LOST MASTERPIECE OF 1977
Steve Wyzard | Lomita, CA | 08/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are reading this review and do not own this album on any format, stop immediately, drop everything, mortgage the house, and buy it! Yes I know this is hard to come by and a true rarity, but it really is that good. The Plot features the same line-up as 1975's The Pilgrim and the Stars, which is easy to find and also a great album, but pales in comparison.
The four performers on this album have made literally hundreds of recordings, but very few can match the virtuosity and over-the-top intensity found on The Plot. Jon Christensen, known to most as the cool ECM house drummer, plays with a DeJohnette/Williams fire that is unbelievable. Bassist Palle Danielsson, coming off classic performances on Witchi-Tai-To and Belonging, almost impossibly reminds one of Dave Holland. Guitarist John Abercrombie plays with his normal outrageous brilliance. And Enrico Rava, IMHO one of the truly great trumpeters, has never made a better album. This one demands a track-by-track breakdown:
"Tribe": The opener establishes a pattern: Christensen/Danielsson/Abercrombie start a heavy groove before Rava enters last. With an unforgetable riff, this one should be a standard.
"On the Red Side of the Street": At first you might think this is one of the obligatory free improv numbers that appear on almost every ECM album before 1982. Then Rava plays one of the saddest, most mournful lines you'll ever hear. Abercrombie and Danielsson create effective moods and keep this from becoming a dirge.
"Amici": It sounds like a missing track from the Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette Gateway albums, with Danielsson's playing particularly mind-blowing. Rava's trumpet cries/wails/shrieks/howls and just plain jams over a very busy background.
"Dr.Ra and Mr.Va": Abercrombie and Rava push each other to new levels of intensity. Also features a bluesy intro and a fabulous descending note melody. Another one that should be a standard.
"Foto di Famiglia": A quiet duet interlude before the epic. Abercrombie's acoustic guitar backs Rava's beautiful solo.
"The Plot": Clocking in at 15:00, it's a slow intro/long jam/slow coda classic. Once the rhythm section gets going, everyone just TAKES OFF! Rava blows from sweet to sour, from fire to ice, while Abercrombie's fluid "out there" solo reminds one of his Timeless album.
The only question that remains to be answered is, why is this album so hard to find? Maybe everyone who owns it would be hard-pressed to part with it. If ECM can give the wild avant-garde early Jan Garbarek albums an American release, why not The Plot, which is much more accesible? Does the lack of a saxophone player or a keyboardist to trade solos with scare some people off? Maybe the presence of an electric guitarist on a trumpeter's album automatically makes people think "fusion", but I've never heard anyone complain about John McLaughlin's playing on In a Silent Way. All I can say is, if you love the trumpet, love jazz guitar, or love the ECM sound in general, you will not be disappointed with this lost masterpiece. BUY IT!!!! And shame on ECM for not making it easier to find. Oh, I also love Beatrize Vidal's ethereal cover design!