Friday, 29 January 2016

The Old New Thing: A Free Jazz Anthology, Abraxas/Esp-Disk, 2007

'Not long ago, talking about Coltrane's The Olatunji Concert in an interview, I said: "Before you decide whether you like it or not, listen to it three times. The first time as a mere background while you're doing something else (it's not very good for sex though). The second time, listen to it attentively. The third time, listen to it with earphones as you're walking the streets of your town.' 
- Wu Ming 1

.............................Free Jazz alert - as George Clinton suggests on the intro to the Dr Funkenstein album...........................
may I frighten you? as in 
'No, you may not!'
'No, Free Jazz doesn't frighten me!'
which is it, then?

No matter, I won't make assumptions but if I had to I'd guess that Free Jazz isn't exactly top of your listening agenda on a weekly basis - mine neither, actually, because I listened to a lot centuries ago, but that's not why, is it? I listened to a lot of Free Jazz then gradually stopped is what happened..........
I couldn't take it any more!

Aside from Ornette Coleman, who is one of the people to blame for the racket certain blacks (and whites) made in the 60s, as you probably know............Free Jazz (1961).............but what is 'Free Jazz'? A contentious label for those who claim Jazz was always freedom music to start with and the birth of that label didn't help fact, it hindered everything because some folk hated Jazz being associated with all that apparently formless, unstructured blowing, scraping, squealing, honking etc. - it wasn't even 'music', never mind Jazz!

Well all that's an old debate (or not, perhaps, if you're involved in the Jazz world today). More importantly, mooching around the Islington Oxfam shop last Saturday I found The Old New Thing: A Free Jazz Anthology just sitting out front of the CDs, minding it's own business...the little (A5) blue package was immediately attractive to me, especially since the name Wu Ming was attached, thus joining literary 'rebels' (or at least an interesting collective) with appropriate music.

That's sound advice from Wu Ming 1's essay in the booklet quoted above (the full notes are online here). This stuff really would benefit from 3 different types of listening, perhaps like all avant-garde sound. That is if you don't naturally warm to it in the first place, of course. As I said earlier, I've not played any Free Jazz for a long time but this package was cheap and features a nice booklet along with the 2-Disc selection from the ESP label......

One strange thing about the track by Marzette Watts (Backdrop For Urban Revolution) I've chosen to upload is that along with being shortened from its original 13mins samples from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X have also been added. I don't mind, actually. In fact, it kind of 'modernises' the piece (though others would consider it sacrilege, I'm sure), but only in the sense that I remember civil rights leaders' samples being popular back in the 80s as a way of spicing up 'beat' tracks. So it's modern, but old-fashioned modern. Anyway, have a listen, perhaps three times, then decide.............

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