Here’s a stellar opus of vintage 60’s inventive-extremism without clear coeval. Neuro-flipping out of the enormously prestigious experimental clarion of 1969’s Actuel/BYG New Music/Free Jazz extravaganza in France that resulted in a cult series of fantastic, daring & exotic performances/recordings/albums, Sunny Murray’s Sunshine escapade manages to effloresce at an especially high altitude. First, let’s put Murray himself into context. Now this cat has got to be one of the weirdest & I would argue most unique drummers ever. He has a startlingly florid approach & repertoire of drastically aberrational methodology, construct & content that goes way beyond this album & consistently defies cliché, range & limit. Unreasonable, unpleasantly awkward, acutely abrasive, excessive, insufficient, & sometimes demonstrating real threat, pugnacity, ugliness & what to me sounds like execration, violence, certainly extreme sentiments. Much of Murrays work has a dark pall, whether by outlandish aggression or subtler leering & dense tenebrous rile. I may get in shit for this, but these are simply my honest interpretations (by no account correct) as a close spectator to the incredible whirlwind cocktail of intense emotive variegations ejected from his recordings. Going back to Murrays style(s) of playing, he often uses utter asymmetry. When in his lesser agitated modes you can often get slithering, shifting-leaves or other substances in motion sounds contrary to percussive criterion, often constantly changing angles & morphology. His use of space, or rather/more frequently- “timing” also creates obverse, non-musical (as in structure/familiar rhythm based rigidity that belong in a kind of structure vacuum more in the departments of “voice & confabulation” & “sound” away from any “musically” recognizable mediums (like beat, coherence, traditional form & structure). I don’t always like all of his stuff, but I never fail to marvel at the sheer novelty & drastic innovation of his incredible oddness & inventiveness. The originality is monstrous. Murray is also well known for his hysterics & his protraction which can often manifest in fast trawling repetition & what would decades later be referred to as “Blast-Beats” with in-motion fluctuations/punctuations & imbedded improvisations which were another distinctly Sunny modification. Sunny is a complete maverick! Like’ hella’ monastic. Pioneer seems almost an understatement as it suggests many follow, but Murray is so bizarre & uncompromising in certain channels that I don’t really feel a defined lineage has emerged. His “influence” should be vast (that’s harder to detect), but his personal styles & their tortuous misshapen motley customizations is too opaque & multi-involuted for replication & mass production, proving perhaps that if you push hard enough & manage to mutate that densely across multi-content you will inevitably achieve the inimitable. Whatever, the guy really is a wild card & serves shit up like no other.
Now, shifting the novelty-gauge up even further is what Murray would do as a leader. A clear predisposition for multiple wind-instruments & the goading/approbation for full on abandon & the complete overload in some kind of epicurean blow-out bonanza. So much of my favourite & fiercest Free Jazz seems to have a certain roof, but Murrays stuff has a particular all permissive lawlessness to it that seems slightly extracurricular. He brought together some amazing personnel & always seems to dragoon them in to cutting loose beyond the maximum.
Anyway, this particular album is my personal favourite of Murrays so far, consisting of three tracks. Flower Trane (13.45) exordiums with a slow grandiose overture before plunging into abject hurricane-oblivion with fantastical intensity & total overspill with all attendees throwing down somthin’ life-threatening before returning to more moderate quarters & rerunning the songs beginning theme.
Next comes “REAL”. For me, this is one of the most important/best scorchers ever recorded in the Free Jazz ambit. It’s pure exasperation from start to finish. Murray just rattles away on the cymbals with some kind of blastbeat, ensuing a kind of white noise, torrential rain, solid harsh & sharp noise urtication that gets punctured & violently torn off course by occasional foot-stabs. Pure intensity without mercy. Enter Kenneth Terroade. Now, this guy has become an icon to me. An obscure Jamaican saxophonist who as far as I know recorded only with Murray aside his disappointing LP on Actuel who then disappeared & has not been heard of since. Jesus motherfucking hutch chrerst…this sum’ bitch just tears it the fuck down. Some of the most violent & apoplectic deeply-distraint & parlous playing I have ever heard! Did he go mad? Blast some cops? What happened to this guy? for gods sakes will you listen to this stuff? Malachi Favors is also pulsing over the wire like his life depends on it. he is unfortunately quite faint & hard to make out over the incalculably austere racket Terroade & Murray are doling, but blistering impetuous ingenuity streams fourth. So damn special!
Red Cross ignites gigantic disaccord & monumental fallout, bewildering positive yet petrifyingly pugnacious, disconcerting liberational volcanic aperture with what I believe is the entire roster of musicians on the album battling it out in a biblical show-down of indomitable mayhem & fraying fanaticism. The hysteria & extremity are just off the scales. Murray wrote & designed this song for continual play/protraction as three segments are rotated amongst shredding exponentially exasperated scald & frenzy. It’s beyond powerful, obliterating & feverishly exciting, overflowing at apex emergency. The song ends abruptly after almost eight minutes & somebody can be heard saying “already?” …I completely concur. Is there any more takes/versions of these sessions available? Glorious & ineffable, an extraordinary triumph. In my excitement I forgot to state the full line-up (with a horn section to lop-limbs for) Roscoe Mitchell, Archie Shepp, Lester Bowie (SHIT!!!); Kenneth Terroade & Arthur Jones (obscure but both superb players); Malachi Favors, Alan Silva & Dave Burrell!!!
Label: Actuel/BYG/Sunspots (reissue)