Maghostut Trio

Live At Last
Rogue Art ROG 0005

Accurate when this session was recorded in 2003, this CD title is now a misnomer. For while it may be the only record of this edition of bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut’s trio, this particular band no longer performs.

Sadly, it’s because following a prolonged period of ill-health, Favors (1937-2004) died of stomach cancer about four months after this Madison, Wisc. date was recorded. Long-time member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) and Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio among other Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)-affiliated bands, the bassist often played ad hoc gigs in Chicago and in near-by cities like Madison. This particular formation is filled out by Hanah Jon Taylor on soprano and tenor saxophones, flute and keyboards and drummer Vincent Davis.

Ad-hoc is a more descriptive term for this concert than organized gig. Of historical interest, yes, but the end product is not much more than a recorded souvenir of another not-particularly inspired night. The three players run through one traditional R&B tune, one Charlie Parker classic, a Favors’ original, a Taylor line and two group-improvs without striking many sparks. Certainly it highlights the band members’ versatility, but the session lacks the profundity of the bassist’s best work with the ACE and the Ritual Trio.

Never sinking below a certain level of competence, however, Favors is still the epitome of rhythmic resourcefulness. Even in these last few months of his life he plucks wide-spaced note clusters or offers up swelling arco lines as gamely as always.

Taylor, who has also played with many AACMers, and Davis, drummer of choice when ACE saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell organizes a band, demonstrate their talents as well. Thumping and rumbling backbeats plus cymbal patterning, the percussionist brings rock-like energy to his accompaniment, and the smarts to integrate wood blocks and the coloration from other unusual percussion into his work. In the trio situation however, he often gets too much solo space.

Fond of honks and double tonguing, the saxophonist is chameleon-like, at points abstract and elsewhere earthy. On “Au Privave” his lines are sufficiently Boppish until they turn to energetic altissimo slurs; while on Favors’ “Beware of the Wolf”, in double counterpoint with the composer he replicates Dexter Gordon’s tone on tenor saxophone. That same piece and others feature his peeping flute work, which is achieved with his Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like vocalizing of nonsense syllables. Nadir is reached, however, when he plays electric keyboards, especially on his own “Electric Elephant Dance”. Wiggly, sweeping and diffuse, the sputtering results resemble the jejune electric- keyboard experiments which marred many 1960 date, and probably should have been curtailed.

All and all the best performance is likely the group improv, “Maghostut”. As Davis suggests darbuka and batá-like patterns and slippery berimbau vibrations, Taylor circulates convex tenor sax lines and repeated kazoo-like honks. Davis’ rumbles and double strokes cymbals then encourages Favors to turn his contributions from carefully shaped largo bowing to thick masculine walking, eventually double and triples stopping. Using lower case, guitar-like strumming for a climatic ending, Favors’ triumphant exposition here makes you wish the entire session had been at a similarly elevated level.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Talkin’ To You 2. Au Privave 3. Maghostut 4. Electric Elephant Dance 5. Beware of the Wolf 6. My Babe

Personnel: Hanah Jon Taylor (soprano and tenor saxophones, flute and keyboards); Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass) and Vincent Davis (drums)