The New York City Jazz Record review by Clifford Allen

Bobby Bradford/Mark Dresser/Glen Ferris – Live in LA (CF 241)
While often compared to the Ornette Coleman-Don Cherry quartets of the early ‘60s, the work of reedman John Carter (1929-91) and cornetist Bobby Bradford (1934) in Los Angeles from the late ‘60s through the mid ‘80s is anything but Coleman-esque. Chief among the reasons why and how their music differed was its chamber sensibility, fueled by sparse, moody reservation and parallelism amid multi-part arrangements. That’s not to say the Carter-Bradford Quartet wasn’t equally full of bebop energy or bluesy swagger, but those elements were approached as part of a vast aesthetic reach. At the heart of the quartet was the interplay between trumpet and woodwinds and their powerful swing didn’t necessarily require a bassist and drummer to get things done. Bradford has carried his incisive, round tone and attack to a number of extraordinary recordings in the post-Carter era, one of which is an unforgettable trio date with bassist Mark Dresser and trombonist Glenn Ferris. The program is a mixture of group improvisations and compositions by the trio’s members, though only one is a Bradford original (the oft-recorded “Comin’ On”). Ferris is probably the least well known of the group – while he’s recorded with Steve Lacy and Don Ellis, his Parisian expatriate lifestyle has kept him from being a household name. That’s too bad, because he’s one of the most fascinatingly expressive trombonists this side of Roswell Rudd and Albert Mangelsdorff. His vocal chortles, whines and guffaws are built into a measured language that displays a range of emotions, from pathos to bemusement, with a few ‘bugle flicks’. Bradford’s brawny elegance is in an almost ‘straight man’ role compared to Ferris, ebulliently swinging through even the most abstract of situations. The closing “Ready to Go” is an aptly-titled dirge composed by the trombonist, in which a stately Bill Harris-worthy hymn is declaimed atop Dresser’s low-slung pizzicato, gradually picking up the trumpeter’s sure-yet-brittle commentary. The bassist’s “For Bradford” opens the set, its theme likely drawn from fragments of the trumpeter’s compositions. Its dedicatee crackles through thick, gobbed phrases, making deep statements that are airily emphatic as he stretches, crumples and punctuates in a way that quickly unifies the group’s collectivity. Bradford is always a player to sit up and pay attention to, but Live in LA provides an especially powerful setting that should be required listening.

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