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Album Review

The Revolutionary Ensemble were an extraordinary trio who unfortunately has a very limited discography, and what they did record is rather difficult to find. The Psyche is a case in point, released in 1975 on the small, self-produced RE: Records label and, as of 2002, unavailable on disc. It's a superb performance, however, consisting of three compositions, one by each group member, and can serve as a microcosm of what the band was about. Drummer Jerome Cooper was always the most concerned with extended and complex compositions. His lengthy "Invasion," which occupies side one of the album, is an episodic suite where the solos are integral to the piece's structure, not simply improvisations spun off of riffs. Even with the "limited" palette of violin, bass, and percussion (plus the composer on piano for a bit), Cooper is able to conjure forth a unique and fascinating sound world allowing both a clear exposition of his ideas as well as offering the personalities of the musicians to shine. Leroy Jenkins, the most soulful and bluesy of avant-garde jazz violinists, takes special advantage here in his extremely lovely solo feature. Sirone's "Hu-Man" is a freewheeling piece with an implied cadence as natural as rolling down a hill, but also with a melancholy theme once again driving directly to Jenkins' strength as he wrenches out another powerful, blues-drenched solo. Jenkins' own "Collegno" is a gorgeous and delicate work, giving lie to the notion that bands like this were only about screeching. Using the lightest of frameworks, the trio limns an exceedingly fine tracery of clearly etched yet breathtakingly fragile improvisations, never drifting very far from the feeling established at the outset until Sirone embarks on an arco solo that may threaten the integrity of one's woofers. The Psyche is a very fine recording by a wonderful and underrecorded trio; snatch it up if you're lucky enough to come across it.

Biography

Formed: 1971

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s

This group was a favorite of many avant-garde jazz fans in the '70s, appealing to a generation of listeners who had been weaned on Frank Zappa, some only temporarily lured into his camp by the intoxicating sound of electric violin soloists such as Jean-Luc Ponty and Sugarcane Harris. The violinist in the Revolutionary Ensemble, Leroy Jenkins, was cut from the same mold as these players, bluesy and swinging, but he created his sometimes fiery solos within the context of something like a free jazz...
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The Psyche, Revolutionary Ensemble
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