Free Jazz Manifesto

By Philippe Robert and My Cat is an Alien
Lenka Lente

More than music reviews yet less than extended commentaries, Free Jazz Manifesto is a somewhat idiosyncratic list of 169 albums deemed essential to any Free Music collection created by one French and two Italian experts in the field. Each selection is described in one brief paragraph in French by veteran Gallic music journalist/author Philippe Robert and in another blurb crafted in dialect-inflected English prose by Italians Maurizio and Roberto Opalio who perform experimental music as the duo My Cat is an Alien.

Throughout the alphabetically listed session description aren’t immune to fanzine enthusiasm and are bereft of political and sociological insights except by inference, Moreover, apparently to prove their avant-garde credibility, the three concentrate on the most outré of outré free sounds and on the most obscure and experimental labels some of which are private pressing and many of which were released as limited editions. What this means is that most of the better known Free Jazz classics by the like of John Coltrane, Peter Brötzmann, Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker and others are missing, replaced by more obscure and underappreciated discs. Some major continental genre-breakers including Daunik Lazro and Joëlle Léandre also aren’t included, but perhaps that’s because emphasis is on the 1960s and 1970s

What is catalogued is a collection of interesting sounds with which some of the most committed Free Jazz followers may not be familiar. There are classic American sessions like Solidarity Unit, Inc.’s Red, Black and Green, a private press from 1972 and Clifford Thornton’s The Panther and the Lash (America 1971) and Henry Threadgill’s X-75 Volume I (Arista Novus 1979); those from Europe and the Diaspora including Stephen Horenstein’s Collages Jerusalem ’85 (Soul Note), Mike Osborne’s Marcel’s Muse (Ogun 1977) and Leo Cuypers' Zeeland Suite (Bvhaast 1978). There are representative sessions from Japan – Sabu Toyozumi’s Water Wheel (Trio 1975) and Kaoru Abe Trio’s 1970.3.15 Shinjuku (P.S.F.) and even Canada with CCMC Volume 1 (Music Gallery Editions 1979 ) and Le Quatour de Jazz Libre de Québec 1973 (Tenzier).

A few may disagree with the selection. Others may discover recorded gems they must have. Still this is a book to be investigated, and it suggests that more volumes of this sort could be published.

—Ken Waxman