Music Reviews

Mount Everest Trio

Waves From Albert Ayler


Joe McPhee

Nation Time


Waves From Albert Ayler and Nation Time are both part of the Unheard Music Series, a reissue program from Chicago-based Atavistic Records. The UMS is coordinated by John Corbett, who selects and produces all of these records. It focuses on “rarities from the realms of action jazz, creative music and free improvisation, specializing in lost music of the ’60s and ’70s, but leaving room for particularly outstanding items that fall outside those stylistic and temporal waters.” These two records fall square into the free-jazz side of the spectrum, Mount Everest Trio delivering the free, and Joe McPhee dropping the jazz.

Mount Everest Trio is a Swedish band that consists of Gilbert Holmstrom on alto and tenor saxes, Kjell Jansson on bass and Conny Sjokvist on drums. These three offer up a blistering collection of covers and originals. Albert Ayler’s spiritual cries must have struck a deep chord within these three for them to memorialize him in the title of such a powerful document. Their cover of Ayler’s “Spirits” is a fiery tribute to the late master. Following that is an equally dexterous, but less frenzied cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin’.” Holmstrom sails, while the bass and drums churn tectonically. Most of the tracks here are originals, with “Orinoco” waving sinuously and “No Hip Shit” ripping apart any semblance of structure and replacing it with fire and raw drive. The, um, “enthusiastic” liner notes are by fellow Swede Mats Gustafsson, who has made plenty of joyful noise recently.

Nation Time was intended by McPhee to be a tribute to Amiri Baraka, a man “firmly committed to the creation of a black nation.” This puts Nation Time in the continuum of Great Black Art, also occupied by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. For Nation Time is strong, black music that reflects the revolutionary nature of the times (it was recorded in 1971). It’s not exclusionary in any way though. In his liner notes, Ken Vandermark writes about how “free” this album is, in it’s combination of soaring melody and powerful improvisation. Two of the three tracks here (“Nation Time” and “Scorpio’s Dance”) feature the quintet of Joe McPhee on tenor sax and trumpet, Mike Kull on acoustic and electric piano, Tyrone Crabb on bass and trumpet, and Bruce Thompson with Ernest Bostic on percussion. “Shakey Jake” features the addition of Otis Greene on alto sax, Herbie Lehman on organ and Dave Jones on electric guitar. McPhee is generally known for his free improvisation, but Nation Time shows a funky and soulful side to him. The tunes are all very solidly tunes, embracing the vibrant, powerful aspects of melody. McPhee’s solo on “Nation Time” gets to the point where he seems to be yelling out of the sax, because he’s so riled up. “Shakey Jake” reaches ’70s Miles Davis-esque density at times, but each musician retains a distinct identity within the mix. Nation Time epitomizes the revolutionary quality of free jazz in both a political and personal way, pulling the chair out from under your backside and yanking you to your feet.

Atavistic, P.O. Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657;

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