Reviews that mention Billy Bang

November 8, 2013

The Group

Live
No Business Records NBCD 50

Melodic Art-Tet

Eponymous

NoBusiness Records NBCD 56

By Ken Waxman

Although according to detractors, all free-jazz sessions sound alike, these high-quality dates from 1974 and 1986 put a lie to that supposition. Both also suggest why the music was never popular. Each CD shares trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah and features all stars. 1974’s Melodic Art-Tet included reedist Charles Brackeen, drummer Roger Blank, bassist William Parker and percussionist Tony Waters (Ramadan Mumeen). 1986’s The Group was saxophonist Marion Brown, violinist Billy Bang, bassists Sirone or Fred Hopkins plus drummer Andrew Cyrille. MORE

January 8, 2011

David Murray/Chico Freeman

With Özay
ITM Archives 920009

David Murray

Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club

Jazzwerkstatt JW 073

By Ken Waxman

Over the course of his career saxophonist David Murray has blown hot, cold, but mostly cool. Despite making hundreds of records, few are first class, although most reach a level of high competence. Live at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club – initially released in 1977 on India Navigation – is one of his best early discs, however. Meanwhile With Özay, from the 1990s, is a top-flight vocal CD, where despite the billing, Murray, Chico Freeman and other first-call jazzers provide sympathetic accompaniment to singer Özay. MORE

November 6, 2010

Billy Bang

Prayer for Peace
TUM CD 018

By Ken Waxman

Prayer for Peace may be violinist Billy Bang’s most fully realized session, since it balances his influences with his present-day concerns. With the nearly 20-minute title track a major anti-war statement, other tunes pay homage to his childhood in Spanish Harlem, 1930s jazz fiddler Stuff Smith and Bang’s erstwhile employer Sun Ra.

With trumpeter James Zollar channeling Jonah Jones’ mellow, muted tone, pianist Andy Bemkey key clipping, a Major Holley-like rhythmic bass break from Todd Nicholson, and Bang’s curlicue stops and melodic extensions, the Smith-tribute, “Only Time will Tell” reaches the same level of enjoyable swing in which Smith specialized. Like the work of the older violinist as well, it entertains without pandering. Additionally, a number such as “Chan Chan”, which adds the vibrating friction promulgated by percussionists Milton Cardona and Joe Gonzalez, dazzles with shuffle bowing and spiccato runs from Bang plus brassy, plunger work from the trumpeter, who often also works in Latin-jazz settings. MORE

August 8, 2009

Roy Campbell Ensemble

Akhenaten Suite
AUM Fidelity 045

Named for Akhenaten IV, a fabled pharaoh who ruled Egypt around 1300 B.C., this seven-part suite, composed by brassman Roy Campbell premiered in this riveting live performance at New York’s Vision Festival. Although lodged firmly in the territory where modern jazz is tinged with Arabic echoes, the sensitivity of each player is such that trappings of mythologized exotica are avoided and replaced with first-class improvisational flights.

Serpentine themes that define many of the suite’s transitions are given impetus not only from Campbell – who manipulates tart trumpet expositions and gently muted flugelhorn coloration with equal finesse – but also by the contrapuntal spiccato sweep of Billy Bang’s violin. When Campbell’s distinctive half-valve effects aren’t paired in double counterpoint with Bang’s sobbing sul ponticello runs or hyperactive string multiphonics, then lower-keyed unison harmonies bond gentling trumpet runs with chiming vibraharp strokes from Bryan Carrott. Backbeat rhythms from drummer Zen Matsuura and springy double stops from bassist Hillard Greene pulse without becoming overbearing. Both keep the beat supple enough to undulate into different pitches and tones without it turning around or disintegrating. MORE

July 13, 2009

FAB Trio

Live In Amsterdam
Porter Records PRCD-4014

Revolutionary Ensemble

Beyond the Boundary of Time

Mutable MM-17532-2

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) and his direct successor Billy Bang (b. 1947) occupy unique niches in the history of advanced improvised music. Arguably the first person to fully integrate the violin into both the so-called New Thing and New music, Jenkins’ impelled the traditional instrument’s rhythmic and lyrical functions beyond those of mere lyricism or rudimentary swing. While the older string player turned increasingly towards formal composition in his final years, shortly afterwards Bang added an additional dimension of unvarnished rhythmic elasticity to Jenkins’ fiddle liberation. MORE

July 13, 2009

Revolutionary Ensemble

Beyond the Boundary of Time
Mutable MM-17532-2

FAB Trio

Live In Amsterdam

Porter Records PRCD-4014

Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) and his direct successor Billy Bang (b. 1947) occupy unique niches in the history of advanced improvised music. Arguably the first person to fully integrate the violin into both the so-called New Thing and New music, Jenkins’ impelled the traditional instrument’s rhythmic and lyrical functions beyond those of mere lyricism or rudimentary swing. While the older string player turned increasingly towards formal composition in his final years, shortly afterwards Bang added an additional dimension of unvarnished rhythmic elasticity to Jenkins’ fiddle liberation. MORE

November 20, 2008

Kidd Jordan

The Vision Festival New York
June 11, 2008

Figuratively – and usually single-handedly – carrying the banner for experimental Jazz in New Orleans for many years, tenor saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan, 73, must have felt metaphorically out-in-the-cold on many occasions. But heat was certainly in evidence – literally and emotionally – mid-June in New York as a turn-away crowd helped celebrate the reedman’s Lifetime Achievement with a series of concerts.

Highlight of the 13th Annual Vision Festival that took place at the Lower East Side’s Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, the five sets honoring Jordan were hot – as was the venue. Despite a few strategically placed revolving fans, the temperature hovered around 35 degrees Celsius in the venerable space, with body heat from the packed audiences adding to the ventilation challenges. MORE

November 7, 2006

FAB (Fonda/Altschul/Bang)

Live at the Iron Works, Vancouver
Konnex KCD 5158

Thomas, Storrs and Sarpolas
Time Share
Louie Records 036

Filled with flowing fancy fiddling, these West-Coast recorded CDs showcase the initial and most recent violinist from the long-running String Trio of New York.

They offer much more than that, of course and despite a similarity in personnel, the discs couldn’t be more different. An Eugene, Ore.-native on visit to Corvallis, Ore., violinist Rob Thomas slides through a set of spontaneous compositions in the company of local drummer – and label owner – Dave Storrs, plus other New York visitors, fellow Pacific Northwest expat, bassist Dick Sarpola and his son, percussionist George Sarpola. Thus the TS&S name. Backyard snapshots in the booklet testify to the informality of the session: everyone is wearing shorts and sandals and a nearby table is heaped with chips, dips and soft drinks. MORE

November 7, 2006

Thomas, Storrs and Sarpolas

Time Share
Louie Records 036

FAB (Fonda/Altschul/Bang)
Live at the Iron Works, Vancouver
Konnex KCD 5158

Filled with flowing fancy fiddling, these West-Coast recorded CDs showcase the initial and most recent violinist from the long-running String Trio of New York.

They offer much more than that, of course and despite a similarity in personnel, the discs couldn’t be more different. An Eugene, Ore.-native on visit to Corvallis, Ore., violinist Rob Thomas slides through a set of spontaneous compositions in the company of local drummer – and label owner – Dave Storrs, plus other New York visitors, fellow Pacific Northwest expat, bassist Dick Sarpola and his son, percussionist George Sarpola. Thus the TS&S name. Backyard snapshots in the booklet testify to the informality of the session: everyone is wearing shorts and sandals and a nearby table is heaped with chips, dips and soft drinks. MORE

January 16, 2006

AHMED ABDULLAH’S EBONIC TONES

Tara’s Song
TUM CD009

KAHIL EL’ZABAR'S RITUAL TRIO/BILLY BANG
Live At The River East Art Center
Delmark DE-566

Recorded in different cities seven months apart, these CDs are connected by the presence of violinist Billy Bang and a profound respect for all variations of Black improvised music.

In addition to two originals by Brooklyn-based trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, Tara’s Song is a compendium of hip heads from Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and others. In many ways a showcase for the percussion implements of Chicago’s Kahil El’Zabar, Live At The River East Art Center, takes its inspiration from the drummer’s twin influences, Pan-Africanism and the city’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). MORE

September 12, 2005

Ann Arbor’s Edgefest expands in its Ninth Outing

for CODA

Participants, including members of Chicago’s AACM, representatives of Montreal’s Musique Actuelle scene and a New York-based musician and hybrid instrument designer who’ll jam with a golf club and an umbrella, will all take part in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s ninth annual Edgefest, October 19 to October 22.

Taking place in a medium-sized college city, home to the University of Michigan, about an hour’s drive west of Detroit, Edgefest has steadily expanded from its one-day debut to the four-day 2005 festival. Besides American musicians, particular emphasis is on innovators from the music scenes in Holland and Quebec. This year, for instance, Claude St-Jean’s Les Projectionnistes is the featured Quebec ensemble – its second Edgefest appearance – with saxophonist Tobias Delius’ Quartet – including cellist Tristan Honsinger and drummer Han Bennink – representing the Netherlands. MORE

September 7, 2005

Billy Bang

Vietnam: Reflections
Justin Time Just 212-2

A refinement rather than a squeal to violinist Billy Bang’s highly praised Vietnam: The Aftermath, this CD extends his cathartic musings on his Southeast Asian war experiences by adding traditional sounds from two Vietnamese performers to those created by his freebop ensemble. Probably the foremost clue to his conception is that tunes entitled “Reconciliation1” and “Reconciliation 2” take up one-third of the disc.

On the former and elsewhere, the vocals of Co Boi Nguyen and the stroked dan tranh – or plucked zither – textures from Nhan Thanh Ngo provide distinctive patterns which the other musicians use to their advantage. While there is an Oriental cast to some of the themes in the Bang-crafted originals, this isn’t some so-called world music match-up. Bang and company – some members of whom like trumpeter Ted Daniel, drummer Michael Carvin, percussionist Ron Brown and conductor Butch Morris are also Nam veterans – are jazzmen first. MORE

August 29, 2005

SIRONE BANG ENSEMBLE

Configuration
Silkheart SHCD 155

More a series of concertos for four instrumentalists than a relationship or arrangement, CONFIGURATION, recorded live in New York late last year, is a confirmation of the power of three veteran, so-called avant-garde players and the introduction of a talented tyro.

Still vibrant, despite the desires of neo-cons to banish them from jazz history, violinist Billy Bang, 57, bassist Sirone, 64, and saxophonist Charles Gayle 65, are as inventive and technically adroit as they were when they first began making noise –sometimes literally – in the 1960s and 1970s. New kid on the block – who holds his own here – is New Jersey-based drummer Tyshawn Sorey, 22. Although not arranged in the bebop sense, the six pieces on this CD, recorded downstairs at CBGBs, offer a lot more than a customary string of round robin solos. Singularly, or in duos, the four not only exhibit instrumental prowess but link disparate sections without ever losing the compositional thread. MORE

April 18, 2005

AHMED ABDULLAH’S DISPERSIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF RA

Traveling The Spaceways
Planet Arts Recordings 100324

Hagiography constantly becomes more prevalent in jazz as the number of venerated figures grows and their time of prominence recedes. Almost from its first recordings, the music featured sessions idolizing past heroes, but over the past 20 years the practice has almost kept pace with Hollywood biopics.

How then can you distinguish between a meaningful tribute, which includes this CD, and slapdash homage? Well, for a start, it helps if the protagonist has some real association with the honored figure, as trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah did, being part of various Sun Ra Arkestras over a 20 year period. More generically the venerator should offers more than a replay of the honoree’s sounds, bringing something unique and original to the project. Abdullah has done that as well. He and tenor saxophonist Salim Washington have created new arrangements of familiar and obscure Ra material and have appended to it has stronger singers plus dramatic recitations by poet Louis Reyes Rivera MORE

March 7, 2005

BILLY BANG

Sweet Space/Untitled Gift
8th Harmonic Breakdown HB 8005/6

Fusion of two Billy Bang LPs originally issued on the Anima label plus four previously unreleased tracks, this two-CD set proves once again that a lot of excellent, advanced music was being made out of the media spotlight in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

While the focus then may have been on the discredited jazz-rock movement and emerging Young Lions, Free Jazz/Loft Movement veterans like Bang and crew were obstinately cutting out-of-the-ordinary sessions that, like Julius Hemphill and David Murray’s records of the time, contained basic swing roots fused with atonal solos. MORE

December 29, 2003

FAB

Transforming the Space
CIMP #284

MALCOLM GOLDSTEIN/MATTHIAS KAUL
Christian Wolff: Bread and Roses
Wergo WER 6658 2

Combining the timbres from the violin and percussion symbolically characterizes the miscegenation that has defined modern music since at least the beginning of the last century. There’s probably a no more European instrument than the violin, or a more African one than the drum. Thus contemporary musical history involves a gradual rapprochement between those two powerful sources. MORE

September 22, 2003

WILLIAM PARKER

Scrapbook
Thirsty Ear THI 57133.2

William Parker’s name may be above the title, but as the subtitle -- violin trio -- makes clear, the spectacular success of this CD rests in the bow and four strings of Billy Bang.

Legitimate successor to the mantle of Stuff Smith as jazz’s most original string soloist, New York-based Bang’s output has been inconsistent since he first came to prominence in the late 1970s with the String Trio of New York. But everything must have been in alignment on this date as Bang cuts loose on a half-dozen of Parker’s compositions, backed by the New York bassist and Chicago drummer Hamid Drake. MORE

June 16, 2003

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Live from the Vision Festival
Thirsty Ear THI 57131.2

The next best thing to being there, this combination CD and DVD package offers a distillation of some of the outstanding performances from last year’s Vision Festival in New York’s Lower East Side. Lacking the name recognition of Newport, Montreux, or any other capitalist entity-associated international star festival, in its less than 10 year existence, Vision has still promulgated a unique artistic vision.

Built around the vision of bassist William Parker, it’s a place where pioneering avant gardists from the 1960s mix it up with younger players who are carrying on experimental ideals. It’s cross-cultural, national and international as well, with the musicians showcased on this session arriving from Germany, Korea, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Valencia, Calif., New Orleans… and Brooklyn, MORE

October 28, 2002

TRI-FACTOR

If You Believe…
8th Harmonic Breakdown 8THHB 80004

KAHIL EL’ZABAR
Love Outside of Dreams
Delmark DG-541

Leading two regular bands obviously isn’t enough for Chicago-based multi-percussionist Kahil El’Zabar. Not only has he written poetry and film scores, taught at nearby universities and initiated arts presentations, but he’s also put together a series of ad-hoc musical groups.

Besides his regularly constituted Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (EHE) and Ritual Trio, he also organized the Bright Moments combo filled with Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians veterans and recorded exciting projects with 1960s tenor masters like Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. Now these CDs showcase him in two more bands. Tri-Factor is a regularly constituted co-op trio, filled out by baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett and violinist Billy Bang. The other combo disc is more of bittersweet affair. A reunion between El’Zabar and a former duo partner, extensively recorded tenor saxophonist David Murray, it’s also the final recording session for bassist Fred Hopkins, who died at 51 of heart and liver disease a few months after the session. MORE

July 13, 2002

FULLY CELEBRATED ORCHESTRA

Marriage of Heaven and Earth
Innova 567

GOLD SPARKLE BAND
Fugues and Flowers
Squealer Music SQLR 035

Gerry Mulligan may get credit for inventing the so-called pianoless quartet in modern jazz but it was Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz band of the early 1960s that really established it as a viable aggregation.

Having ingenious soloists like cornettist Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ed Blackwell on board, Coleman on his Atlantic LPs proved that lacking a chordal instrument did nothing to weaken a band’s internal dynamics, as long as the mixture of talent and compositions was maintained. MORE

May 10, 2002

MARILYN CRISPELL

Live In Berlin
Soul Note SN 120069-2

Listening to this disc almost 20 years after it was recorded in a Berlin concert you can hear how much pianist Marilyn Crispell has changed -- and remained the same -- since that time.

Very much a product of the epoch, the band is performing a version of energy music, not unlike that practiced by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s quartet -- one of her acknowledged influences -- with Crispell in the McCoy Tyner or Alice Coltrane role and violinist Billy Bang taking on the Trane mantle. At the same time, having a violin as a solo voice brings up memories of those groups featuring fiddlers like Ramsey Ameen and Leroy Jenkins and led by Cecil Taylor, another Crispell totem. MORE

February 8, 2002

THE MUSIC ENSEMBLE

The Music Ensemble
Roaratorio Roar 03

History, especially jazz history, is a set of shared anecdotes and popular assumptions usually organized years after the fact. This approach’s shortcomings are made clearest when conjecture is transformed into cant, as was demonstrated by Ken Burns’ JAZZ series. Musical history -- especially one as complex as improvised music -- can’t easily be reduced to a theory of great men and neat transitions. Pesky details on the margins mess up these neat concepts, just like an exceptional jazz solo plays with the criterion of a conventional melody. MORE

October 15, 2001

KAHIL EL'ZABAR/BILLY BANG

Spirits Entering
Delmark 533

Representing the New York and Chicago tradition of African American improvised music, violinist Billy Bang and multi-percussionist Kahil El'Zabar have been playing in tandem on and off for the past 25 years.

Both obviously enjoy working together because each sees himself as part of a continuing musical lineage. Alabama-born, Manhattan-raised Bang, 53, developed his lyrical, rhythmic and dramatic conception not only by internalizing the innovations of free violinists Leroy Jenkins and Ornette Coleman, but also by accepting the entire hot fiddle lineage typified by Eddie South and especially the iconoclastic joker, Stuff Smith. MORE

April 22, 2000

BILLY BANG

Big Bang Theory
Justin Time JUST 135-2

Was it pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams who said he didn't want his music to be described as "avant garde" anymore because labeling it that way was "a kiss of death"?

Whoever it was, inventive violinist Billy Bang, who heads this exemplary album, could testify to the truth of that statement as well. One of the two prominent fiddlers -- Leroy Jenkins is the other -- who stripped the instrument of enough of its innate "prettiness" to let it hold its own with the iron men drummers and horn players of the early 1970s, Bang was never exclusively an avant gardist.

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