June 18, 2001
Boxholder BXH 014
Besides the music, one of the most notable aspects of this 1977 reissue is that it puts to rest the common prevarication that hostility existed between the so-called New Thing players and earlier jazz stylists.
Max Roach's duets with either Cecil Taylor or Anthony Braxton later in that decade and Philly Joe Jones work with Archie Shepp in 1969 were some examples of how untrue that rumor was. In addition, this little-known quintet date should bury the idea for all time.
With no apparent ideological fissure, the man credited with having "invented" bop drumming — Kenny Clarke — plays in tandem with two representatives of the avant garde — alto saxophonist Noah Howard and pianist Bobby Few — seconded by trumpeter Richard Williams and bassist Guy Pederson.
Listening to the almost 23 minute title track you understand why everything fell into place. Professionals all, not one of the musicians appears to be uncomfortable in his work. A rhythm master, Clarke, aided by journeyman Pederson, keeps the beat flowing straight ahead, no matter what happens in the front line. Plus his one solo feature is as much concerned with paradiddles and auxiliary snare and cymbal inflections as bass drum bomb dropping.
Meanwhile Few, who worked with leaders as different as singer Brook Benton and tenor saxophonists Frank Wright and Booker Ervin, ties the front and back ends of the combo together. Jumping from register to register, his lines seem to owe as much to older blues and gospel as modern modal sounds, with a barrage of notes outlined just so in order for each to sound distinct.
New Orleans-born, Howard appreciate his roots as well as anyone, so that his keening, many-noted expositions are invested with the same sort of down home folksiness Clarke must have known in his apprentice days. Calls and response with Williams may leave the bar lines, but a triple repetition of the theme keeps things on an even keel.
Yet it's the trumpeter's work which proves to be most revealing. Sideman for the likes of Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington and Gigi Gryce, he made practically no dates as a leader. Yet this almost 25 year old session shows that he appeared to have evolved a freebop style on his own, bobbing effortlessly from one of that word's syllable to another, then tying both into a neat package. Here he has Lee Morgan's strength and Don Cherry's inventiveness.
RED STAR's other tracks provide further variations on the combination inside and outside theme, with, not surprisingly, the saxophonist able to unleash a caressing, boudoir tone on "Lovers".
Historically, musically and sonically the session deserves your attention, especially to observe the sound of the two featured musicians and the underappreciated and sparsely recorded Williams.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Creole Girl 2. Lovers 3. Red Star
Personnel: Richard Williams (trumpet); Noah Howard (alto saxophone); Bobby Few (piano); Guy Pederson (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums)