MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS

Things To Come From Those Now Gone
Delmark DD-430

Co-founder and first president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Muhal Richard Abrams spent his Chicago years (up to 1977) formulating and organizing new and unique ways to approach music. This 1972 reissue highlights many of them.

Although recorded over a two-day period, there's a different grouping on each track, with the sound ranging from romantic semi-classical to out-and-out freebop. At the same time, since THINGS TO COME is a peek into Abrams sonic lab, some experiments arrive stillborn.

Especially grating is Ella Jackson's piercing soprano on "How Are You", where her "classical" vocal stylings seem to torture every sign of life out of simple phrases. "Ballad For New Souls" is merely pleasant, resembling one of Erik Satie's dainty miniatures more than anything else. Meanwhile "1 and 4" works much better at the beginning, with Abrams at the piano, then later on when his synthesizer tinkering suggests a skating rink rather than a concert hall or club. Only Steve McCall's subtle percussion coloring preserves the mood.

It's future sound partisans like McCall — glimpsed in their early years — who are responsible for the excellence of the rest of the disk. (Parenthetically, Abrams' synthesizer work has also soared in the 28 years since then). Powerful drummer Wilbur Campbell helps turn the two tracks on which he's featured into bluesy, post bop showcases, while Wallace McMillan and Edwin Daugherty show that out-of-Chicago fame doesn't necessarily come to all fine saxophonists.

Tenorman Ari Brown — now in his prime as part of the Ritual Trio — proves on "In Retrospect" that his supply of ideas and go-for-broke tone were in perfect working order back in 1972. Moreover bassist Rufus Reid, who seems to have been the epitome of tasteful mainstreamer forever, reveals his avant-garde past and turns in an expectedly impeccable performance whenever he's featured.

In short, anyone interested in Abrams' concepts over the years will probably want this album. Even "How Are You" can be ignored by pre-programming the CD.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Ballad For New Souls 2. Things To Come From Those Now Gone 3. How Are You? 4. In Retrospect 5. Ballad For The Old Souls 6. 1 and 4 Plus 2 and 7. March Of The Transients Personnel: Wallace McMillan (flute or alto saxophone); Edwin Daugherty (alto saxophone); Ari Brown (tenor saxophone); Muhal Richard Abrams (piano and synthesizer); Emmanuel Cranshaw (vibes); Reggie Willis or Rufus Reid (bass); Steve McCall or Wilber Campbell (bass); Ella Jackson (voice)