The transcontinental soul/blues duo of Pittsburgh's Billy Price and France's Fred Chapellier took their show on the road (in Europe) to support the release of the duo's Night Work debut. The results are contained on this CD/DVD package, a logical and energetic follow-up to the studio recording that reprises some – but not all – of those tunes, adds logical covers, and generally ratchets up the sparks, as live albums typically do. The 11-song audio CD runs about half the time of the far more extensive two-hour DVD, but both nail the vibe of shows that featured tough, resilient backing musicians augmented by two horn players.
I’m honored to discuss this CD. I found Fred Ho’s Monkey: Part One a glorious surprise, and this second section of his musical setting for the trickster tale is no disappointment. The ensemble’s personnel has few changes, notably Francis Wong as tenorist; but its spirit remains dramatic, flexible and visionary as Ho achieves tremendous range from trombone, three saxophones (including his own baritone), bass and drums, and several performers on Chinese traditional instruments.
This is a great radio session recorded in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 14, 2000. GratHovOx embodies everything uninhibited free improv can deliver. The presence of two of the genre's most prestigious veterans certainly has something to do with it. Fred Van Hove performs most of the set on a Steinway D piano. He grabs his accordion for "Foreplay/Vorspiel." Tony Oxley produces an astounding number of different sounds from his acoustic drum kit, keeping the electronics very discreet. Between them stands reedman Frank Gratkowski, using mostly instruments from the clarinet family this time around – his raspy alto sax makes an appearance in the 20-minute "Trenches/Tranches."
Snake-Eaters debuts Fred Ho's Saxophone Liberation Front, featuring composer Ho on baritone saxophone and Hafez Modirzadeh (soprano), Bobby Zankel (alto) and Salim Washington (tenor). Darker than Blue, inspired by Curtis Mayfield's song, We the People Who are Darker than Blue, employs shifting meters (including a blues section in 11/8 and 11.5 /8), 12-tone serialism, compound meter ostinati, and Lydian chromatic approaches to orchestration. Ho's Yellow Power, Yellow Soul Suite coincides with the soon-to-be publication of the Drs. Roger Buckley and Tamara Roberts' festschrift by the same title, and includes the previously recorded "Fishing Song of the East China Sea" (originally a flute trio with bass violin on the out-of-print recording by Fred Ho and the Asian American Art Ensemble, Bamboo that Snaps Back; and the now-defunct Brooklyn Sax Quartet recording The Far Side of Here), as well as Afro-Asian adaptations of other Asian folk songs.
To approximate the first half of Fred Ho's album Year of the Tiger, it's necessary to imagine the sound that might be created if the members of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra were mixed with the players from Parliament/Funkadelic and set loose on the Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix catalogs. That's right, songs like "Thriller" and "Purple Haze" get severely retrofitted into an aggressive, irreverent jazz-funk style, with harsh, massed horn parts. Sometimes, the sound resembles a couple of high-school marching bands fighting it out on the same football field.
Calvin Massey (1928-1972) is virtually unknown with the exception of both highly knowledgeable jazz scholars and a small coterie of illustrious musicians who remain alive and were immensely indebted to Massey s musical influence and mentorship. Massey was a father figure and close friend to many of the greatest jazz musicians of the post-World War era until his early death in 1972. Massey was a trumpeter, but was most noted as a composer of magisterial works, of which his epic opus was The Black Liberation Movement Suite, an extended work of nine movements. Until now, the work had never been recorded in its entirety. Cal Massey ranked among the greatest jazz composers of the 20th century, included with Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra.