels; The Third I.

Personnel: Ronnie Boykins: bass and sousaphone; Joe Ferguson: soprano and tenor saxophones, flute; Monty Walters: alto and soprano saxophones; James Vass: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Daoud Haroom: trombone; Art Lewis: percussion; George Avaloz: congas.

Title: The Will Come, Is Now | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk


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