Monday, July 11, 2011

Noah Howard, THE BLACK ARK

Freedom, 1972; reissued by Bo'Weavil; available

4 tracks, 40:38

This legendary free jazz album is finally readily available, and boy is it a doozy! Having recorded previously for ESP-Disk', Noah Howard put together a radical septet in 1969 for THE BLACK ARK. It isn't certain why its release was delayed for three years. The other players are trumpeter Earl Cross, conga-player Juma Sultan (who also played with Jimi Hendrix), drummer Mohammed Ali (not the boxer, but drummer Rashied's younger brother), pianist Leslie Waldron, bassist Norris Jones, and the legendary Arthur Doyle on tenor sax(his debut performance!). Most of these players went on to other things, and all were obscure masters of their respective instruments. Definitely in the same category as Ayler or Takayanagi and Abe, this is jazz set to "destroy". The four tracks all begin and end with a more-or-less melodic theme; the funky "Domiabra" and Asian-tinged "Mount Fuji" (the longest tracks at 10:20 and 15:32) are most remarkable in this regard. The middles, however, all descend into noisy free-for-alls. Howard and Cross are every bit as riotous as Doyle, and each man's solo involves lots of shrieking and honking. The rhtyhm section holds its own nicely. Waldron attacks the piano in a percussive manner, while Ali manages to provide furious pounding and blasting or restrained rolling according to the other players' whims. Juma's conga adds another layer of strangeness, with its trippy delay effect creating a unique sound. The Bo'Weavil CD issue comes housed in a very nice thick card sleeve, almost like a mini-LP, with an inner sleeve for the CD itself; it's also available on vinyl. The reporduction of the orginal liner notes plus new commentary by Oren Ambarchi adds to the overall wonder of this album. If you're at all interested in free jazz, you probably need this and I heartily recommend it. I will even go on record saying I enjoy this one album far more than ANYTHING Ayler recorded!