Tuesday, January 12, 2010
With a collection of about a thousand jazz albums, for the most part carefully selected, and drawing on limited resources, the question is always where to go next. This evening I returned to my jazz Bible, the Penguin Guide, and started at the beginning. It didn't take long to arrive at Air.
Air is a trio consisting of Henry Threadgill, who seems to play just about every horn, with Fred Hopkins on bass and Steve McCall on percussion. eMusic had a Penguin Guide recommendation, Air Song, with four cuts at one download each. After listening to some brief samples, I pushed the button. As I listening to the recording, it pushed all of my buttons.
Air Song was recorded in 1975, the year I graduated from high school, and kissed my now sainted Grandmother after the ceremony. The trio originally came together to record the music of Scott Joplin. Let me tell you: Air Song is not Scott Joplin.
It is page four free jazz, but it is my favorite kind of free jazz. It certainly abstracts from melody, but it follows a coherent thread from beginning to end. You can almost hum it. Almost. But every line makes you feel like you should have known that was coming. Of course! Given the preceding twenty seconds, this had to come next.
With a multi-instrumentalist horn player backed by a bass and drums, you would expect the latter to be mere sidekicks. Not so. If in fact the bass is second fiddle, it is a very big fiddle. Fred Hopkins carries the ball for substantial portions of the songs, and his four strings are very well recorded. Air Song is proof that free jazz doesn't have to sacrifice that feelin'. All the way along each cut, this trio is following the arteries right through the depths of the heart.
Here is a sample from Air Song. Join eMusic and get the darned thing.