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Ave B Free Jam by Laurence Cook (Album Review by Nicolette L.)

In one word: oceanic(lest I fall into the trap of describing a free jazz record as ‘cacophonous’). A bit of a lost gem of the late ‘60’s New York free jazz scene finally released by Inky Dot, it is nevertheless very exciting to finally be able to listen to this record. The group here twists and writhes in a perpetual entanglement that creates a living, ever-evolving mesh over which an individual horn or drum fill will occasionally soar over. Each fragment of a solo tends to last a few seconds at a time, soon swallowed up into the musical current. The thunderous, erratic playing of bassist(slash-recording-engineer) Steve Tintweiss seems to mostly be following one of the trumpets here, and it provides the mix with a nice grounding. Laurence Cook on drums, who by this point had already played with the likes of Dixon and Paul Bley, isn’t overbearing on this jam in the slightest. He holds a dual-role here, both as the rhythmic backing of the group and an extension of the horns. His emphasis on particularly lyrical rolls on the snare and ride allow him to fit smoothly into the mesh created by the group’s tense conversations. 

There is barely a second of this record that doesn’t seem to be filled out with at least a couple players at a time, which is astounding considering that this is only a five-piece. And this constant swirl becomes defined by the rises and falls in the group’s dynamics and intensity, often guided by the blaring glissandos or four-note melody lines from the trumpets and clarinet. These almost serve the function of solos as previously mentioned, though it is hard not to view this group as one singular unit for much of the runtime; they just sound so very natural playing together. The record here is split into two separate improvisations, one on each side. The second improvisation is notably more intense than the first, with yelps and other vocal cries even being heard during the peaks of that track. I personally prefer the first improvisation, however, where more of the individual performers get a chance to shine, especially Perry Robinson on the bass clarinet, he’s great. He gets drowned out a little in the whitewater rapids of the two dueling trumpets on the second side of the album. Overall, a great record that every ESP-Disk-loving, free jazz nerd needs to hear, especially now that it’s (marginally more) widely available. 3/4

 Review by Nicolette L. 

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