The Music Ensemble: The Music Ensemble (2001)
The '74 and '75 live performances documented on this archival recording were captured through a single point mike, so they're intimate but a bit grainy. That doesn't seem to reduce the simmering energy of the group when it hit its stride. The Music Ensemble operates at a high level of density: the entire sextet constantly tugs and tosses ideas around. The idea of "soloist" contradicts the whole philosophy behind the music, so when any given player steps forward with a dramatic statement, he's joined by the others to make it a collective statement. Rather than pursuing simple ideas like call-and-response or rhythmic counterpoint, these players are obsessed with color, texture, and tone. Bassist William Parker plays a key role with long-held arco sweeps that provide a sort of landscape upon which the other players can sketchthough he, too, can be quite dynamic at times. Billy Bang, who delivers some of his most beautifully lyrical passages on record, has his ear closely tuned to the ebb and flow of the current. His playing on "Echoes Wind Transpire" lends a distinctly minor color and evokes a mystical, Eastern atmosphere. Likewise, the colorful percussion lent by various group members on this piece revert it to a tribal essence.
The Music Ensemble favors contemplation over flash-and-bang. It dwells in the deep subconscious rather than the realm of conscious ideation. Spontaneity overshadows any kind of planning. Most magically, this recording manages to integrate five (or six) voices into a coherent whole that can communicate on many simultaneous levels.
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Track Listing: Stance Dance (Courage); Arithmetical Mystic; Echoes Wind Transpire; Radiatory Fineness.
Personnel: Roger Baird: drums, percussion, tabla, flutes; Billy Bang: violin, percussion; Malik Baraka: trumpet; Daniel Carter: tenor and alto saxophones, flutes, drums, percussion; William Parker: bass; Herb Kahn: bass (1)
Record Label: Roaratorio Records
Style: Modern Jazz