Drummer Bruce Ditmas’ wish list comes to fruition on the 1995 “Postcards” release titled, What If. Among the noteworthy crop of re-releases from Arkadia Records who now own the Postcards catalogue is this mind boggling work featuring a who’s who of modern jazz stylists such as pianist Paul Bley, bassist Dominic Richards, saxophonist Sam Rivers and guitarist John Abercrombie. According to the liners, Ditmas handed Postcards something similar to a Christmas want-list as they proceeded to round up these consummate and highly influential jazz musicians.
On What If Ditmas slashes and burns while boasting a booming, resonant sound as he provides the thunderous intro for pianist Paul Bley on the opener, “Island Seven”. Here and throughout, Ditmas engages complex polyrhythms in effortless fashion as he provides the enormous pulse behind Abercrombie’s angular and somewhat ferocious attack, which rekindles memories of his now classic ECM release, “Timeless”. The title track, “What If” is electrically charged and proceeds at a feverish pace as the great Sam Rivers’ sinewy and explosive tenor sax work along with the forceful rhythms and turbo charged interplay among the bandmates offers something which borders fusion and modern jazz. Paul Bley stretches out in elegant fashion on “Clever Conversations” while Ditmas and Richards employ a relentless rhythmic assault. Unadulterated intensity provided by Abercrombie’s signature and somewhat manic guitar stylizations along with the muscular rhythmic assault are prevalent factors on the barnburner titled, “Pulp”. On “Power Surge”, the heat continues while “Don’t Wake Up” is ethereal and dreamy thanks to Bley’s colorful and textural articulations on synthesizer along with his pensive or somewhat dirge-like acoustic piano work. A fitting finale to an unyielding and explosive affair!
Upon its original release, What If received critical praise and accolades and justifiably so as it becomes rather obvious from the onset that Ditmas was geared up for this date. What If offers a potpourri of modern/free-jazz, fusion and takes off into the stratosphere to some unknown destination, as the men only know one way, which is straight ahead with no looking back. * * * * ½
Bruce Ditmas; Drums: John Abercrombie; Guitars: Paul Bley; Piano & Synthesizers: Dominic Richards; Bass: Sam Rivers; Tenor & Soprano Saxophone.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.