Olivier Assayas's film on the aftermath of May 1968 is infantile ultra-leftism
JOE GLENTON explains his need to respond to a world that is unsustainably divided
Fathers and sons blowing saxophones together. John Coltrane never lived to groove with his son Ravi, but there were Jackie and Rene McLean in New York City, Dewey and Joshua Redman making their album African Venus together in the same city or, in London, Jimmy and Alan Skidmore crossing generations and genres together.
Or fusing in Chicago, the huge impact of two giant saxophonists - Von and Chico Freeman - each a virtuoso, both of them masters of their horns in different epochs, different contexts.
Lord Riff and Me was issued as the son Chico's album, with the Lord Riff of the title being his father Von (short for Lavon). By 1987 when the album first appeared Chico, born in Chicago in 1949, had become a prime tenor saxophone contender and an international jazz traveller while Von, also born in Chicago in 1922 and who died in the same city in August last year, preferred to spend his time and artistry in his home city, becoming a local horn legend with his own unmistakeable caustic, gurgling and blues-baked Shytown sound resonating from local clubs and bars.
Chico's playing had taken a different direction to that of his father. Much influenced by both the R&B bands he played with as a young hornman and the avant-garde ideas of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, he developed his own powerfully eclectic sound, making a series of acclaimed albums on the India Navigation, Contemporary and Black Saint labels.
The hour of hornpower on the Lord Riff and Me includes the contributions of three more master musicians. On piano is George Cables, New York-born gripping soloist and attuned accompanist to potent reedmen like Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper and Joe Henderson. The bassist is the post-bob supremo Cecil McBee from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the arch-drummer is Billy Hart, a Washingtonian veteran of the bands of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery. So all in all, quite a quintet.
They open up with Von's Blue Baby Do, which begins with some jaunty Cables before Von stomps in with a characteristically leaping chorus. Son and father play the melody of McCoy Tyner's Ballad for Aisha in unison, above Hart's fluttering drums and Cable's splashing notes before Chico's soprano slides into a haunting solo above McBee's springing bass.
Nearly 11 minutes of Coltrane's familiar Moment's Notice begins with Chico's tenor dancing off Von's blown bass chords. Von's pugnacious solo pushes all before it - fast, breathless and relentless, and as Chico takes over, lighter, almost weightless compared to his father's sound, the melody and its variants begin to fly and soar, propelling Cables into a pulsating chorus of rapid motion and airy intervention.
Back to history's impact upon the present and the enfolding of tradition with the aching notes of the spiritual Motherless Child. The theme is played with the pain of the elders and two succeeding generations bursting through in the horns and in Cable's chorus, with McBee seeming to measure out the long years of struggle through the wood of his calibrating bass. The past vibrates in every note.
Sneakin' Peakin' is McBee's playful tune in which his bass is on heat and the two tenors romp through their pacy solos with a joyous sense of freedom followd by an inspired Cables. Chico nourishes the ballad I Fall In Love Too Easily with a beautiful but earnest melodism, with McBee's eternal twang shimmering below him, and Von's South Express picks up fire and speed as it travels with Hart's drum energy providing the steam for the elder horn's powerful engine.
Vonce is another of Von's themes, a languorous blues with one of the confreres howling behind the horns. The apparently valedictory message of the album's final track Bye Bye Blackbird also radiates hope and the promise of renewal and further meetings. It's son before father on the solos, with Von in blustering fettle followed by McBee with a huge buzz in every deep, deep note.
Von and Chico were to record again together in 1989 on the India Navigation album Freeman and Freeman, but I love the verve and informality of Lord Riff and Me, carrying a marvellous jazz message of the unity of generations and telling its constant story of continuity and permanent motion.
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