Born: December 1, 1959 Primary Instrument: Piano
An experienced improviser, composer, arranger and teacher, Greg Murphy has led, directed and performed with various groups throughout the world for the past three decades. Maxwell Chandler of JazzPolice.com writes in a 2009 review of Rashied Ali Quintet’s Live in Europe: “Throughout the album Greg Murphy’s piano possesses a cerebral element which allows for shimmering smoke and discordant percussive runs while never becoming overly fragile or sounding as if merely hitting the keys hard and fast.” In a 2007 review of Greg’s CD, Orientation, Charles Winokoor of Cadence Magazine writes “…throw a tongue-twisting, rapid-fire chart at this son of a gun and watch out-he can burn with the best of them. And did I mention his band is the embodiment of liquid flame? Well they are, and so is Murphy, which is why one should keep posted.”
Greg began his musical adventures in 1971 when he joined the Ray-Fisk Grammar School Band in Chicago. His classical studies began later that year with Lucia Santini at Roosevelt University. Between 1980 and 1984, he played with the jazz/funk band LFTR, The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Big Band, The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Big Band, and other local Chicago bands.
A jazz study grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 gave Greg the opportunity to go New Orleans and study with the eminent pianist and jazz educator, Ellis Marsalis. He remained there and began recording and performing with The New Orleans Jazz Couriers, Percussion Incorporated, and his own group, The Fusicians. The Percussion Incorporated album, Drum Talk, was recorded and released in 1987. While living in the crescent city, Greg performed with Donald Harrison, Wynton Marsalis, and countless other great musicians.
Greg moved to New York in 1987 and began what had become a long association with multi-directional drummer, Rashied Ali. Greg performed and recorded with Ali and his various groups throughout Europe, Canada, the United States and beyond, from 1987 until Rashied passed away in 2009. Below are some additional highlights of Greg’s career:
1989 - Performed in Tokyo, Japan with his trio, and toured the United States with a quartet. 1990 - Ornette Coleman asked Greg to put together a rhythm section to work on Coleman’s new jazz-funk original music, which resulted in a successful debut performance in New York.
Toured France with Rashied Ali in a group featuring Carlos Santana and Archie Shepp. Led a septet (Club Bird Jazz All Stars) in Yokohama, Japan.
1991 - Performed solo in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada—where he was born. Studied in New York City with Ron Carter and Jaki Byard at City College and The Manhattan School of Music, as well as privately with Larry Willis and Walter Bishop Jr.
1995 - Meditations with Rashied Ali and Prima Materia was recorded - Knitting Factory Works.
1996 - Bells with Rashied Ali and Prima Materia - recorded on the Knitting Factory Works label.
1999 - A Mano by Raphael Cruz was released on the Worldbeat Records label.
Heart Sound with Tisziji Munoz was released on the Anami Records label.
2001 - No One in Particular with Rashied Ali was released on the Survival Records label where Greg wrote the title tune.
2004 - Let’s Get Started, his first recording as a leader, was released on Murphasaurus Records.
2005 - Performed for two months in Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China.
2006 - Graduated from New Jersey City University with a Bachelors of Music Degree in Jazz Performance, studying piano and arranging with Allen Farnham and Pete McGuiness. Orientation was released on the Murphasaurus Records label. Judgment Day Vol. 1 and Judgment Day Vol. 2 by The Rashied Ali Quintet were released on the Survival Records label.
2007 - Greg worked closely with Rashied and his company Survival Records, helping with tour organization, publicity, promotion, distribution, website development and administration.
2008 - Time Travel by Raphael Cruz was released on the RC Records label. Greg launched a new online mp3 store called JazzIntensity.com.
2009 - Live in Europe by the Rashied Ali Quintet was released on the Survival Records label, and the website Rashiedali.org was launched. Led his own groups at Sweet Rhythm, Smalls, Zinc Bar and other venues in NYC.
2010 - Directed and performed with The Ignacio Moran Trio at the Philippine International Jazz Festival, and also performed six nights at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manila. Led his own groups at The Blue Note, Smalls, and Fat Cat in New York City.
2011 - Led his own groups at the Westfield (NJ) Jazz Festival,) Smalls, Fat Cat, and monthly solo piano performances at Lorenzo’s at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island.
2012 – In addition to performing frequently as a side man for various artists, Greg led his own groups at the Westfield (NJ) Jazz Festival, Casa Dante (Jersey City) Smalls, Fat Cat, as well as monthly solo piano performances at Lorenzo’s.
Greg also performed the theme song “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” for the HBO documentary “Redemption,” which was produced and directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill. Redemption received a 2013 Academy Award nomination for best documentary short.
Some of the other people Greg has played with are: Muhammad Ali, Barry Altshul, Wes Anderson, Mickey Bass, Cindy Blackman, Terrence Blanchard, T. K. Blue, Hammiet Blueitt, Don Braden, George Braithwait, John Brown, Iris Chacon, Alan Chase, Ravi Coltrane, Harry Connick, Jr., Jesse Davis, Steve Davis, Andy Eulau, Flava Flav, Al Foster, Mat Garrison, Charles Gayle, Victor Goines, Ray Gomez, Roy Hargrove, Winard Harper, Vincent Herring, Tim Horner, David Jensen, Victor Jones, Frank Lacey, Joe Lovano, Branford and Delfayo Marsalis, Christian McBride, Charles McPherson, Tyler Mitchell, Grachan Moncur, III, T. S. Monk, Wilbur Morris, Steve Neil, Charles Nevile, William Parker, Don Pate, C. C. Peniston, Arthur Rhames, Larry Ridley, Dale Robbins, Jay Rodriguez, Antoine Roney, Bill Saxton, Ron Sutton, Lew Tabackin, Arthur Taylor, James Blood Ulmer, Reginald Veal, Bill Ware, David S. Ware, Alyson Williams, Willie Williams, Frank Wright, Al & Ruth Wright, Eric Wyatt, and Kiani Zawadi.
My introduction to Greg Murphy was seeing him as part of Rashied Ali's Quintet at Sweet Rhythm in NYC. I mean, this guy just totally knocked me out. So much so that I searched to see if he had any recordings under his own name. Well....leave it to CD Baby! I ordered it and since its arrival it's been in very heavy rotation on my CD player. And I don't see it leaving heavy rotation for a very long time. This guy's got it all — chops, taste, great tunes and an excellent group to surround himself with. You just cannot go wrong with Greg Murphy's, Orientation. - Mike Thompson
GREG MURPHY, ORIENTATION, MURPHASAURUS 003. Triple Dipple / Orientation / Trane’s Mode / I Thought About You / Keeping It Simple / Puffin Land / Alternate Voices / What’s New / Cedar Salad / A Strain From Wayne. 51:39. Murphy, p, kybd; Raphael Cruz, perc; Alex Hernandez, b; Noel Sagerman, d; Lawrence Clark, ts. April 5, May 9, 2005, Hampton, NJ.
Funny thing about Greg Murphy’s second release under his own name: With the exception of the chestnut “I Thought About You,” the first half dozen or so songs had me hooked, line and sinker as they say. His “Sahara”-era Tyner intensity and quicksilver Latin-fusion compositions hit me as a heady mix of technical wow and intellectual depth. But then came tracks six and seven with their cheesy, wheezy electro-keyboards, a real turn-off considering the bulk of the first half of the program. And Murphywho really is a fine pianist, and one who has recorded extensively with Rashied Alime thinks should not be tackling solo the likes of ballads like “What’s New” and the aforementioned Van Heusen/Mercer number; he relies far too heavily on sheen over substance. That said, throw a tongue-twisting, rapid-fire chart at this son of a gun and watch outhe can burn with the best of them. And did I mention, his band is the embodiment of liquid flame? Well they are, and so is Murphy, which is why one should keep posted. - Charles Winokoor Cadence Magazine, February 2007
GREG MURPHY ORIENTATION
This is a tightly woven [quintet] led by Canadian-born and New York-based Greg Murphy. Throughout Murphy's career, he has been associated with a most diversified roster of musicians, from Ellis Marsalis to Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and Barry Altschul and Harry Connick! In his CD Orientation, Murphy focuses mainly on his Latin, bop and electronics sides.
Triple Dipple's hot introduction immediately sets the mood of the piece and establishes the varied and virile pace of the album as a whole. The A section is pure Latin jazz based on a very simple and straight melodic line. It is segued by an eight-bar improvised saxophone solo on the B section, setting an interesting contrast between the two sections of the tune.
The eponymous Orientation features a noteworthy acoustic bass solo by Alex Hernandez (also featured on electric bass on Keeping it Simple) who gives the best of himself in this piece played in [quartet] format. Trane's Mode pays homage to John Coltrane's Mister PC. It illustrates well the leader's predilection for high energy tunes. Reverting to the quartet format, the theme is played in unison by piano and saxophone, very much in keeping with the Coltrane spirit. In this cut, the pianist's phrases are longer and more structured. Special mention should be made of the hot 12-bar exchanges between Lawrence Clark's saxophone and Noel Sagerman's drums.
Cedar Salad once again features Lawrence Clark's saxophone, with a few nods at George coleman and John Coltrane. The straight-ahead theme, played in a medium tempo groove, is exposed in unison by piano and saxophone. Clark's fluid solo is especially impressive. A Strain from Wayne played by piano, bass and drums, [and percussion] concludes the CD and takes the listener back to the pulsating ambience of the album's opener.
Not content to just demonstrate his jazz chops on the aforementioned pieces, Greg Murphy adds two electric jazz fusion works (Puffin Land, Alternate Voices) and two evergreens from the standard repertoire (Jimmy Van Heusen's I Thought About You, Bob Haggard's What's New) to his versatile and rich musical palette. Steeped in the piano solo tradition, the latter two are played straight and simple, with no superfluous frills or unnecessary adornments. Murphy offers a mix of Latin, fusion, bop, jazz standards and a host of swinging and original tunes on Orientation!
By Lilian Dericq, Jazz Improv, Spring 2007
GREG MURPHY Orientation (Murphasaurus)
This is an initiation, direction and perspective on the music of a great pianist and his life-long venture. It’s the sort of proper jazz LP that I love discovering completely by accident. First and foremost, if you are a fan of true jazz then you need to discover this new CD from the New Jersey pianist Greg Murphy. Since the age of eleven Greg has embarked on a journey studying, touring, gaining notoriety and recording with a HUGE list of incredible musicians such as Archie Shepp, Wynton Marsalis, Rashied Ali, Ravi Coltrane, Roy Hargrove, Santana, Christian McBride, Ornette Coleman, Larry Willis, Larry Ridley, Flava Flav…Musically, ‘Orientation’ is all about the independent label concept, not over polished organic expression for spiritual beings. There are five great musicians on here that just create an arcadia for me on tracks like the fiery ‘Triple Dipple,’ ‘Keeping It Simple,’ ‘A Strain from Wayne’ and, of course, the title track. What a majestic tune! - Raggy Offlimitsradio.com Straight No Chaser Autumn 2006 (UK)
GREG MURPHY Orientation (Murphasaurus)
This album is a miscellany of at least four things, all of them competent, none of them distinguished. First is Greg Murphy’s Coltrane bag. He has played piano with the saxophone legend’s last drummer, Rashied Ali, for nearly 20 years, so his Coltrane connection is real. Murphy’s quintet has tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark, who can channel Coltrane with stunning verisimilitude. Murphy does a very credible McCoy Tyner, too. Derivativeness notwithstanding, the group’s familiarity with this music and their passion for it make pieces like “Trane’s Mode” fun. (The visceral in-your-face recorded sound of engineer Paul Wickliffe also aids the cause.) The second, Murphy’s piano-trio-ballad persona, is perhaps the best. “I Thought About You” and “What’s New” are never startling, but Murphy’s percussive touch gives their rhapsodic intensity an aggressive, chiseled quality. The third and fourth itemsMurphy’s Latin and electric jazz fusion projectsare less interesting. “Keeping It Simple” fulfills the promise of its title all too well. “Alternate Voices” offers minimal musical content amid its electronic swirls and washes. Fortunately, we are spared the clichéd commonplaces and strained rhymes of the song’s lyrics, which appear only in the liner notes. -Thomas Conrad Jazz Times September 2006
GREG MURPHY Orientation
Some recordings get me within the first seconds of listening, that’s the case with Greg Murphy’s Orientation. The first cut, Triple Dipple, opens with a creative energy which is surged by multiple time feels and meter changes. The groove is positive and engaging. The solo’s are masterful, which leads me as a listener right through the entire disc of music. I was thoroughly entertained and the music created an eagerness in me to want to see this band “live” the next time I was in NYC! Murphy is truly fine keyboardist with [an]excellent background. As many great instrumentalists, Murphy is drawn by the keyboard masters from various era’s. I know this because the nature of his compositions [displayed] this on this recording. He is as comfortable on grand piano as a multitude of keyboard instruments. Many people try to perform in many contrasting genres, but few attain to convincing performances. Murphy and gang do this in convincing style. Quality recordings have the necessary contrasts that draw their listeners to their music. Murphy’s other compositions include Trane’s Mode” which is a minor blues, which has a strong post-bop flavor. The variety continues as Murphy shows several different sides of his musical personality. Two fusion numbers dominated by keyboards and electric bass, “Puffin Land” and “Alternate Voices”, form a break between the acoustic sections.My favorite tracks are Murphy’s solo piano standards, ballads “I Thought About You” and “What’s New”. He displays fine touch and sensitivity. Most impressive, he show’s that he is at home in these traditional mainstream styles as well as the more modern modal music. There are other fine performances by the other instrumentalists on this disc. It is a fine ensemble. All the players are fine soloists and ensemble musicians. The group plays with a passion and groove which draws the audience into each performance. It’s refreshing to hear musicians who play and perform in a manner that reflects the natural evolution of Jazz, without losing originality, while creating their own voice in music! Murphy is one of those people.
- Rick Holland Jazz Radio 24 seven August 2006
Orientation Greg Murphy (Murphasaurus)
Pianist Greg Murphy’s Orientation contains attractive original tunes delivered by a top-notch mainstream quintet. It opens with a bang with his kinetic, latin-flavored “Triple Dipple” which tumbles along in 6/8, driven by a simple but appealing melody in Lawrence Clark’s tenor sax. The three-feel of the meter soon alternates with swing, and uptempo bop sections in four-time, the effortless transitions revealing a deftly synchronous unit. (Alex Hernandez on bass and Noel Sagerman on drums [Raphael Cruz on percussion] complete the group.) The title track is built in a seemingly irregular form with modal sections of syncopated, dense piano chords shifting colorfully between major and minor, while “Trane’s Mode” is a bop blues with a chord progression carrying a scent of Coltrane’s classic “Mr. P.C.”. The variety continues as Murphy shows several different sides of his musical personality. Two fusion numbers dominated by keyboards and electric bass, “Puffin Land” and “Alternate Voices”, form a break between the acoustic sections, while on two fine solo piano standards, the ballads “I Thought About You” and “What’s New”, Murphy carries the melodies firmly yet fluidly on top of full, ten-fingered textures.
-Brian Lonergan June 2006 ALLABOUTJAZZ-NEW YORK
“…A brilliant new jazz LP, Orientation, by *Greg Murphy* from NYC with some glorious piano led Latin jazz dance tracks” -Off Limits Radio with Raggy (UK) Danceandsoul.com
“Incredible New York City pianist Greg Murphy brings new tracks to radioioJazz... his album 'orientation' is absolutely amazing...” -Dr. Mike RadioioJazz.com
“The CD is killin. Really…this is great.” -Matt Merewitz Music Director WRCT Pittsburgh, PA
“Niiiiiiice!…It sounds great!” -Tom Hunter Music Director KNTU, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
“Great record!!!!! Will be adding it for our jazz program.” - Peter Solomon WCVE, Richmond, VA
“I second Peter [Solomon’s] opinion. I will sure give this CD more spins.” - Joost van Steen Jazz & Blues Tour, The Netherlands
“Very impressive release.” - Larry Dane-Kellogg WHCJ, Savannah, GA
“…A terrific album…wonderful work.” -Lise Avery Executive Producer Anything Goes!! With Lise Avery Internationally Syndicated Radio
“A breath of fresh Air” - Bobby Jackson Music Director WCPN, Cleveland, OH
“Pianist Greg Murphy’s new release, “Orientation” is hot stuff! Greg demonstrates his considerable keyboard style with a mix of straight ahead, bop, funk/fusion and for good measure, throws in a couple of very tasty ballads (‘What's New’ and ‘I Thought About You’).
“All done very nicely and very listenable, but the straight ahead/bop arena is where Greg really cooks (would you expect anything less with song titles such as ‘Triple Dipple’, ‘Cedar Salad’ and ‘A Strain From Wayne’?).
“If this one isn't on your shelf, sell your CD player!”
- Dr. Bob, Modernjazzclassics.com
Rashied Ali Quintet - Judgment Day Vol. 2 Survival SR. 122 *** Ali (d), Lawrence Clark (ts), Jummaane Smith (t), Greg Murphy (p) and Joris Teepe (b). Rec. New York, 2005
Note the use of ‘Quintet. The word is invariably favoured by ensembles of a hard bop persuasion and those are indeed the colours that Ali nails to his mast on this session that may well surprise a few who would define the legendary drummer uniquely in the free jazz arena. Judgement Day is a rip-roaringly hard swinging album that has the kind of tricky gymnastic heads and charged solos that Blakey’s most aggressive line-ups all juggled so well. In the likes of Clark and Smith Ali has superb frontline players who can sustain intensity over countless choruses, pumping out swirling harmonic and rhythmic ideas with both fluency and forward drive. The momentum, the surge of the music is very strong. As for Teepe and the impressive Murphy they push their comping to high levels of creativity with the latter getting Pullenesque in his percussive attack on tonality. Ali is rhythm incarnate, a constantly shifting canvas of colours around the kit that perfectly complements his grip on time throughout the lengthy workouts and, as one would expect from a musician of his calibre, his touch is deft on the album’s ballads. A reprise of Don Cherry’s ‘Multi-Culti’ adds a pleasing twist to the choice of covers that also includes the standards ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Round Midnight’. Proof positive that Ali, as was seen at his recent stunning gig at the Pizza On The Park, is a complete musician, one who shows that mainstream vocabulary is not beyond the reach of a master of the avant-garde.
- By Kevin Le Gendre
This review is from Jazzwise Issue #113 (October 2007)
Judgment Day, Volume 1 Rashied Ali Quintet | Survival Records (2007) - By Erik R. Quick
Rashied Ali is most commonly associated with his short tenure as John Coltrane’s drummer on Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1967). His significant participation in the New York loft-jazz movement by opening “Ali’s Alley” in 1973 is also frequently cited. His most recent collaborations with saxophonist Sonny Fortune continue the conception of Ali as an explosive participant in free improvisation. Nevertheless, Ali’s Judgment Day, Volume 1 is a strictly mainstream outing where he focuses his efforts as a teacher to those relatively uninitiated in the jazz world. Ali did not compose any of the nine tracks, which range from six to nine minutes in duration. Rather, established Dutch-born, New York-based bassist Joris Teepe wrote two of the compositions, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark penned the title track, and trumpeter Jumaane Smith wrote the hard driving “Shied Indeed.” These efforts by band members display a remarkable hard bop style facility. Teepe is perhaps the most recognized name in the group, having played with Ali for some time, and on the drummer’s forthcoming record Raw Fish (Knitting Factory Records). His anchoring sonority is, at times, quite dominant and certainly reminiscent of bassist Stafford James. Smith, originally from Seattle, studied with Warren Vache and performed with the Julliard Jazz Orchestra. His playing, however, is more akin to Freddie Hubbard’s hard expressivity than Vache’s gentle lyricism. Clark’s role is often that of a supporting character. Pianist Greg Murphy studied with Ellis Marsalis, and has played with Ali for many years. His style displays an integrity to the genre, and contributes tastefully. Several of the selections demand particular attention. Wayne Shorter’s rarely performed “The Big Push,” from The Soothsayer (Blue Note, 1965), is played with style and honesty in celebration of the original. Jaco Pastorius’ “Dania,” a tribute to a Florida beach, is a frenzy. Don Cherry’s quirky “Multi Culti” closes the session as an effervescent celebration of the art of improvisation. Ali’s deft cymbal tinting and rambunctious style, not surprisingly, illustrate that the role of a talented and original percussionist is not that of time keeper. Rather, tone painting and forceful phrasing are dominant expressive forms to Ali. Judgment Day, Volume 1 is an effective display of Ali’s straight-ahead chops and his ability to organize a group of relatively younger musicians. Volume Two has already been released. Look for another thoroughly enjoyable record.
Track listing: Sidewalks in Motion; Dania; You're Reading My Mind; Judgment Day; Shied Indeed; Raw Fish; The Big Push; M.O.; Multi Culti. Personnel: Rashied Ali: percussion; Jumaane Smith: trumpet; Lawrence Clark: tenor saxophone; Greg Murphy: piano; Joris Teepe: bass. August 07, 2007 AllaboutJazz
Judgment Day, Vol. Two Rashied Ali Quintet | Survival Records (2007) - By Russ Musto
Although rightfully revered as one of the fathers of avant-garde drumming for his role in John Coltrane’s last band, Rashied Ali grew up in Philadelphia during the heyday of hard bop, so it should come as no surprise to find him at the helm of a group that reflects the influence of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, as much as that of the freer music that flowed from the font of Coltrane. This second volume of Judgment Day (for his recently revived Survival label) shows off Ali’s deeply rooted rhythmatism as he drives his talented sidemen through a program of their own fine compositions, original arrangements of “Lush Life” and “‘Round Midnight,” and rousing readings of two rarely heard pieces: James Blood Ulmer’s “Thing for Joe” and Don Cherry’s “Multi-Culti.” [sic] Pianist Greg Murphy’s mood setting opener, “Skane’s Refrain,” begins as a Messenger-like anthem and then moves into a modal mood reminiscent of Trane’s “Impressions,” propelled by Joris Teepe’s insistent walking bass and the leader’s irrepressible drumming. In trumpeter Jumaane Smith and tenor man Lawrence Clark, Ali has found two unusually strong young horn players who meet the difficult demands of the music with admirable assurance. Each also proves to be a capable composerthe former with the multifarious “Yesterday (J-Man) Tomorrow” and the latter on the Eastern-tinged title track. Teepe too shows off his writing chops with the enigmatically moody “Flight #643.” But this is primarily a fine blowing date with intelligently composed charts built around Ali’s uniquely cliché-free personal style. Track listing: Skane's Refrain; Lush Life; Thing for Joe; Judgment Day; Flight # 643; Round Midnight; Yesterday (J Man) Tomorrow; Multi-Culti. Personnel: Rashied Ali: drums; Jumaane Smith: trumpet; Lawrence Clark: tenor saxophone; Greg Murphy: piano; Joris Teepe: bass. All About Jazz.com Published: May 16, 2007
WINNING SPINS - By George Kanzler
Judgment Day Vol.1, a Survival Records release by the Rashied Ali quintet, is propelled by the leader’s forward-leaning beat in a program of hard-bop and slower tunes, plus a finale that ventures into the avant-garde turf Ali explored during the 60s and 70s. His quintet features all players a generation or more younger than their leader, with two comparative veterans bassist Joris Teepe and pianist Greg Murphy in the rhythm section, and the fiery youngsters trumpeter Jumaane Smith and tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark out front. Teepe and Ali are a perfect combine, as both lean into the beat with perfervid enthusiasm and drive. With their example, the band is ferocious as it barrels through a program highlighted by fast burners leavened by ballads and blues. This is a record that affirms jazz traditions by doing what’s considered quite familiar, really, with verve and drive that makes it special again.
February 2007, Hot House Magazine
Judgment Day Vol. 1 Rashied Ali (Survival) - By Jeff Stockton
Rashied Ali has always been unfairly typecast as the guy who usurped Elvin Jones from Coltrane’s Classic Quartet, the dividing line between A Love Supreme and Trane’s final phase when the leader became all dissonant and difficult. Trane knew better then us, of course, but Ali’s career after Trane didn’t do much to change the perception that he was strictly a free jazzer thanks to first-rate duet work with the late Frank Lowe, stellar performances in trios led by Peter Brotzmann, Ivo Perelman and Charles Gayle and by leading Prima Materia, a band that assayed the work of Coltrane and Albert Ayler. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the music on Judgment Day is much more inside than out, carrying echoes of the sound of the spiritually questing Coltrane before Ali joined, the introspectiveness of mid’60s Wayne Shorter and the hard bop of the Jazz Messengers. Ali puts himself in Art Blakey’s role of the elder statesman to the young horn men Lawrence Clark on tenor and Jumaane Smith on trumpet, both who play with fiery conviction and the technical virtuosity of seasoned veterans, blaring their instruments in unison so that the peaks are frequent and each tune is rendered as a high point. As it should be with drummer-led quintets, the rhythms are key: swaggering on Shorter’s “The Big Push,” laid back and swinging on Lowe’s “Sidewalks in Motion” and hard-driving on Jaco’s “Dania.” Nothing burns hotter than the title track, though, when young Clark meets Coltrane head on and pianist Greg Murphy drops clusters of notes like propaganda bombs.
February 2007, ALLABOUTJAZZ-NEW YORK MUSIC REVIEW
KFJC On-Line Reviews What KFJC has added to their library and why... Ali, Rashied Quintet - “Judgment Day Vol. 1” - [Survival] Very solid effort from this NYC quintet led by the Art Blakey of our day. Drummer Ali has played with the likes of Coltrane (John and Alice), Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Fortune and James Blood Ulmer, but he is also known for nurturing young upcoming talent. This disc features great blowing by Jumaane Smith (trumpet) and Lawrence Clark (tenor) along with the very McCoy Tyneresque tinkling of Greg Murphy (piano). Hard bop is the subject at hand. And much of this disc sounds like it could have been recorded in 1957, which is entirely a good thing. A lot of hard blowing swinging jazz came out of that period, right around when the avant-garde was starting to bubble and burst forth from the be-bop scene. Standout tracks are: 4. Judgment Day (8:17) Middle Eastern sounding theme, fast hard swinging be-bop. 6. Raw Fish (5:58) Slow, quirky, dissonant, but nicely held together by harmonic horns. 9. Multi Culti (6:28) Gorgeous take on a multi-tempo Don Cherry composition. Jawbone January 24, 2007
OPENING CHORUS Overdue Ovation - By Chris Kelsey Rashied Ali SOUND JUDGEMENT
John Coltrane knew a thing or two about drummers. During his apprenticeship with Miles Davis, he played with Philly Joe Jones, who surely whetted his appetite for the percussive petulance so much so, that when it came time for Coltrane to form his own group, the saxophonist one-upped his former boss and hired Elvin Jones, maybe the only drummer of the era who could out-ass-kick Philly Joe. When Elvin couldn’t make it, another fire-breather, Roy Haynes, took his place. But Elvin usually made it. He stayed with Trane until the saxophonist needed something else from a drummer. When that time came, Coltrane turned to his fellow Philadelphian-turned-New Yorker, Rashied Ali. Ali gave him that “something else.” From the time he joined Coltrane in late 1965 until the saxophonist’s death in July 1967, Ali helped enable Trane’s final, most radical break with convention. The drummer’s skittering, high-energy playing fractured the pulse into tiny shards, which he reassembled, mosaic like, into something quite different. Ali staked out new areas of rhythmic independence and sound exploration. On late Coltrane recordings such as Live at the Village Vanguard Again! and Interstellar Space, Ali’s splintering of time paralleled the asymmetrical note groupings and convoluted phasing that the saxophonist explored in full late in his career. Ali’s primary role was not to provide a rhythmic context, but to freely interact, to shadow and challenge Coltrane’s every turn of phrase. Rashied Ali is one of the fathers of free-jazz drumming. Every free-jazz drummer (and to an extent, every free-jazz musician) who followed owes him a debt. After Coltrane’s passing, Ali became one of the leading figures on the New York avant-jazz scene, a position he holds to this day. In the ‘70’s, he founded his own record label, survival, for which he’s recorded a string of raw and risky albums featuring such prominent avant-gardists as the late saxophonist Frank Lowe, violinist Leroy Jenkins and guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer. For several years he ran his own club in downtown Manhattan, Ali’s Alley, which was a major venue during the loft-jazz era of the ‘70s. He’s led innumerable bands and played with everyone who’s anyone in the free-jazz community. Today Ali’s an elder statesman, yet he’s playing better than ever. And he’s still capable of surprising us, as proven by his latest releases on survival, Judgment Day Vol.1 & Vol. 2. This is not the formally open, structurally abstract free jazz for which he’s best known. There’s plenty of blowing room, to be sure, but the tunes themselves are meticulously composed and arranged. It swings in a way guaranteed to make the Lincoln Center cats swallow hard and take notice. At times it’s nearly straight ahead, yet unlikely latter-day hard bop, it is music of the here and now—with hints of jazz to come. “If you really listen to it, I’m trying really hard not to just play time,” says Ali. It’s true. He’s playing “out” and “in” simultaneously, generating enough energy to light the East Coast. “You can hear that the drums are breaking it up a lot,” he says. “It’s not like I’m playing really straight-head drums. It might sound like that on the surface, but underneath you’ll hear a lot of stuff that says I’m really an avant-garde player,” albeit one who studied with Art Blakey and Philly Joe and therefore knows modern jazz in all its manifestations. With his quintet, the 71-year-old free-jazz vet puts to shame drummers half his age—incessantly driving and creating, sidestepping clichés at every turn. And Ali hasn’t forsaken freedom, not by a long stretch. Even when playing straight-ahead, there are times in mid-performance when an abandonment of form and structure is the logical next step. Less intrepid musicians skid to a stop, jam into reverse and head home. Ali and his band make the leap without hesitation. Theirs is jazz without borders, an example of what a group can do if they’ve the will and discipline to embrace a full range of possibilities. “It does have that kind of catchy thing, where anybody can listen to the music and appreciate it-avant-garde people, straight-ahead people, whatever,” says Ali, “They can all hear something in there. I’m glad it works that way, because that’s the kinda stuff I want to be doing right now.” Ali talks about his band like a proud papa, and for good reason. “I’m playing with kids who are damn near young enough to be my grandkids!” he laughs. The group-trumpeter Jumaane Smith, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark, pianist Greg Murphy, bassist Joris Teepe-has been together for almost four years. The Ali-Murphy alliance dates back almost two decades. “Greg’s been in just about every band I’ve had since we met in the 80s,” Ali says. “Jumaane I just met by chance. I’ve been knowing him since he was about 19. He’s 25 now. He first saw me when I played a concert with the New Art Quartet in his hometown of Seattle. Then he came out here to attend the New School and Julliard. I met him when he was at the New School.” Ali first heard Clark playing at Cleopatra’s Needle on upper Broadway. “When Frank Lowe passed, I was really looking for a saxophone player,” says Ali. “I invited Lawrence to come down and check us out. He’s a dynamite young player, playing a lot more stuff now than he ever has. And I’d met Joris through Frank Lowe.” They’re all as comfortable playing changes as they are playing free. “When you play with me, you better be able to do it all,” Ali says. Repertoire is one of the band’s strengths. All the sidemen write. “I do most of the arrangements and pick most of the tunes,” says Ali. “I haven’t written for the band as of yet, but we’re playing a lot of stuff by the guys. Jumaane’s written a lot of the stuff, and Lawrence is writing a lot, and so is Joris and so is Greg. We’re playing a lot of original music.” All that might go for naught if no one heard it. Fortunately, the band’s getting gigs. “We just got back from London, a week ago or two ago. We got really good reviews over there,” says Ali. “People seem to dig it. I’m having very good feedback from just about everybody. The quintet is his main focus, but Ali keeps irons in other fires, as well. “I’m doing a duo record with Borah Bergman for Soul Note or Black Saint. I played this last Vision festival with Borah, William Parker and Louis Belogenis. That was pretty cool.” Another project is By Any Means, his trio with bassist Parker and saxophonist Charles Gayle. The band recorded the critically acclaimed Touchin’ on Trane in the early ‘90s, but until recently had not performed together in almost a decade. “We’ve just started getting back together. We played the Vision Festival,” Ali says. We’re a heavy avant-garde band, because we don’t play any melodies at all, it’s all improvised. We just start and stop. We haven’t been into the studio yet, but we plan to this year.” Between the quintet and his other projects, Ali’s working more than ever. While he’ll always be known for this time with Coltrane, the world’s getting hip to the nearly four-decades-worth of beautiful music he’s made since. “I think it’s the longevity. I’ve been here long enough for people to think, ‘Hey man, maybe this cat really do have something!” he laughs. “It’s just all coming together. In a way, it’s a drag, that now that I’ve become a super-senior-citizen that I got to do all this traveling now, but it’s cool, because I’m in shape and ready and-willing to play. I wish I could’ve been doing this when I was 35, but that’s alright. It’s just an awesome experience for me right now. I’m really having fun with this stuff. “I couldn’t ask for anything more, except maybe more money and recognition,” he continues, “but that doesn’t really matter to me; what matters mostly is the music, and I’m definitely in pursuance of the music. I feel really good about what’s happened to me. I mean, I’ve been able to have a wife and a couple of kids and send my kids to college. I was able to own my own place. I’m pretty stable and secure, like a senior citizen should be. The only thing I ever did in my whole life is play drums, man. I never had another job. I played drums my whole life, and that’s, like, a miracle.”
© JazzTimes November 2006 Excellent! (5 Stars)
I was fortunate to see this same group at Sweet Rhythm in NYC, 12/9/06. I'd gone to see the great Rashied Ali. What I got was much more. This is one of the best working groups anywhere, any place. I bought both Volume I and Volume 2 at the gig. Since then I've ordered copies from CD Baby for friends. I cannot recommend these two volumes highly enough. Not just because I was at the show. But rather because they are some of the best recordings by one of the best groups to come along in a very, very long time. This band smokes.....and it's led by a true legend, Rashied Ali. These are not the easiest CD's to locate. CD Baby's got them, and you should have them as well.
- Mike Thompson Austin, Texas
Electric fire music of the finest sort (5 Stars) The Rashied Ali Quintet is electric fire music of the finest sort. In 1984 I saw a man in NYC at the 125th St. subway stop holding up a sign that read: Judgment Day Is Coming. Are you ready? Now I know what he was talking about. Buy this disc. Listen to this disc. It is music that will be felt and heard. Rashied is Rashied is Rashied. Twas ever thus...
- Glenn Weyant
RASHIED ALI Judgement Day, Vol. 1 & 2 (Survival)
For the past 20 years Rashied Ali has been operating like an Art Blakey figure in terms of discovering and nurturing new talent. His current working quintet is another cross-generational affair featuring veterans Greg Murphy (piano) and Joris Teepe (bass) and two new firebrands in Lawrence Clark on tenor sax and Jumaane Smith on trumpet. Together this tightly knit group swings in fairly conventional postbop fashion on rarely covered tunes like Frank Lowe’s “Sidewalks in Motion,” Jaco Pastorius’ uptempo blazer “Dania,” Wayne Shorter’s “The Big Push” and James Blood Ulmer’s “M.O.” Teepe, a powerful, deep-toned bassist in the Paul Chambers tradition, contributes the moving ballad “You’re Reading My Mind,” while saxophonist Clark, who blows heroically throughout these two discs, offers the exhilarating title track, a modal workout with distinctly Middle Eastern touches that has pianist Murphy dipping deeply into his McCoy Tyner bag. Other highlights in these two energized sets include Murphy’s burning “Skane’s Refrain” and Smith’s frantically swinging “Yesterday (J-Man) Tomorrow,” along with dynamic readings of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” and Don Cherry’s “Multi-Culti.” Though this band rarely plays outside of New York City, this is one of the more potent working quintets in jazz today.
- Bill Milkowski Drum Beat May 2006 ©1999-2006 JazzTimes, Inc. All rights reserved
Dusted Reviews Artist: Rashied Ali Album: Judgment Day, Vols. I & II Label: Survival Review date: Feb. 26, 2006
These two new quintet dates confirm what I have long believed, that Rashied Ali is one of the most underrated drummers to emerge from the turbulently exploratory 1960s. Only one aspect of his multicolored playing has gotten anything even close to the examination and discussion it deserves, and anyone reading this knows of the fire, brimstone and thunder he brought to Coltrane’s final period. Yet, listen to the subtlety, introspection and sublimated magic of his brushwork on a track like “Ogunde” from Expression, or to Marion Brown’s second ESP date, and you will have some idea of what else to expect in these more recent ventures. All of the tunes on Judgment Day are either acknowledged classics or homage’s to established masters. Steve Dalachinsky’s unerringly perceptive liners quote Ali as saying “If they can play Beethoven, why not Coltrane?” While Coltrane is not represented here Ali’s Prima Materia project paid him beautiful respect the quotation is apt in that the music of such undeniably influential figures as Monk, Shorter and Strayhorn are rendered with faithfulness and fluent unpredictability. “Round Midnight,” from Vol. II, is a stunning case in point. The familiar introduction is treated here with just a hint of the “free” playing associated with Ali’s early recordings, bassist Joris Teepe’s tasty interjections being particularly noteworthy. Trumpet and sax use vibrato to great effect, a signifier that, in tandem with Greg Murphy’s slyly intuitive incorporation of Monk’s pianisms, invokes the “swing” at the heart of Monk’s rhetoric and rhythm. Lawrence Clark’s tenor tone is lush and full, enhancing the allusion. Just as the tune is about to end, Ali breaks into a funky Latin-tinged groove, the quintet sound turning lush and sumptuous all at once. It’s a gesture of which Monk would certainly have approved, given his ear for all manner of shifts in arrangement. Both volumes abound with small but revelatory surprises of that nature. Trumpeter Jumaane Smith’s “Shied Indeed” one for the leader sports one of the hippest stop-time unison breaks I’ve heard in quite a while. It jumps right out of the middle of a simple but effectively modal head, broadsiding the unsuspecting listener with a brick-textured chunk of hard-edged compositional prowess. As with the Monk treatment, Dalachinsky is right to point out the temporally multifarious aesthetic of the playing; roots and branches of the creative music tree are often apparent in one sweeping gesture. Nowhere is the fluidity of temporal perception more evident than in Ali’s drumming. Ali has expressed repeatedly his preoccupation with the expansion of time, of his constant development of time elasticity. The Jaco Pastorias tune “Dania,” from the first volume, has one of the briefest but most powerful solos I’ve ever heard from him, and much of its interest is generated by its architecture. Ali breezes effortlessly through some of the most intense circumlocutions and syncopations imaginable, only to return to a steady four, as if he’d never left. Throughout these temporal juxtapositions, his ear is constantly on timbre, key rhythmic moments warranting bullets and bombs from his multivalent arsenal of snare attacks. The quintet, diverse in age and background, manages to sound unified without any player losing individuality, and part of this is due to the skill with which the albums were recorded and mixed in Ali’s Survival Studios. The sound is direct without being overbearing, just as the playing is referential without being idiosyncratic or maudlin. These are fantastic discs that exist inside the tradition while offering repeated opportunities for its fresh appraisal.
- Marc Medwin ©2002-2005 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Monterey Notebook: Judgment Day Saturday, 4:10 p.m. The Night Club/Bill Berry Stage [September 22, 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival] - By Forrest Dylan Bryant
Down at the teeming Night Club, the Rashied Ali Quintet has worked itself into a frenzy, the air pulsing with raw electric energy from Lawrence Clark’s tenor saxophone. Condensing into a tunneling postbop burn, the ensemble greases the skids for Josh Evans’s ringing trumpet solo as a knot of young hepcats standing in the back of the room looks on and nods. The conflagration on stage soon spreads to ignite Greg Murphy’s piano, which cuts through a maze of maddeningly fast notes like a laser beam. Smiling, Ali drives the breakneck pace from his drum kit. But it seems to be less a matter of his pushing the band than pulling them up to his natural pace. Lifting off into a solo of his own, Ali tempers the thunder with prodding, exploratory pauses, as if seeking to define the underlying structure of his titanic rhythms. It takes the [better] part of half an hour to work through the tune, and the band quickly calms things down for “You’re Reading My Mind,” a mysterious ballad by bassist Joris Teepe. Formed by layers of melancholy, Teepe’s solo on this tune carries a tenderness that might have seemed impossible only minutes before. “Judgment Day,” another 30-minute epic, enters with a simple fanfare before launching into a hard 1960s-style thrust. Again the intensity rises to shattering levels, and the dynamite horn solos soon form a sort of force field around the Night Club stage, making everything outside seem almost irrelevant.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday Afternoon: The Rains Let Up!
Posted by: Jerry Karp In the Bill Berry Night Club venue, venerable avant-bop drummer Rashied Ali is holding forth with a fiery quintet.
Ali, of course, is one of the trailblazers of the new wave jazz movement of the 60s, and was the drummer for some of John Coltrane's most far-reaching late-career explorations. I am primed for a full-on explosion of in-your-face jazz and this band is just the ticket.
Ali's attack is still a full-throttle rocket blast, on fire but without a trace of bombast. The band, led by and excellent horn tandem of saxophonist Lawrence Clark and trumpeter Josh Evans, offers high-octane post bop, which, again, is just what I am looking for.
A number Ali introduces as the title track to the band's new CD, Judgment Day, is a great example of what the band has to offer. It's a fast-tempo cooker, and Evans steps forward with an extended solo. Evans' ideas fly fast and furious. He uses the highest ranges of his horn with aplomb, but judiciously, only to add emphasis at the end of an idea.
The solo is relentless but rarely repetitive, and when Evans steps aside for Clark, you feel he has still not exhausted everything he has to say here. Clark, though, takes up the gauntlet quickly, throwing clouds of notes across the hall, squealing and groaning only just enough to craft mid-stream commentary on his own hard charges.
Pianist Greg Murphy sweeps in next, with flowing, two-handed flashes alternating heat and cool.
Ah, yes. This is what I needed. http://www.jazzwest.com/blogs/jazz_blog_mjf.asp
Jazz from Gallery 41 Monterey Jazz Festival 2007 Saturday, September 29, 2007 Straight Ahead and Strive For Tone - A Jazz Blog
Saturday. Great shows, that I saw. As you who have ever been there, know that when you have arena seats sometimes you don't get to the outer venues. Even though I'm beginning to think that the outer venues, seeming to be relegated to the supposed lesser acts (deemed so by the producers of the festival, not me) has much better music and it wouldn't matter at all (and I'd save A BUNCH of $$$) if I just surrendered the arena seats. Two highlights for me (three if you count the blue sky, sun, and warmth that finally broke out mid-afternoon). Rashied Ali's Quintet (this guy who was reading from a script that lauded the merits of Rashied's history and wonderful involvement with Coltrane and so many others..then at the end introduced him as Ali Rashied, and you knew immediately the guy never heard a single note of Rashied's music). Rashied's group was tight, always right on time (from a rhythm POV), really great writing by all, and extremely energetic and exciting.
LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND Shepard Park, Lake George, NY September 15, 2007 - by J Hunter
FREEDOM FROM FEAR: To some, 'Free Jazz' means sheets of ear-splitting cacophony that makes as much sense as a fractal painting, and takes just as long to decipher. Rashied Ali's set sounded nothing like the previous description, but it was 'Free Jazz' - free from fear, free from boundaries, and free to explore. Exploration is old hat to Ali: Aside from his time with John Coltrane, the phenomenal drummer has saddled up with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and James 'Blood' Ulmer, so Ali's young quintet had an experienced guide as to the musical unknown. Armed with a set of tunes from Ali's latest disc Judgment Day Vol. 1 and 2 (Survival Records, 2006), the Ali Quintet used a hard-bop take on Jaco Pastorius' Dania to launch the festivities - and when I say 'launch', I'm speaking in NASA terms.
Josh Evans' trumpet was as bright as the sunshine flashing through the trees, and Lawrence Clark blew volcanic tenor throughout, particularly on his composition Judgment Day. Bassist Joris Teepe was playing with a torn rotator cuff - an injury he incurred a month before - but you couldn't have told, given the wonderfully rich solos he served up with seeming ease as he played with the band for the first time in a month. As for Ali, he is a card-carrying member of that hallowed fraternity of drummers over age 70 that can tear it up like an offending paper bag. It's unclear whether Ali inspires the band or the band inspires Ali, but the end result is just the same, and just as epic.
Jazz hits Lake George REVIEW - By Mike Curtin Special to The Post-Star Saturday, September 15, 2007
A revered figure in modern jazz, drummer Rashied Ali led his quintet through 75 minutes of hard-charging “hard bop.” The skeletal refrains of Jaco Pastorious’ “Dania” were stretched for nearly 20 minutes as each member of the quintet was accorded ample solo time, including Ali who at the age of 71 displayed a level of speed, dexterity and ingenuity that percussionists a third his age would die to possess.
“Judgment Day,” the title track of the group’s first disc, was equally expansive. It was the means for saxophonist Lawrence Clark (also the composition’s creator) to unfurl wave after wave of reed-splitting ascents to just Ali’s resounding accompaniment, not unlike Sonny Rollins or Ali’s past bandmate over four decade ago, John Coltrane.
Don Cherry’s elegant “Multi-Culti” culminated Ali and his band’s performance, One of the festival’s strongest sets in recent memory, it was jazz at its most inventive, freed from convention, but firmly rooted in its storied past.
PERFORMING ARTS Washington Post - Monday, September 10, 2007 Rashied Ali - By Chris Richards Rashied Ali is the drummer who snapped the pendulum — a free jazz legend who refused the role of timekeeper in favor of improvised clatter. He created some monumental noise with Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry and Albert Ayler, but made his boldest mark in 1967 when he joined John Coltrane for one of the final recording sessions of the saxophonist's life. Later released as the album Interstellar Space, the collaboration yielded a series of stunning duets with Ali's righteous racket jostling against John Coltrane's cosmic braying. Stylistically, the 72-year-old Ali returned to earth decades ago, but at Twins Jazz on Friday night, his drumming still flickered with the unhinged energy that made him his name. You could hear it on John Coltrane's Liberia, as Ali's quintet toggled between traditional swing and energetic spontaneity. Ali kept his mouth clamped shut for most of the performance (which included a smoky take on the old Thelonious Monk chestnut 'Round Midnight), but not during James Blood Ulmer's Theme From Captain Black. As his quintet ventured into its wildest playing of the night, the drummer bent those creased lips into a smile. Forty years after revolutionizing rhythm, Ali still seems happiest in the chaos.
Multi-directional Masterclass Rashied Ali Quintet Pizza on the Park Saturday July 21, 2007
True legend in jazz circles is a frequently-used cliche. This time it's true. Rashied Ali is the man who pioneered an approach to drumming which threw out the traditional idea of the drummer as human metronome. His work with John Coltrane in the great saxophonist's final years is a high point of avant-garde creativity. It was Coltrane who coined the term multi-directional to describe Ali's loose, free style of rhythmic propulsion.
His current touring quintet with Greg Murphy (piano), Joris Teepe (bass), Josh Evans (trumpet) and Lawrence Clark (tenor saxophone) is playing a style which combines modern post-bop with Ali's trademark free jazz. During two hours at Pizza Express they performed only six tunes, averaging 20-30 minutes in length.
Every band member was given space for long improvisations on Jaco Pastorius's composition Dania, which kicked off the night. Ali's revolutionary technique was evident from the start as he strayed in and out of timekeeping with an emphasis on snare drum usage. Second on the bill was the Monk classic 'Round Midnight and the set ended with the ominous, fanfare-like melody of Coltrane's Liberia. This was the first point at which the bass and piano dropped out, leaving Ali alone with Clark on saxophone. It was almost like two simultaneous solos, highly reminiscent of Coltrane's final studio album Interstellar Space which is a series of duets with Ali. The diners didn't know what had hit them; Saturday night in Knightsbridge is usually more genteel. It was a fitting tribute to 'Trane, with this concert coming days after the 40th anniversary of his death.
The second set featured two more standards and ended with If only I had a Gig, the band's take on songs from The Wizard of Oz. There were further moments of sax-drums duelling, bassist Teepe produced one of the most melodic solos of the evening, playing on his own for several minutes, and Evans on trumpet also impressed with screamingly passionate lines.
Rashied Ali may be nearly 70, but his creative instincts continue to develop. His work with this young lineup constantly throws up new challenges and his solos burst with complexity. Hopefully this will carry on for some years to come.
- By Frederick Bernas
Rashied Ali - Interstellar Overdrive
As John Coltrane moved to the last phase of his career embracing the adventurous spirit of the New York avant garde, drummer Rashied Ali was there at the heart of his new thinking with his “multi-directional” drumming and non standard approach that altered the course of Coltrane’s music as it reached its great peak on the album Interstellar Space. Since Coltrane’s death Rashied Ali’s career has, like the course of the avant garde itself, seen its peaks and troughs alternating with periods of obscurity and glimpses of revived interest in this unique musician’s approach. Ahead of a run of dates in London this month, Rashied talks to Kevin Le Gendre
In the wake of 9/11 the African-American poet Sharrif Simmons found that waspish paranoia over anything remotely related to Islam affected his working life. Promoters in the States were reluctant to book a performer with a first name bearing no evident Christian connotations. Ironically Sharrif translates from Arabic as ‘Honest.’
Some might say that the name Rashied Ali is even more liable to arouse suspicion. Not only is this a Muslim appellation, it is also distinctly close to that of Muhammad Ali, the civil rights and sports icon who was once a sword-sized thorn in the flesh of the American establishment. “You know I’ve had this name my whole life,” says Ali, the 72-year-old drummer who started playing professionally in the 60s and who perchance also has a brother called Muhammad. “Since 9/11 it’s been kind of weird in airports. They double check me and stuff like that but after they find out that I was born in America, my father and grandfather too and I’m a black American, I don’t get hassled as much.
“But at the same time it’s difficult after what went down. I tend to be careful about where I go because I just don’t wanna be yanked off a bus or a train or something because of my name.” It was actually back in the mid-40s that Ali’s father decided to change his own name, and that of his son Robert Patterson to Rashied Ali. When Ali joined John Coltrane’s band in the mid-60s he carried two passports. “Back then they used to double check me and talk to me a lot,” Ali recalls on the phone from New York.
“John had said to me once when he went to get my passport ‘Do you want it in Robert Patterson or Rashied Ali?’ I said ‘I think I’ll do it in Rashied Ali’ and never looked back. You know John had a Muslim name too but he never used it.”
Ali’s first hand knowledge of one of the great icons of jazz as well the vital contribution he made to the final phase of Coltrane’s career when the saxophonist was at his most uncompromisingly ‘out’ make the drummer both an important repository of historical information and a beacon of inspiration to a new generation of artists.
This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #110
Rashied Ali Quintet at Pizza on the Park, 20/7/07 » Rashied Ali (drums), Josh Evans (Trumpet), Lawrence Clark (Tenor Sax), Greg Murphy (Piano), Joris Teepe (Bass) « It’s been a good month for Big Historical Names; after Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor, now: Rashied Ali, with his Quintet, at the Pizza on the Park. And a bit of a change to get to see a big name american act in a much more intimate venue. Rashied Ali probably isn’t as big as Ornette or Taylor/Braxton, but Interstellar Space is one of the most important (and frequently played) records I’ve ever bought (being as it was one of the first sounds to push me into complete musical Freedom)… and like the big anticipated RFH acts earlier in the month, he didn’t let me down. First off: a word about Pizza on the Park… My first visit to a ‘proper’ London jazz club (basement, no windows, waitress service)… Why haven’t I checked out this place before? Great atmosphere (although, also, in parts, a bit cliquey, and theme-parky). Pizza on the Park is essentially a Pizza Express gig, so the same just-slightly disappointing pizzas, but ok… However, the service itself was really chronic, which was seriously annoying for the sort of place where you can’t go and just dig it out yourself. Although probably suffering from single-diner blind-spot syndrome, would have been nice if my waiter could have actually bothered to get me at least one alchoholic beverage during the four hours I was sat there (or a desert! or a cheque at the end!). Anyway, not wanting to put too much emphasis on this point, but it was a bit of a downer, and makes me feel like it’s not really the sort of place I’d want to visit unless I knew the band was going to be great. The music: Rashied Ali was playing with most of the quintet off his Judgement Day record (I need clarification over the trumpeter). Fairly typical feel overall; the sort of contemporary hard-bop sourced music that most of the American Names are probably going back to, to mostly bide their time… A kind of broad Blue Note, sixties/early seventies vibe. But totally solid. The trumpeter was playing the most Inside, but with really powerful lines. Maybe it was because he was playing straight into my face, but… trumpet usually leaves me wondering why?; this was cool. Lawrence Clark was an impressive soloist, on tenor, fast runs all around his horn, overblowing at the top and at the bottom, with the odd strains of Coltrane seeping through (that’s a cliché; Clark was not, and really had his own sound). At the same time, not just going through motions, he had a solid grasp on the melodic construction (in fact, I think he was responsible for quite a few of the band’s actual charts and tunes). Towards the end of the second set (possibly on a performance of Judgement Day itself), the band pulled back for a time leaving a ClarkAli duo, and the tumbling (and unpredictable) sheets of sound moved closest to JC territory. That little part, probably the highlight of the night. The bass was a little lacklustre, but then he was having to make do with a slightly battered electric bass, having an even more battered double bass lying in a heap somewhere on the tarmac at Heathrow airport. The pianist, Greg Murphy, played formative lines, freaking into some unexpected blast crashes every now and then, showing signs of something more free… Underpinning all this, of course, Rashied Ali. The rest of the band may have been playing on the Inside, but Ali stuck to free scattering pulses, firing out shots here and there in patterns that were only just obviously related to the group form, bringing the staid-in-principle choice of set list into something, really, Else. It was amazing how powerful his sound was hitting me, all from barely perceptible motions of the sticks; it was almost like artillery going off. Fairly unique, I can’t remember seeing any drummer play like him, and he was completely and utterly mesmerizing. Although my Rashied Ali record collection is generally far more free than this, and the traditionality of the group was slightly suprising, it all worked brilliantly, with Ali’s own freedom drive making it all that little bit more special.
Rashied Ali Quintet
First achieving widespread recognition as the drummer with John Coltrane during his groundbreaking performances and recordings of 196567, Rashied Ali has remained one of the most original percussionists in jazz. For the past five years, he has led a quintet that includes Jumaane Smith on trumpet (a young man who “plays with fiery conviction and the technical virtuosity of a seasoned veteran”), Lawrence Clark on tenor sax (“his tenor tone is lush and enhances the allusion”), Greg Murphy on piano (“invokes the swing at the heart of Thelonious Monk’s rhetoric and rhythm”) and Joris Teepe’s (“steady walking”) bass. Owing more to Ali’s hard bop roots than to his familiar free jazz explorations, the quintet recently released Judgment Day, a two-CD set which has received uniform critical acclaim. “These are fantastic discs that exist inside the tradition while offering repeated opportunities for its fresh appraisal.” (Marc Medwin, Dusted.) “A fine blowing date with intelligently composed charts built around Ali’s uniquely cliché-free personal style.” (All About Jazz) “Though this band rarely plays outside of New York City, this is one of the more potent working quintets in jazz today.” (JazzTimes)
BREAKING NEWS jazzwise.com 24.08.06 :: Rashied Ali blasts Pizza On The Park into space
London?s Pizza On The Park jazz club took a welcome left turn in its booking policy this week as Rashied Ali and his band completed three rare dates which blasted the club into outer space. The ex-Coltrane drummer and his band, including hot newcomers Lawrence Clark, tenor sax, and Jumaane Smith, trumpet, alongside pianist Greg Murphy and bassist Joris Teepe, wasted little time in raising the performance to an intense, deeply spiritual level the likes of which had never been heard in this venue before. Ali took pieces by Eric Dolphy, James ?Blood? Ulmer and Don Cherry and reshaped them into sonic launchpads for Smith and Clark to soar deep into the stratosphere, climbing higher and higher over the drummer?s galvanic rolling thunder. Watch for an in-depth review in October?s Jazzwise, out on 29 September.
The Evening Standard August 21st, 2006 Rashied Ali Quintet Pizza on the Park, SW1X 7LY (London, UK) HEAVY GOING By Jack Massarik
Listen, I was a Muslim long before all this bullshit started, snorted Rashied Ali, the rarely seen free-jazz icon who famously replaced Elvin Jones in John Coltrane's last group. Born Robert Patterson in 1935, he converted during the civil-rights Sixties, when Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated and Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Airports have been hassling me for years, but they know I'm from Philadelphia. More of a surprise was to find him playing straight-ahead drums with a formidable young New York quintet. While 25-year-old Seattle trumpeter Jumaane Smith was blowing like a young Woody Shaw and 31-year-old tenorist Lawrence Clark was reproducing Trane's early tone with unearthly accuracy, Ali's cymbals snapped out the tempo as fiercely as Art Blakey ever did. Not by coincidence; it was a Blakey T-shirt Ali wore onstage. Dutch double-bassist Joris Teppe maintained a solid line while Chicagoan Greg Murphy showed the superb keyboard technique you only get by playing eight hours a day for about 15 years. In two uncompromising sets, they played Frank Lowe's Sidewalks in Motion, Jaco Pastorius's Dania, Monk's Round Midnight (complete with Dizzy Gillespie's intro and outro), Cherokee and Don Cherry's Multi-Kulti, featuring the evening's only out-of-tempo interludes. Knightsbridge will never hear heavier modern jazz than this.
The New York Times January 6, 1988 Jazz: Rashied Ali Quartet By JON PARELES
RASHIED ALI became John Coltrane's drummer in the late 1960's, when the saxophonist had broken into free jazz. But for its first set Monday at the Knitting Factory, Mr. Ali's quartet harked back to the late 1950's, when Coltrane was on the cusp of hard-bop and modal jazz. With Arthur Rhames on alto saxophone, Antoine Roney on tenor saxophone and Greg Murphy on a rather soupy-sounding electric piano, the quartet played a modal blues, a hard-bop tune and a breakneck version of ''Cherokee'' - staying, for the most part, within the boundaries of tonal harmony. Yet the set wasn't exactly a throwback. While the framework was hard-bop, and Mr. Ali's drumming recalled Art Blakey's concise but unstoppable propulsion, the music was delivered with the fervor and expansiveness of the 1960's. Both saxophonists began long, blustering solos, streaking through arpeggios and bop figurations for chorus upon chorus; although they blended well for theme statements, each player also had an unconventional slant on intonation, evoking Arab and (like late Coltrane) Indian music. At some points, Mr. Roney would dig into a nasal, odd-meter riff that recalled Moroccan joujouka music, a tradition that also fascinated Ornette Coleman, and his phrases sometimes wriggled away from the beat like those of Mr. Coleman. Mr. Rhames, who only played alto saxophone although he often performs on other instruments, poured out notes in an inexhaustible cascade, like a more cutting-toned Cannonball Adderly or Johnny Griffin. The music revolved around stamina and muscle, and reached its high points in indefatigable duets for saxophone and drums. But in the course of a set, all the speedy virtuosity began to sound one-dimensional. The quartet seems capable of more. It will return to the Knitting Factory, 47 East Houston Street, on Mondays through January.
The New York Times June 29, 1994 JAZZ FESTIVAL REVIEW; Denizens of the Nightclubs Venture Into the Daylight By JON PARELES
The first of the JVC Jazz Festival's free outdoor concerts brought five groups and five hours of music to Damrosch Park on Sunday afternoon. Most of the concert was like a sampler of average nights at mid-level jazz clubs, minus the cover and minimum. There were quartets led by drummers (Roy Haynes and Rashied Ali), a guitarist (Russell Malone) and a tenor saxophonist (Steve Grossman), along with Larry Goldings's organ trio. Most of the concert was bread-and-butter jazz, competent but not revelatory, the sound of musicians settled into a style. At its best, the music wriggled free of expectations, breaking patterns; for the most part, it was technically adept and glib. Four of the five groups played mainstream small-group jazz, jovial workouts on standards, blues and be-bop tunes. Mr. Haynes took the most aggressive approach, constantly stoking the music from the drums with snapping snare drums, thuds of bass drum and chattering cymbals. His quartet featured Donald Harrison on alto saxophone, who often evaded the beat to sail past it with smooth, crooned phrases; Dave Kikoski, on piano, used splashy Herbie Hancock chords and twinkling fast lines, although he relied too often on a limited number of strategies. Russell Malone, a guitarist who has been heard widely with Harry Connick Jr., was best when his speedy fingers weren't running away with him. In most songs, he breezed through the harmonies on a jet stream of eighth notes, a coolly technical feat. But in a blues (with a cutting rock-guitar tone) and in a light but breakneck version of It's All Right With Me, Mr. Malone was better than nimble. With odd melodic leaps, startling changes of harmony and playful stops and starts, he gave the tunes a new perspective. Mr. Grossman's quartet was sparked by its pianist, Kenny Drew Jr., who dug into blues and gospel to put a down-home foundation under mainstream hard-bop tunes. The saxophonist split the set between Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane simulations, riding the music's momentum but not revealing much beyond facility. Mr. Goldings's relaxed, by-the-book organ trio opened the concert. With Peter Bernstein on guitar and Alex Watson on drums, the trio cruised through standards and new compositions direct from the late 1950's and early 1960's. Amid the pithy organ solos and suave guitar replies, a swinging version of When Johnny Comes Marching Home added a touch of turbulence, as if the band had suddenly become aware of the song's lyrics. The odd group out was Rashied Ali's quartet, By Any Means, which shrieked and thundered and zoomed through free-jazz pieces. After hours of theme-solos-theme, the music at first seemed to sprawl out of control. Charles Gayle played tenor-saxophone shrieks, Greg Murphy added skittery piano lines and William Parker plucked hyperactive undercurrents on bass as Mr. Ali propelled the group in and out of steady, swinging time. Gradually, the quartet established its own context, and it became clear that the group was exploring musical and emotional byways — noisy and hushed, enraged and eerie — that the other groups left untouched.
Prima Materia Reviews
Prima Materia is a downtown New York City quintet centered around the free-time, free jazz brilliance of John Coltrane's last drummer, Rashied Ali. Ali plays with this band as he did with the master: powerfully, with a hyper-rhythmic drive matched by few contemporary percussionists. The band's front line consists of tenor saxophonist Louis Belogenis and altoist Allan Chase, a nicely complementary pair of improvisers. The band's original lineup featured two bassists, William Parker and Joe Gallant. Parker eventually left the group, to be replaced by pianist Greg Murphy, whose percussive agility raised the intensity still another notch. Originally formed to play Coltrane's later, most expressionistic compositions, the band has also gone on to interpret the works of Albert Ayler. ~ Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide Prima Materia: Allan Chase (alto saxophone); Louie Belogenis (tenor saxophone); Greg Murphy (piano); Joe Gallant (bass); Rashied Ali (drums). Recorded live at the Knitting Factory, New York, New York on June 23, 1995. MEDITATIONS is Prima Materia's interpretation of John Coltrane's suite by the same name. The drummer for this performance, Rashied Ali, was Coltrane's last drummer.
JazzTimes (9/96, p.110) - ...a convincing version of that memorable work. This quintet maintains the spirit of the personal integrity and...[expands] the visionary language of the artifact...
Option (7-8/96, p.158234) - ...a 40-minute fireworks display....a performance of enormous beauty and spiritual power true to Coltrane's spirit.
Scott Yanow, All Music Guide Meditations was the most successful recording that John Coltrane made with fellow tenor Pharoah Sanders. For the remake 30 years later, drummer Rashied Ali (who was on the original date along with Elvin Jones) meets up with tenor saxophonist Louis Belogenis, altoist Allan Chase, pianist Greg Murphy and bassist Joe Gallant. They revisit the lengthy and intense five-section suite, creating plenty of fireworks. Fortunately, Louis Belogenis and Allan Chase (although inspired by 'Trane's explorative approach) do not sound at all like John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, so this powerful version stands on its own. Prima Materia Meditations (1995 Knitting Factory Works 180) Rashied Ali drums, Joe Gallant bass, Louie Belogenis saxophone, Allan Chase saxophone, Greg Murphy piano 1. The Father and Son and the Holy Ghost 2. Compassion 3. Love 4. Consequences 5. Serenity Meditations is one of Coltrane's greatest recordings. This release tries to capture the feeling and message of that moment and is the first release featuring this composition since Coltrane's death. Rashied Ali, was 'Trane's last drummer. You can hear him on the original Meditations along with Elvin Jones on drums, and on the extraordinary Interstellar Space. In the so-called Jazz world where we hear standards like Angel Eyes, Time after Time or any other corny piece of shit, this is a welcome change. I only wish that other artists had the nerve to present such material instead of taking the safe route.
Prima Materia: Joe Gallant is the leader of the big band Illuminati. Here's a guy known for his arrangements of the Grateful Dead's classic album Blues for Allah. Allan Chase is the leader of Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet and a Sun Ra and John Coltrane scholar. Louie Belogenis is a former John Zorn alumni and co-leader of Prima Materia. He's played with William Hooker's ensemble for two years. Greg Murphy has played with Ali's quartet for years and leads his own group. The music speaks for itself. Structured free improvisation and strong playing. No one can play with the intensity of 'Trane on the original but this CD is worth listening to and maybe it will prompt some new thoughts in composition and performance. Cat 4/96
Meditations Label: KnitWorks 180 Country: USA Format: CD Category: AVAILABLE Price: $15.00 Back Add / View Shopping Cart Description:
This album features the first recording of this John Coltrane composition since his death in 1967. It was recorded live at the Knitting Factory during the 1995 What is Jazz? Festival. The Meditations suite is one of Coltrane's extended compositional masterpieces, but it has been overlooked since his death. Prima Materia does an extended version of Meditations that reveals it's depth with a reverence for the sprit of the piece not found in a normal cover band. The integrity and intensity of this band make this a truly special record.
Bells CD Review from the April 1997 issue of JazzTimes PRIMA MATERIA WITH RASHIED ALI Bells (Knitting Factory)
Unquestionably one of the most vigorous litmus tests in the realm of free jazz, Albert Alyer's apocalyptic tour-de-force, Bells erupted with all the spiritual communal fury that marked much of the 60's New Thing scene but leveled itself strangely and completely with its whimsical yet infectious juxtapositions of calypso-laden marches and singsong folk melodies. Three decades and some odd years later after the New Thing, Prima Materia pays tribute and re-examines the fertile grounds of Alyer's monumental Bells with this live set recorded at the Knitting Factory. Both tenor saxophonist Louie Belogenis and altoist Allan Chase exhibit remarkable strength and control in conjuring up the iconoclastic spirits of Alyer with their manipulating with multiphonics and cathartic outbursts, but its the burning rhythm section sparked by Rashied Ali that brightens this performance. The thick layers of harmonic bedding laid by bassist Joe Gallant and pianist Greg Murphy both softens the volcanic explorations of Belogenis and Chase and insulates the frenetic energy with beautiful textures. Veteran freedom fighter Ali pushes the ceremonies with swinging drive that's not commonly associated with him while also contributing additional color with him superb cymbal work. While this live set doesn't contain the same urgency as the original, Prima Materia pays a spirited, convincing, and ultimately rewarding homage to otherworldly magic of Albert Alyer. -John Murph
Down Beat (3/97, p.46) - 3 Stars - (out of 5) - ...the Prima Materia quintet now turns to the work of Albert Ayler with an expanded version of the saxophonist's 1965 classic `Bells.'....BELLS offers some remarkable playing... Scott Yanow, All Music Guide On May 1, 1965, at ~Town Hall, the innovative tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler performed his 21-minute original Bells with his quintet (trumpeter Donald Ayler, altoist Charles Tyler, bassist Lewis Worrell, and drummer Sonny Murray); the results were released at the time as a one-sided LP by @ESP. Prima Materia played a stretched-out rendition of Bells 31 years later; the adventurous quintet's version was three times longer than Ayler's original. The band (heard live at ~the Knitting Factory) retained all of the themes and, while not copying any of the original solos, brought back the spirit of the earlier recording. Comprised of drummer Rashied Ali (an important survivor from the 1960s fortunately still in prime form), a pair of fiery saxophonists (co-leaders Louie Belogenis on tenor and altoist Allan Chase), the percussive pianist Greg Murphy, and bassist Joe Gallant, Prima Materia both salutes the past and builds on the earlier innovations. An extended Belogenis-Ali duet and the rambunctious interpretations of Ayler's march-like themes are highlights of this spirited performance, which is easily recommended to adventurous listeners. The following articles originally appeared in French. We are currently translating them and will provide the English version along side the French version as we receive them.
PRIMA MATERIA BELLS KNITTING FACTORY WORKS 190 Louie Belogenis (ts), Allan Chase (as), Greg Murphy (p), Joe Gallant (b), Rashied Ali (dm)
Nous y (re)voilà. L'intense activité volcanique que connurent les Etats-Unis au cours des années 60 est encore dans toutes les mémoires, particulièrement les éruptions du 1er mai 1965 à New York et du 28 juin de la même année dans le New Jersey. Aurait-il donc déplu à Albert Ayler, principal témoin de la première d'entre elles, que l'on reconstituât cet événement irrépressible et par suite réputé impraticable? Peut-être, si l'on considère que la compression des plaques traditionnelles et modernes qui avait rendu possible l'arc tectonique connu sous le nom de Bells ne doit plus rien aux aperçus et à l'énergie spirituelle d'un homme rassemblé à la musique dissemblable, mais à la poignée de fidèles qui n'a plus que cet homme et quelques autres en vue. Certainement pas quand on constate que Prima Materia ne s'y livre précisément que dans le but déclaré de rassembler les esprits. Réattaquer Bells, est-ce propager encore ce qu' Ayler désignait lui-même comme des vibrations? Mais alors lesquelles? Louie Belogenis et Rashied Ali veulent-ils nous galvaniser d'entrée de jeu et de haut en se bravant si longuement? Le quintette en son entier (le piano de Greg Murphy se substituant parfois curieusement à la trompette de Don Ayler) est-il en mesure de conforter et réjouir quand, après six semaines de concerts, il en est venu à reconnaître une heure de chemins dans une oeuvre qui ne dépassait pas la vingtaine de minutes? Aurais-je tendance à répondre par l'affirmative?...
No One in Particular The Rashied Ali Quintet: Rashied Ali drums, Matt Garrison bass, Greg Murphy piano, Gene Shimosato guitar, Ravi Coltrane tenor and soprano saxophones Reviewer: Glenn Astarita
Many of us might ordinarily surmise that a recording by famed modern jazz drummer Rashied Ali would reside within the free jazz spectrum of things. However, Ali and his quintet opts for the mainstream, post-Bop realm on this 2001 release, which presents the listener with a session recorded at a New York City studio in 1992. Interestingly enough, Ali utilizes the talents of saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and a then young bassist Matthew Garrison, who has since enjoyed prominence performing with John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock. The drummer is recognized for his work with John Coltrane?s free spirited excursions amid affiliations with Albert Ayler and Pharaoh Sanders. With this release Ali peppers and prods the soloists during their hip renditions of Jaco Pastorious? lovely ?Three Views of A Secret,? and Wayne Shorter?s ?Witch Hunt. This recording was co-produced by guitarist Gene Ess (formerly Gene Shimosato). In some respects, this outing could conceivably appear to be the guitarist?s solo album. As Ess? effervescent and lyrically rich soloing endeavors provide the majority of the highlights. Regardless, this is a first-rate effort and well worth investigating! Recommended? ~ Glenn Astarita
A great CD, recommend it highly. Reviewer: Virginia Branch
This is a review of The Rashied Ali Quintet performance at the Antibes Jazz Festival in Juan-Les-Pins France July 1993.
Rashied Ali drums, Lonnie Plaxico bass, Greg Murphy piano, Ravi Coltrane tenor and soprano saxophones, Gene Shimosato guitar, with special guests Carlos Santana guitar and Archie Shepp tenor saxophone and vocals DrÙles de paroissiens pour culte 'ColtranienªUn Jazz ' en vrac ª a littÈralement sÈduit les amateurs de fushion musicale jusqu�-ý la dimension spirituelle. Ce soir : Petrucciani en solo.Chaude la pinËde pour la soirÈe-culte, en l�-honneur du trËs charismatique et mystique John Coltrane, disparu voilý plus d�-un quart de siËcle. Comme nous l�-avions prÈdit, c�-est une messe jazz cÈlÈbrÈe par les membres de l�-Èglise orthodoxe africaine Saint-John (Coltrane) de San Francisco qui dÈchana les milliers de spectateurs-fidËles.Cette Ètonnante Èquipe religieuse pour qui la musique est une liturgie, et dans laquelle les instruments et les chants ont une large place, sembla convenir aux trËs jeunes qui adoptËrent rapidement le rythme des sceurs, des prÍtres et du Bishop King qui n�-hÈsita pas ý s�-emparer du saxo pour accomplir de saintes dysharmonies.Peu acadÈmique certes et gr?ce au talent des cÈlÈbrants, l�-office parvint cependant ý faire descendre l�-esprit du grand John dans la pinËde.Le ton de la soirÈe Ètait donnÈ. Dans le public, rares Ètaient ceux ñ hormis les historiens ñ qui se trouvaient dans la pinËde Gould, le fameux soir du 27 juillet 1965 ñ c�-est aujourd�-hui - pour le concert de Coltrane que demeure I�-un des ÈlÈments majeurs de I�-histoire du festival, gr?ce ý la splendide version de ' Love Supreme ª, ultime message du grand musicien.Une QuÍte... spirituelleII y eut ñ bien entendu ñ quelques dÈceptions parmi ceux qui Ètaient venus entendre des ' Gospels ª, comme ý l�-Èglise Baptiste car le ' Free jazz ª dispensÈ toute la soirÈe n�-avait ñ il faut le dire ñ qu�-un trËs lointain rapport avec les harmonies vocales des offices dominicaux de l�-AmÈrique profonde...On l�-aura compris, c�-est un langage contemporain qui servit de vÈhicule de communication et les excellents solistes ñ autres sacrÈes vedettes de la soirÈe ñ ne se firent pas prier pour jouer : Ci-dessus : cÈlÈbration du culte par le Bishop King.A gauche : Archie Shepp, la mÈmoire brute et rugueuse du peuple noir.Adroite : ý l�-Èglise Saint-John, la musique tient lieu de liturgie.il y avait lý Rahied Ali, le dernier batteur de Coltrane; Ravi, I�-un des deux fils du saxophoniste; Matthew Garrison dont le pËre fut le fidËle bassiste de John; Archie Shepp, compagnon assidu des derniËres annÈes et chef de file d�-une avant-garde jamais dÈpassÈe; Greg Murphy au piano et surtout Gene Shimosato qui fit des prodiges avec sa guitare; Carlos Santana enfin et sa guitare magique dont I�-apparition fut tout particuliËrement acclamÈe.Et I�-hommage ý Coltrane se prolongea jusque tard dans la nuit de Juan, sous les Ètoiles, avec des titres qui exprimaient clairement I�-idÈal de toute sa vie pour aboutir ý ce ' Love supreme ª entonnÈ par ceux qui n�-y croyaient pas... Antibes-Juan-Les-PinsCarlos Santana :le Gourou a toujours 20 ans... et ses fans oublient leur ?geCoups de blues et nostalgie.Avec son bandeau, ses cheveux noirs en oreillette, son bermuda et son visage marquÈ par la passion que barre une moustache, Carlos Santana a fait un retour gagnant dans la pinede : avec les ' anciens ª, ses fans des annÈes 70 qui l�-ont retrouvÈ tel qu�-il l�-avait quittÈ sur le campus; avec les petits nouveaux, ceux qui le dÈcourent et l�-ont adoptÈ.C�-est un culte ñ comme ses airs qui balancent ñ et les cultes n�-ont pas d�-?ge. Et Santana ne trahit pas ses admirateurs : avec une guitere, entourÈ de musiciens hors pairs, il en donne et en redonne avant que l�-on en redemande. II devance les rappels, bondissant, entranant... Et quand le public debout, swinguant dans les travÈes, l�-ovationne, il n�-est jamais aussi bon.' J�-aime mon public ª dit-il, au lendemain de sa nuit juanaise, en avalant une salade ý la plage des Pirates, riant aux Èclats, avec ses amis de Saint John�-s African Orthodox Church of San Francisco, avec lesquels il rendra hommage ce soir ý Coltrane.A l�-unisson, le saxo, le piano, la guitare et les voix rendront une nouvelle fois magique la nuit de la pinËde.Ce soir encoreAprËs Michel Jonasz hier, le festival de jazz rendra ce soir un hommage ý John Coltrane, avec le retour dans la pinËde de Carlos Santana. Une seconde chance pour ceux qui auraient loupÈ ce monument, vendredi.Plus d�-un quart de siËcle aprËs sa mort, Coltrane reste une figure charismatique, non seulement du jazz, mais d�-une philosophie musicale et existentielle ý part entiËre.Le concert de ce soir ressemble ý une rÈunion de famille avec la participation des fidËles.une messe ' free gospel ª par les membres de l�-Èglise Saint John�-s de San Francisco, Rashied Ali, qui fut le dernier batteur de Coltrane l�-un de ses deux fils et Matthew Garrison dont le pËre fut le fidËle bassiste de John.Archie Shepp viendra se joindre ý ce quintette et avec lui la guitare de Carlos Santana. Encore une belle soirÈe en pesrpective. Mieux, une soirÈe magique... Juan-les-pinsSantana : accords d�-un autre mondeC�-est un grand souffle de rÈtro ñ que les moins de 20 ans ont appris ý connatre ñ qui a balayÈ, puissant, la pinËde Gould, arrachant les milliers de fans de leur siËge, soulevant les enthousiasmes et les coeurs, entremÍlant les voix et les sons : avec Santana, plus Carlos que jamais avec son bandeau orange et sa chemise ý fleurs, c�-est tout un monde ý part qui a vÈcu ý nouveau.Les accords ont ÈvoluÈ ñ un zeste de salsa, une pincÈe de funk ñ mais la patte Santana est restÈe : dans le discours ñ ce monde meilleur sans drapeau et sans frontiËres, qu�-il appelle de sa voix de basse ñ et dans le rythme.Rythmes latino-amÈricains, rythmes reggae... rythmes Santana, nÈs par hasard au dÈtour d�-un boeuf dans un restaurant... o? il fait la plonge. Nous sommes, ý San Francisco, en 67 et Santana, l�-ÈmigrÈ mexicain, a vingt ans. Un mois plus tard, ý la tÍte du Santana Blues Band, il sËme des fans ý toud les coins du monde.Ses fans Èttaient lý ñ nÈgligeant d�-Ècouter en premiËre partie l�-excellent Eddy Louiss au jazz frais et colorÈ ñ rÈpondant dans un mÍme Èlan aux appels de notes cultes, qu�-elles soient hommage ý Miles Davis ou ý John Coltrane avec un ' A love supreme ª qui n�-a pas perdu un grain de sa ferveur communicative.Et au delý des mots et des messages, reste l�-extraordinaire prestation des musiciens du Blues Band, avec un percutionniste et deux batteurs qui s�-accordent sur des rythmes torrides.Les ' anciens ª Ètaient lý. Les jeunes aussi. On craignait les dÈbordements. L�-ambiance resta ' baba-cool ª. Le concert du Gourou, avait aussi des allures de pÈlerinage.Ce soir, dans la pinËde, on retrouvera Carlos Santana pour un hommage ý John Coltrane avec les choeurs de Saint-John�-s African Orthodox Church, emmenÈs par Bishop King, et avec les ' Voices of compassion ª.Sur la scËne, se retrouveront Ègalemet le quintet de Rahied Ali, avec le fils de John, Ravi Coltrane, et Archie Shepp. Un concert culte. Et assurÈment un ÈvÈnement dans la pinËde.F.R.
Rashied Ali, Sam RiversMars 97 N°14
Il n'y a pas si longtemps, les mois se suivaient : Alors, Flagada Stompers du Hot Club ou René Lacaille à Tassin la Demi-Lune ? Je me tâte... Par bonheur, des lieux de découvertes se sont créés et tiennent la corde, contre vents et marées. Hasard des programmations, les deux lieux les plus exemplaires recevront ce mois-ci deux anciens leaders de la scène Loft, qui ne joueront donc pas dans leur grenier, mais au Pez ner pour Rashied Ali le 28 et à la Tour Rose pour Sam Rivers le 28 (drame !) et le 29 (ouf). Le premier fut le dernier batteur de Coltrane, deux années pour graver quelques merveilles parmis les plus extrêmes du saxophoniste. Interstellar Space en duo, c'était en 67, année de la mort de Coltrane, 24 ans plus tard, Charles Gayle enregistre Touchin'on Trane avec William Parker et ce même Ali. Deux disques splendides, d'un esprit proche, et une constatation : difficile d'aller plus loin que Trane. Le jeu de Rashied Ali est resté d'actualité, un énorme volume, matière en fusion d'où émerge quelques irruptions (roulements). L'enfer des métronomes : des rythmes multi-directionnels qui laissent toute liberté au soliste. Marqué par la révolution Free (il a croisé Don Cherry, Sun Ra) mais aussi passé par le rock, le funk, Rashied Ali depuis trois ans, se consacre aux ?uvres des Coltrane, Dolphy, Ayler, avec son groupe Prima Materia qui réunira Joe Gallant à la basse, Greg Murphy au piano et Louie Belogenis au ténor (qui a aussi joué avec God Is My Co-Pilot). Hommage donc, mais pas revival, avec le dernier disque Méditation par exemple, l'idée est de partir du point où Coltrane était arrivé. Le résultat est très dense, fort, un mélange de cris, de psalmodies où l'on distingue une mélodie, presque un Spiritual. Il est conseillé d'attacher sa ceinture et de bien s'accrocher à son siège (non ce n'est pas un rêve, des chaises sont annoncées au Pez ner le 28 !).Tout le confort de la Tour Rose en revanche pour accueillir Sam Rivers deux soirs. Je ne sais pas si beaucoup de musiciens peuvent se vanter d'avoir travaillé comme lui, avec Billie Holliday, Miles Davis et Cecil Taylor, trois noms qui racontent presque toute l'histoire de cette musique. Or Sam Rivers est un passeur, poly instrumentiste rompu à l'improvisation même la plus libre, mais aussi compositeur subtil et savant. S'il participe d'une histoire du Jazz américain, ses partenaires actuels, deux français et deux anglais de générations diverses sont liés par une certaine idée du Jazz en Europe : Jacques Thollot à la batterie, Tony Hymas au piano, Noël Akchoté à la guitare et Paul Rogers à la basse. Quelques égarés qui trainaient au Pez ner le 17 janvier ont peut-être frémi en lisant les deux derniers noms, auteurs d'un concert terrible, âpre (grand souvenir). Ils seraient sans doutes surpris par le disque du groupe : Configuration. Quelques instants free, oui, mais surtout des compositions colorées, sensuelles, où la forme varie du solo au quintet, avec ce son si particulier de Sam Rivers au ténor, teinté de nostalgie (à noter un son étonnant, épais à la flûte qui m'a réconcillié avec l'instrument). Ce groupe a peut-être trouvé l'une des meilleures manières d'appréhender le Jazz dans sa continuité, sans posture marquée vers le passé, mais pas sans mémoire.Il reste à ajouter deux concerts (qui auraient mérité plus de place) : Lol Coxhill les 8 et 9 à la Tour Rose et Babkas le 16 au Pez ner. Lol Coxhill c'est un saxophoniste et chanteur britannique, l'inévitable bande des Derek Bailey, Evan Parker... improvisation encore, mais aussi chansons délirantes sur le mode burlesque avec les Melody Four dont le répertoire va des génériques TV aux Marx Brothers. Son association avec Noël Akchoté et Mark Sanders à la batterie (encore un anglais, ils sont incontournables) s'annonce imprévisible et déchainée, âmes sensibles s'abstenir. Babkas est un trio de Seattle qui réunit Briggan Krauss à l'alto, Aaron Alexander à la batterie et Brad Schoeppach le guitariste du Tiny Bell de Dave Douglas. Groupe où chacun est libre, pas d'accompagnement traditionnel, tout peut arriver... avec quelques bribes de musiques d'Europe orientale.Voilà de quoi se décrasser les oreilles.
PRIMA MATERIA with RASHIED ALI Bells (German article)
Knitting Factory Works 190 / Amigo. 65:15. RA (dm), Louie Belogenis (ts), Allan Chase (as), Joe Gallent (b), Greg Murphy (p). NYC 1996.
Mærker jeg lidt ærefrygt over for den gamle mester som døde så ung? Den gamle mester er Albert Ayler. Den unge (hvide) gruppe Prima Materia har allieret sig med en veteran fra dengang jazzen søgte nye græsgange, Rashied Ali og bogstaveligt dyrket en af Aylers spirituelle kompositioner, Bells,i et timelangt forløb. Det bliver til en intens og medrivende hyldest med saftigt saxspil og rullende, evigt kommenterende trommespil. Der bliver citeret og komponeret med i denne suite, der nogle steder når en slags mantra-ligende tilstand. Jeg savner lidt mere vildskab på denne plade med Ayler-musik, det ville have været helt i hans ånd. Prima Materia er et projekt der hylder de gamle mestre og forud er gået to udsendte album til John Coltranes ære. Forude venter vistnok musik af Eric Dolphy. Allan Sommer
JazzPodium (Dutch article) Rashied Ali Quintet Jumaane Smith ? trompet Lawrence Clark ? tenorsax Greg Murphy ? piano Joris Teepe ? bas Rashied Ali - drums
Ook op festival aanwezig was Rashied Ali, de opvolger van Elvin Jones in het John Coltrane Quartet. Rashied Ali staat vooral bekend als een freejazz drummer en zijn werk bij Coltrane bestond uit het suggereren van een beat en vooral veel geritsel. De man heeft toch wel een bepaalde naam en faam, en kan je eigenlijk als drummer niet om een bezoek aan zijn concert heen. Het werd het hoogtepunt van het festival. Het Rashied Ali Quintet speelde met een power, inzet, overtuiging en diepgang dat het bijna eng werd. In een dergelijke context wordt luisteren een beleving en onderga je de muziek. Hier ook weer dat oergevoel en de noodzaak van muziek maken. Het quintet speelde een mengeling van hardbop en vrije stijlen. Dit alles met een ongelofelijke drive die meer voel dan hoorbaar was.
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Union City, NJ
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Over 20 years experience teaching and performing worldwide with renowned musicians Learn improvisation, chord voicing, harmony, arranging, writing and transcribing - Systematic and comprehensive