SOME OTHER STUFF
Stuart Jefferson | San Diego,Ca | 02/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One disc approximately 40 minutes long. Remastered in 2008,the sound is crisp and clean. Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records was never one who pushed "the new thing" in jazz,even when other labels were at the time releasing this kind of music with a bit of success. Having said that,Blue Note did release some albums that looked ahead. Jackie McLean's DESTINATION OUT! and ONE STEP BEYOND,for example,were turning points for both jazz and Blue Note.
This quintet is made up of musicians who went on to play some of the most forward-thinking jazz of it's time. Besides Moncur III on trombone,we have Wayne Shorter on tenor sax,Herbie Hancock on piano,Cecil McBee on bass,and Tony Williams(who was all of eighteen) on drums. Together they make up a great cohesive unit on this set. The first track lets the listener know they are in for something different;indeed if that was the only track you heard you might wonder about the other tunes. It is almost atonal in composition,with everyone playing around and sometimes over one another,while at the same time weaving a dense blanket of sound that is fairly intense. The second track (all the tunes are by Moncur III)is basically straight ahead jazz in execution and is a real contrast to the first track. It's almost as if the players are letting the listener catch his breath after the first opening salvo.
The third track is somewhat of a blend of "outside" music and straight ahead jazz. While there is a melody it's pushed into the background,only to reappear again. This is one of those tunes that demands the listener's full attention,as the group switches back and forth,and sometimes blends both styles of music together. Being the longest track on the album,it gives the players plenty of opportunity to stretch out,which is very satisfying. The last track starts out with drumming,sounding almost like a strange military march,which then quickly segues into a call and response type thing between the two horns. Then they quiet down and Williams comes in on drums in that same quirky off-kilter march style. This track is basically a showcase for Williams' technique-the rest of the group fall in and out of the composition seemingly at will(but you know this was a true composition by it's tightness)letting Williams' drums carry the load.
All in all this is a good example of Moncur III's writing and (with the rest of the band) playing skills. It is certainly a welcome addition to the few recordings under his name."
Ambitious and Successful Music
Gerrit R. Hatcher | 02/26/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album feels like traveling through a nebula. Every piece is very subtle and is composed to provide freedom to the great musicians involved. It's a pity that all of the avant-garde is so frequently swept together under that one label; this is not stream of consciousness free-blowing but very tentative probing compositional playing that constantly flirts with atonality, but uses it to great artistic effect. Everyone involved is a great and highly skilled player; Grachan's sidemen are Wayne Shorter, Herbe Hancock, Cecil McBee and Tony Williams, or, in other words, three fifths of Miles Davis' next quintet, and one of the most explorative bassists out there. For those who think of freer music as a place for unrefined players who scream without nuance, this album would be a great rebuttal.
After the stellar and less challenging album Evolution, Grachan once again proves himself a brilliant pacer of albums. After the spacey, almost creepy, opener Ngostic, he pulls back to the catchy post-bop swinger Thandiwa, and then moves a bit farther out to the swinging but quite tonally malleable piece The Twins, and concludes with a drum feature, Nomadic. Tony Williams definitely deserves his chance to explore here, although this track may be the hardest to get into. Nomadic plays delicately with rhythm, tonality, and huge amounts of nearly silent space. It will never offend the ears, but it will boggle the mind. The Twins segues from moments of tension and unclear rhythm, to superb sections of walking bass and swinging drums without the listener being able to pinpoint the moment when the change occured. I do not know how pre planned this piece was, but in any case this piece is a great feat of collective musicianship with so many different "movements" and moods that it outdoes other free jazz tracks of twice and even four times its length in terms of diversity and mutual respect amongst the musicians.
This is Moncur's best album, and while it may not accommodate on the first listen as well as Evolution, this quintet proves just how necessary the avant-garde was to breath life and creativity back into jazz at this time."