Bradford / Dresser / Ferris – Live in LA (CF 241)
This disc gets more beautiful on each listen! The long-standing friendship of trumpeter/cornetist Bradford, bassist Dresser and trombonist Ferris bears striking musical fruit on this 2009 recording, which is not really a concert date at all; rather, it’s a living-room recording that nevertheless boasts all the immediacy and nuance of a club date.
The recording is superb, which is essential in order to catch every push, pull and jab in which these three veterans engage. Every detail is up close without ever clouding the dynamic spectrum. Just listen to Ferris’ first note on the ground-swelling and slow-burning blues of “Purge,” where he slides into a slow slinky vibrato that decays with gorgeous control. Bradford answers in kind, and Dresser, ever the attentive listener, chimes in with a percussive thud which explains why this trio needs no drummer. If further proof was required, his solo on the opening of “Ready to Go” should seal the deal. He punches, slides and vamps as only Bobby Bradford can, backing Ferris’ breathy exhortations with extraordinary detail, each phrase a world of invention unto itself, but from deep in the pocket. The counterpoint emergent upon Bradford’s entrance is stunning, and each player’s mature style is tempered by a sense of fun, most likely due to their enjoyment of the occasion.
Yet, it is the group interplay that ultimately makes this disc so enjoyable, as can be heard in the uplifting and frolicsome “In my Dream,” or on the slow groove of “Panda’s Run,” where Bradford and Ferris sometimes sound like one instrument, so intertwined are the lines and phrases as the two cross registers.
A thin, almost translucent layer of reverb coats the proceedings in a layer of glass, preserving and enhancing the excitement and care in every note. Far from being intrusive, it only adds to the sense of occasion as these three veterans reunite, finally documenting their multifarious experiences and shared musical journey. This is now one of my favorite releases in Clean Feed’s dauntingly extensive catalog.
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.
Bobby Bradford – Mark Dresser – Glen Ferris – Live in LA (CF 241)
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
Bobby Bradford, uno dei miglior trombettisti emersi dal free jazz e dalle zone contigue all’avanguardia, partner di Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Charlie Haden, autore con il clarinettista John Carter di una manciata di dischi pregevoli, rientra a buon diritto nell’ampia schiera di unsung heroes, musicisti che hanno dato un contributo di notevole importanza all’evoluzione della musica afro-americana ma che raramente hanno ottenuto le luci della ribalta o raggiunto gli onori della cronaca. Questa registrazione del settembre 2009, effettuata a casa del trombonista Bruce Fowler, ci restituisce un Bradford smagliante, in gran forma, in compagnia di altri due ottimi musicisti come Mark Dresser e Glen Ferris. Due brani a firma Dresser, tre di Ferris, uno di Bradford e due completamente improvvisati (ma in registrazioni di questo tipo è spesso difficile definire la linea di demarcazione tra scrittura e improvvisazione) delineano il quadro di Live in LA.
Che è quello di una musica al di sopra di stili, mode e generi, aperta a molteplici sollecitazioni – qua e là si percepiscono un giro di blues, una linea di bop, un accenno di swing, una escursione nell’atonalità, una deviazione nel minimalismo, una cadenza folklorica – rielaborate con somma maestria e sensibilità in un unicum organico plasmato dalla personalità dei tre. La riuscita di Live in LA risiede anche nella maestria con la quale Ferris, Dresser e Bradford riescono ad esprimere la propria cifra espressiva senza prevaricazioni o atteggiamenti da primadonna ma esibendo un grande rispetto vicendevole e una ragguardevole libertà e sintonia di pensiero.
Bobby Bradford, Mark Dresser, Glenn Ferris – Live in LA (CF 241)
What are the chances that Bobby Bradford would be prominently featured on two disks in a row on this blog? It would be slim only because of the luck of the draw. Nevertheless it is happening today.
And so we have a trio of Mr. Bradford (on cornet) plus bassist Mark Dresser and trombonist Glenn Ferris, Live in LA (Clean Feed 241). There are trios with this instrumentation that seem wholly self-sufficient; others you ask yourself “where’s the drummer?” Live in LA almost seems like the latter. The periodicity of much of the music (in a post-early-Ornette groove) seems to need the equivalent of an Eddie Blackwell back there polyrhythmically pushing it. But no. If that were the case Mark Dresser’s fine bass playing and the liberties he takes might have been lost or hindered a bit. So the trio format allows Dresser to be a more fully front-lined member of the trio. And so it is.
That’s the point of this one, I think. It’s three important improvisers playing out of some head compositions, or improvising from the get-go, expanding their solo work and getting into two- and three-way collective improvisations too. It’s good to hear Glenn Ferris again, onetime youthful star of Don Ellis’s big band and an important member of Billy Cobham’s Crosswinds ensemble. Perhaps his playing is a little less brash today, a little more mature, but no less striking. Mark Dresser is filled with good ideas throughout, as you would expect. And Bobby Bradford sounds terrific, as only he can in the way he does.
By the way, the “live” in the title refers to the immediacy of the music, not to the audience, which is actually not there in any audible sense. It was recorded at Bruce Fowler’s house. The sound is quite decent.
So in the end this is a fine outing for all three, individually and collectively. Do not hesitate.
Ben Allison – Action Refraction (Palmetto Records)
Piero Bittolo Bon & His Original Pigneto Stompers – Mucho Acustica (Long Song Records)
Bobby Bradford – Mark Dresser – Glenn Ferris – Live in LA (Clean Feed)
Arrigo Cappelletti – Andrea Massaria – Nicola
Stranieri – Mat Maneri – Metamorphosis (Leo Records)
Gerald Cleaver – Uncle June: Be It As I See It (Fresh Sound/New Talent)
Franco D’Andrea – Sorapis (El Gallo Rojo)
Bill Dixon – Envoi (Victo)
Harris Eisenstadt – September Trio (Clean Feed)
Peter Evans – Ghosts (More is More)
Gerry Hemingway Quintet – Riptide (Clean Feed)
Fred Hersch – Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records)
Taylor Ho Bynum – Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12)
Lee Konitz – Brad Mehldau – Charlie Haden – Paul Motian – Live at Birdland (ECM)
Ingrid Laubrock Sleepthief – The Madness of Crowds (Intakt)
Tony Malaby – Novela (Clean Feed)
Paul Motian – The Windmills of Your Mind (Winter and Winter)
Augusto Pirodda – No Comment (JazzWerkstatt)
Michel Portal – Bailador (EmArcy)
Starlicker trio – Double Demon (Delmark)
Craig Taborn – Avenging Angel (ECM)
Mark Dresser / Bobby Bradford / Glenn Ferris – Live In LA (CF 241)
All three of the musicians assembled here have impeccable free-jazz credentials, including longstanding associations with folks like Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Frank Zappa, Steve Lacy and, most importantly, one another. Although this is their first recording (set up on the fly in trombonist Bruce Fowler’s house in 2009), Bradford, Dresser and Ferris have been gigging together off and on for decades. Perhaps that’s why this music escapes some of the more predictable tropes and meandering of much “free jazz” — it’s continually purposeful, resourceful, coherent and surprising, while retaining the open-mindedness and high-wire tension and agility that makes the genre so invigorating. The ensemble is so inside each other that they hold our attention, but this is no cerebral exercise that you have to “get.” It grabs you and brings you along for some educated experimentation that is no less swinging for being highly evolved. One of the first things that corrals you is the shifting dynamics of the brass and bass lineup. Bradford’s trumpet and Ferris’s trombone surge together with superb timing on unison phrases during “For Bradford,” “BBJC” and the closing of “In My Dream.” But just as often Ferris’s low-toned, slippery lines create a bridge between the higher trumpet and the throbbing bass, until they morph into different roles, orbiting and weaving in various combinations of solos, twos and threes. Bradford likes to splat as often as most trombonists, and Dresser’s strong-handed bass rhythms and phrases are as capable of studding notes into a string of charms as any soloing horn player.
The three songs by Ferris contain the most structure. “Purge” is a particular highlight, a Mingusian concoction of breathy, brash and bluesy colors in chromatic counterpoint that eventually spirals downward. “In My Dream,” also by Ferris, contains the most sprightly, overtly pop melody, but it is rendered with a twist, as Bradford leads and all three finish the little hooks. Of the two tunes that are collectively improvised (at least all three share songwriting credit), Dresser takes the lead on much of “Pandas Run,” varying strums and single-note plucking, then laying in some more trebly, thwacking, looser-stringed accents. “Bamboo Shoots” contains much of the classic free jazz feel I’d expected to hear, with some chimes, a spacey ambiance, Dresser bowing while the brass murmur and speak in tongues — impressionistic cacophony and rumination. It’s solid stuff, but simply doesn’t have the same compelling and commanding ebb-and-flow as the rest of the disc. Live In L.A. arrived at a time that almost guarantees it will fall through the gap of most best-of lists — too late for serious consideration in 2011, and too early to hold prominence in 2012. But rare is the jazz disc that is more enjoyable, in any year.