A Tribute to Alvin Fielder, Live at Vision Festival XXIV
Mahakala Music MAHA 004

Dirge dedication meets defiance on this live Vision Festival set as four experts in exploratory sounds celebrate a recently deceased comrade. New Orleans tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, Virginia pianist Joel Futterman and New York bassist William Parker were long-time associated of drummer Alvin Fielder whose other affiliations encompassed the AACM and advancing contemporary Mississippi music. The empty drum chair is filled by Chicago’s Hamid Drake, who has played with them all in other circumstances. Familiar with each others’ capabilities the four create a spacious, soulful and ultimately superlative improvisation that serves as a fitting threnody for Fielder.

Kinetic during most of its more than 45 minutes, “A Tribute to Alvin Fielder: encompasses more peaks that valleys as the contrasting and contrapuntal output from Jordan’s consistent overblowing and Futterman’s dynamic expressionism constantly lurch the improvisation forward. Paced by Drake’s drum pulses and cymbal clangs and Parker’s throbbing bass plucks, dramatic story telling affects all parts of the piece. Probably referring to Fielder’s rural roots, among his altissimo split tones, masticated slurs and bouts of glossolalia, the saxophonist works in brief, bizzaro snatches of “Nature Boy” into his solos. Meanwhile the pianist’s emotional exposition is expressed with dynamic key splatters, metronomic pacing and tremolo emphasis. Although the piece sometimes slows down to emphasize the yearning sub theme with technical expansions, the ambulatory motion never falters. This is particularly true as the bassist meticulously works his way forward with angled spiccato stings or arco scrubs and the drummer downshifts regular taps to restrained rim-shot patterning. Emphasized with reed bites and split tones the narrative turns darker and slower during the improvisation’s latter section. With tougher chording Futterman backs Jordan’s turns to squalling split tones and eventually sopranissimo screams until “Nature Boy” is reprised gently, paced by chunky drum repetition and leaned-in sul tasto bass emphasis. The climax from Jordan mixes Blues references with a technically sophisticated overlay.

The result celebrates the admirable fusion of these qualities in Fielder’s work and by extension similar admirable elements that members of this quartet bring to their playing here and other situations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. A Tribute to Alvin Fielder,

Personnel: Kidd Jordan (tenor saxophone); Joel Futterman (piano); William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums)