Wednesday, February 22, 2017

'Interstellar Space' at 50

New at Rolling Stone, my 50th-birthday tribute (measured from date of recording, not release) to one of my favorite albums, Interstellar Space. Features fresh input from Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Brötzmann, Nels Cline, Ingrid Laubrock and others, as well as archival thoughts from the late, great Rashied Ali — a big thanks to everyone who took the time to speak with me.

Please check out this DFSBP bonus track, the complete transcript of my interview with Louie Belogenis, who has a couple of choice quotes in the piece but who shared so much more wisdom and insight regarding Coltrane's artistry in general and Interstellar Space in particular.

Few quick addenda:

*Here's the original Rolling Stone review of Interstellar Space, by Stephen "Hammer of the Gods" Davis, for anyone who's interested.

*I wanted to delve a bit further into the shadowy pre-Interstellar history of sax/drums duets in jazz but didn't want to veer too far off course. In addition to Ali's mention of undocumented duos with Archie Shepp (cited in my 2003 Rashied interview for All About Jazz, a Q and A I quote frequently in the new piece), there's this tantalizing passage in the book that comes with Revenant's Holy Ghost Albert Ayler box. The speaker is Mr. Milford Graves, discussing Ayler's visits to his apartment in East New York, Brooklyn. The time frame isn't specified, but my educated guess is that the below would have taken place around 1965, when the two were working together most frequently:

"We played a lot of duets at my house — just the two of us. The things that we did when he came over to my house aren't on any records; people hear the records and they don't hear the real Albert Ayler — the Albert Ayler who's relaxed when he's not around a major audience for which he's going to have to play something that people will dig, or play a tune he has recorded so he can sell some records." 

*Along similar lines, we also have, of course, the brief Coltrane / Art Taylor duet that commences about 30 seconds into "Countdown," as well as this epic Trane / Roy Haynes showdown from Newport '63 (thanks to Ben Ratliff and his essential Coltrane: Story of a Sound for the tip-off on the latter, which is sort of hiding in plain sight; there's more great Ratliff-on-Trane in this 2001 Times piece):

Not to mention the Interstellar-style duet that erupts between Trane and Ali around 3:20 into "Offering," recorded just a week before Interstellar itself:

*Here's a short list of other sax/drums recordings I love — either old favorites or albums I've discovered while working on the RS piece. There's a nice, long list up on the Free Jazz Blog (though now out of date, since new ones are surfacing all the time, e.g., Rich and Carson Halley's brand-new The Wild — thanks to Derek Taylor and Dusted for the tip-off — which I can't wait to check out in full):

Sunny Murray / Arthur Doyle, Dawn of a New Vibration
Sunny Murray / Sabir Mateen, We Are Not at the Opera 
Essential 2000s-era Sunny Murray, shaggy, swinging and sublime, on these two. Doyle and Mateen — both of whom double on flute — know what's up and of course hold their own next to the gentle giant.

Fred Anderson / Robert Barry, Duets 2001
Fred Anderson / Steve McCall, Vintage Duets
The former is maybe my single favorite sax/drums album next to Interstellar itself — a sort of freebop infinity, relaxed but never casual. The McCall set, recorded back in 1980, is a deep Chicago document.

Milford Graves / David Murray, Real Deal
David Murray / Jack DeJohnette, In Our Style (Fred Hopkins appears on some tracks)
Milford Graves / John Zorn, 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 2
Two of the best representations of Milford Graves on record, with two very different, very well-matched partners, as well as a fun, gutsy Murray/DeJohnette dust-up.

Denis Charles / Jemeel Moondoc, We Don't
Pure infectious exuberance as a Caribbean-born '60s survivor meets a loft-era alto wizard circa '81. Charles's roughly contemporary duos with clarinetist Peter Kuhn, featured on disc 2 here, are also excellent.

Peter Brötzmann / Paal Nilssen-Love, Wood Cuts
Paal Nilssen-Love / Joe McPhee, Tomorrow Came Today (McPhee plays pocket trumpet on some tracks; reissued as part of the Candy box set)
Peter Brötzmann / Shoji Hano, Funny Rat/s series
Pick your poison, really, when it comes to Brötz drum duets — I must have them all! — but I've gotten good mileage out of Wood Cuts and the third Funny Rat/s disc with the incredible Hano. Nilssen-Love and pretty much anyone, doing pretty much anything, is going to be worth your close attention, and the McPhee here is no exception.

Willem Breuker / Han Bennink, New Acoustic Swing Duo (Breuker also plays clarinets)
Kaoru Abe / Hiroshi Yamazaki, Jazz Bed

Two of the earliest, not to mention most wildest, entries in the sax/drums canon, with the Bennink/Breuker being recorded all the way back in late '67 (thanks to Ben Young for the tip-off). The Abe/Yamazaki, recorded in '71, is just so goddamn raw/real.

Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano, The Beloved Music

Paul Flaherty / Randall Colbourne, Bridge Out!
Speaking of raw/real, here be Flaherty and Corsano, the standard bearers of the punk offshoot of the sax/drums monolith. Flaherty/Colbourne is a subtler yet just as compelling combo.

Jimmy Lyons / Andrew Cyrille, Burnt Offering

Jimmy Lyons / Andrew Cyrille, Something in Return
Cecil Taylor Unit blood brothers getting down to serious business.

Dewey Redman / Ed Blackwell, Red and Black in Willisau

Ornette blood brothers doing same.

Kid Millions / Jim Sauter, Fountain

Keeping the tradition moving. Molten noisejazz lava with surprising sensitivity. See also: Sauter's duet with Weasel Walter on this 2014 WW improv sampler, on which he also goes toe-to-toe with Marshall Allen and Marco Eneidi.

Jon Irabagon / Mike Pride, I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues
Another contemporary spin. Obsessive, insular and just downright perverse at times.

What are your favorites?

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