Reviews that mention Denis Charles

October 12, 2012

William Parker

Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987
NoBusiness NBCD 42-47

Something In the Air: Discovering Long Hidden Advanced Jazz

By Ken Waxman

When New York’s now justly famous, Vision Festival first took place in 1996 committed jazz fans greeted the event as if they were witnessing a full-fledged musical resurrection. So many advanced players of unbridled free form and experimental sounds were involved that the annual festival soon became a crowded week-long summer happening. Ironically – which was one reason for the Fest’s popularity – these probing sounds and its players were supposed to have vanished after the revolutionary 1960s, superseded first by Jazz-Rock pounders’ simple melodies and then jazz’s Young Lions who aped the sounds and sartorial choices of the 1950s – both of which had major record label support. Still bassist/composer/bandleader William Parker’s Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987 NoBusiness NBCD 42-47 aptly demonstrates, experimental sounds never vanished; they just went underground. As the 24 often lengthy tracks that make up this 6-CD set of hitherto unreleased material substantiates in its breadth of performances, sonically questing players were improvising and composing during those so-called lost years. But it took the founding of the Vision Festival by Parker and his wife, dancer/choreographer Patricia Nicholson, to provide the proper medium for this work. Major stylists such as saxophonists Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, vocalist Ellen Christi and trumpeter Roy Campbell, all of whom are represented in the set, would go on to mentor a multiplying groundswell of younger rule stretchers and future Vision Fest participants. Also, despite being professionally recorded, the conservative climate of the times, plus the cost of producing and distributing LPs, left the tapes used for these CDs stacked in performers’ apartments. Now the belated release of Centering fills in a blank in jazz history, equivalent to what coming across a cache of unreleased John Cage or Morton Feldman recordings would do. Included in the package is an attractively designed 66-page paperback book with vintage photos, posters and sketches along with essays discussing the background of the sessions, the musicians’ experiences and the New York scene. MORE

December 10, 2011

Steve Lacy

School Days
Emanem 5016

By Ken Waxman

Nearly 50 years later it seems unbelievable, but this all-star quartet broke up after a couple of years of almost no work because few wanted to support a band that exclusively played what was then thought of as far-out music by pianist/composer Thelonious Monk. Yet, on the basis of the material recorded here in 1963, with Henry Grimes stentorian walking bass timbres and Dennis Charles’ free-flowing drum beats on side, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonist Roswell Rudd were already so familiar with the Monk cannon that they were able to create their own swinging variations on such now-familiar Monk fare as Monk’s Dream and Brilliant Corners. MORE

July 2, 2008

Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet

Early and Late
Cuneiform Records Rune 250/251

Slightly deceptively titled this memorable two-CD set celebrates the four-decades-long collaboration between trombonist Roswell Rudd and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. The title is ambiguous because while four tracks are by the legendary 1962 Lacy-Rudd quartet, the remaining nine showcase the reconstituted partnership late (1999) and very late (2002) in its tenure – Lacy died in 2004.

Overall the quartet – featuring bassist Bob Cunningham and drummer Dennis Charles in 1962 and bassist Jean- Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch later on – performs the timeless repertoire that characterized Lacy-Rudd meetings in the intervening years: single lines by Cecil Taylor, Herbie Nichols and Rudd plus five originals by Lacy and a large helping of Thelonious Monk’s music, which the two championed years before its adoption by the repertory movement. MORE

March 7, 2005


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

August 23, 2004


Cosmosamatics Three
Boxholder BXH 041

Ayler AYL006-CD

A versatile, but unappreciated multi-reedman, New York-based Michael Marcus proves that he can hold his own alongside Free Jazz legends on these CDs.

Not only that, but a comparison of the two discs -- one recorded in 1993 and the other in 2002 and 2003 -- shows a remarkable consistency in his approach to improvisations. THREE is probably the more challenging, since Marcus, who is part of Saxemble as well as leading his own groups, shares the front line of the Cosmosamatics with Sonny Simmons. MORE