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Raw Materials and Residuals

Julius Hemphill Big Band

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Album Review

One of the great titles in the modern jazz chronology, Hemphill utilizes raw materials of iron-wrought bop, hard-edged but swinging rough-cut diamonds, and the red clay of improvisation, which produce a residual effect going well beyond the mainstream of jazz, but stay this side of chaotic inflammations. Hemphill calls it "vigor to reflection to vigor," an apt description for the deep well of unfiltered ore mined by the alto saxophonist, cellist Abdul Wadud and multiple percussionist Famoudou Don Moye on this set. These five tracks, all composed by Hemphill, breathe with the vitality of a raging bull, yet are smart and centered in traditional jazz language. The supercharged free bop opener "C" roars with delight, as Hemphill adopts a stance quite reminiscent of Charlie Parker in its fluidity, originality and unabashed viscosity, never breaking down. Washes of cymbals, louder than the other two musicians, take "Mirrors" into a different realm altogether, cello and sax fighting for their space, and succeeding especially as it initiates a free excursion. A unison line during "Long Rhythm" leads to an easy swinging theme, and showcases Hemphill's tart, sweet sound while a forward-moving idea is pushed by Moye. More serene and spatial is "Plateau," with many themes ebbing and flowing in and out, accented by some overblown harmonics from Hemphill. The leader switches to soprano for "G Song," which features a bluesy cello groove by Wadud, flavored by Oriental modalities and a sweeter sound from Hemphill. Moye's arsenal of "little" percussion instruments — bike horns, duck calls, woodblock, bells, whistles, etc. — is displayed in a free section that has to be heard; there's no apt way to describe the pure, unadulterated improvisation that is also eminently listenable and in a way, quite humorous. This could be the best Hemphill recording, save perhaps Blue Boye. The economy of the trio, and their utter brilliance, brings out the best in Hemphill, and stands as a landmark recording in the second wave avant-garde movement of the '70s. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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Raw Materials and Residuals, Julius Hemphill Big Band
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