How good is this? – A hidden/lost album/live performance from mercurial guitarist Michael Gregory Jackson, leading savant saxophonist Julius Hemphill, drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff & Abdul Wadud on cello – in full avant flourish. & yes! – the recording quality is plum proficient (clear, oldschool analog).
Line-up, era & conditions, for me at least, could barely be more beguiling…..you understand the implications extending right?
& damn! … it delivers, resoundingly! – on the exact magic proposed.
MGJ was & remains for me one of the flat-out most interesting & artistically accomplished musicians to emerge from the Avant Jazz outback. I think he had one of the most original, challenging & multivalent mannerisms as a guitarist, & just as crucially, would frequently deploy & assert this acuity into the most strange & uncharted of terrain. He also possessed exemplar skill, technical & compositional abilities, but wielded & dispensed them in a manner that was regularly unconventional & highly personalized. This created a series of unique characteristics & dialects.
Expanding on this eccentricity was a sense of immense sensitivity & almost delicate dispensation. & yet, MGJ would also, thrillingly, expound into major absonance & stridulation. This created a kind of double-rareness, as the wilder & more discordant angles are almost entirely played/delivered by contrasting players, who approach/dispense such themes with a more wild expression or conduct. Here you have the almost contradictory feature of graceful, suave, finesse-driven manoeuvres applied to the pandemonium kaleidoscope & wildest currents of the avant or free jazz . It is very special.
Hemphill is another precious proponent in his own right. The inclusion of the cellist/bassist Abdul Wadud – who had a close creative rapport with Hemphill, appearing on many of his albums – perhaps best represented by the excellent Live in New York LP (it is a great shame that very little recordings by Wadud outside Hemphil’s aegis have otherwise materialized).
These musicians had already established a strong artistic affinity & harmony together.
Michael & Pheeroan had also cultivated an intensely synergistic homologation that had been tightly-wound with their extensive playing for Oliver Lake. Extraordinary recordings & albums have been captured from this fantastic moment such as Holding Together, Zaki, Shine! & Life Dance of Is.
It is not always necessary for such familiarities to be present, but I think the potential benefits are clearly captured on F.E.K.
There are four tracks within, encompassing just under forty minutes of sound. Sheer brilliance, ample versatility & variations,weighty, adventurous & bold – black Avant Jazz. Scripted sections, tumbling megrim, free-grasping gamuts & sweeping interplay …. a huge, huge shifting range that
eventuates with the sublime A Meditation, an arcane, elemental, divination-delicacy of gentle rain-fall & cryptic ethno-astrology where MGJ performs on flute.
Just such a great recording & standard of the genre.
MGJ’s career conversions & history are almost as fascinating as his music. This release was produced by Michael himself, who may well be sitting on more early recordings with Hemphill, Lake, Braxton & the like, which we can only hope emerge. He has been actively returning to complex & free jazz in recent years with a series of albums, as well as astounding on the extraordinary avant-jazz standout Edogeny & Exogamy LP with lunatic-drummer Kikanju Baku & veteran tuba player Joseph Daley, which bored a whole new section into the book.
produced by Michael Gregory Jackson, 1977, self-released, digital download