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The Panther and the Lash

Clifford Thornton

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Album Review

The album title, referencing the first truly great anthology of poetry written by an African-American, Langston Hughes's 1926 book of the same name, nails Clifford Thornton's political colors firmly to the mast, and they're black. Described, with some justification, by Philippe Carles, the co-author of the seminal Free Jazz Black Power, as the quintessential free jazz performer, Thornton is in absolutely breathtaking form throughout this live set recorded in Paris on November 7, 1970, on which he plays not only the cornet but also trombone, piano, percussion, and shenai, accompanied by the cream of the crop of the local free music warriors, pianist François Tusques and bassist Beb Guérin, as well as the woefully under-recorded American expat drummer Noel McGhie. It's one of the highlights of the America back catalog and its reissue is cause for celebration. Thornton was able, in an all too brief career (he died in Geneva in relative obscurity in 1989), to sign three truly great free jazz albums under his own name. The Panther and the Lash fills the gap between Freedom & Unity (recorded on the day after Coltrane's funeral in 1967, reissued by Atavistic in 2001) and 1975's Jazz Composers Orchestra outing The Gardens of Harlem (JCOA), and is just as indispensable.

Biography

Born: 06 September 1936 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

One of the most underrated and criminally overlooked free jazz trumpet/trombone players remains to be Clifford Thornton. Born in Philadelphia sometime in 1936, Thornton studied with hard bop trumpeter Donald Byrd during the mid-'50s and played with numerous other jazz musicians, including the great tuba player Ray Draper. After joining the army, Thornton settled down in New York City — appearing on albums by other artists (Sun Ra's Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow, Sunny Murray's Homage to...
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The Panther and the Lash, Clifford Thornton
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