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Burn Baby Burn

Norman Howard

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Album Review

Norman Howard is best remembered as Albert Ayler's trumpeter on his mid-'60s album Spirits. Howard's playing on that set made one think that he had very limited technique despite its wide expressive qualities. He soon returned to his hometown of Cleveland, became a Muslim and dropped out of music altogether. However, before he retired in 1968 he and his quartet recorded two unreleased albums for ESP, some of which later came out on cassettes. The CD Burn Baby Burn has the master takes of the music, matching Howard with altoist Joe Phillips, bassist Walter Cliff and drummer Corney Millsap. The eight selections, most of which were written by the altoist, serve as perfect vehicles for the interplay between the two horns and reveal that Norman Howard was a better trumpeter than expected. The music is reminiscent of that of Ayler except it's not usually as violent or dissonant as some of Ayler's work. While there are many passionate stretches, "Haunted" and particularly "Sad Miss Holiday" are quite lyrical and touching. Fans of high energy '60s free jazz blowouts will find Burn Baby Burn to be of strong interest. This release should lead to a reappraisal of Norman Howard's skills, and some appreciation for the forgotten altoist Joe Phillips.


Born: 25 August 1944 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s

Avant-garde jazz trumpeter Norman Howard was born in Cleveland, OH, on August 25, 1944, and was a contemporary of saxophonist Albert Ayler (the two worked together on Ayler's Witches & Devils album). In 1968 Howard and a quartet that included alto saxophonist Joe Phillips recorded two sessions originally intended for release on the ESP label. Unfortunately, the label hit hard times and the albums didn't materialize. While those tapes languished in the...
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Burn Baby Burn, Norman Howard
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