LP Review: Third Eye featuring Wilton Gaynair – Connexion

Third Eye featuring Wilton Gaynair – Connexion
(Sonorama Records L-77. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair was a distinguished Jamaican sax man. Before relocating to Europe in the mid 1950s he attended Kingston’s celebrated Alpha Boys School. An institution designed for problem students, it was also renowned for offering an excellent musical education. Harold McNair and Don Drummond were among the alumni and the school band in which Gaynair played co-starred Joe Harriott and Dizzy Reece. There must have been something in the water. Gaynair recorded with Gil Evans, Freddie Hubbard and Bob Brookmeyer and was the leader on an album in 1959 for the British label Tempo, Blue Bogey, now a serious collector’s item.

But he was mostly active on the continent and it was in Holland that he joined forces with the band Third Eye, which also included flautist Gerd Dudek and bassist Ali Haurand (founder members, along with Alan Skidmore, of the European Jazz Ensemble). The milestone jazz funk album they recorded together in 1977 Connexion was originally released in a microscopic edition of 600 copies and the enterprising German label Sonorama is to be applauded for bringing this delight back from the land of the lost.

Maroon Dance starts out as a kind of Sun Ra tribal drone and synth feature with sci-fi sound bursts and a sawing, melancholy bass, Introspective sax and skittering flute illuminate a dense, fascinating soundscape. But just when you think you’re deep in a stark, free-jazz wilderness, the intro ends and Frank Köllges’s punching drums, Haurand’s rich, funky electric bass and Rob van den Broeck’s chiming Fender change the mood. Gaynair’s cheeky tenor completes the transformation, mischievous and ingratiating, as van den Broeck’s Arp synthesiser provides a galactic-odyssey backdrop. Gaynair’s sax plays a full throated, assertive solo, staking out the rhythmic terrain while van den Broeck joins him with beautiful, bright, fluid runs on the Fender.

Ali Haurand’s bass playing on this album had me mystified. Sometimes it sounded like an acoustic instrument, sometimes an electric one, and sometimes like an eerie hybrid of the two. It turns out that’s he is using a van Zalinge upright electric bass, an extraordinary instrument — Dutch, appropriately enough — which I thought I’d never encountered before, though Sting has reportedly played one.

On The Healer Haurand’s lapping waves of electric bass launch the tune before Dudek starts making statements, playing tenor now, and enters into an eloquent tenor sax dialogue with Gaynair. Landings sees Dudek back on fluttering flute, darting and probing between his husky exhortations and fat, jagged bursts of electric bass from Haurand while van den Broeck contributes eerie atmospherics on the synth. But Dudek is the hero here with his filigree of flute decorating the chunky blocks of chords from van den Broeck’s keyboards as Haurand supports them all with remarkable fast-sawing effects on the bass.

Ogetnom (‘Montego’ backwards) is an original by Wilton Gaynair and the plump, funky strumming of the electric bass and Gaynair’s tenor sax descend together into mystery terrain before the tenor begins to offer smoothly rounded, catchy riffs and Frank Köllges provides solid, slamming underpinning on the drums. The sweetly furtive and discursive Fender from van den Broeck and the clear sharp tenor of Gaynair transforms into a military, marching vibe from Köllges on cymbals and a relentlessly striding bass from Haurand before Gaynair comes back in. Haurand plays a choppy groove and van den Broeck’s Fender follows the ups and downs of the tune like the car on a rollercoaster track, as well as using his synth to spread rhapsodic celestial stardust. Superb.

Special mention must also be made among these fine musicians of Steve Boston’s contribution on congas.

This richly enjoyable, remarkable album, more avant-garde than Return to Forever but more accessible than Zappa could have vanished without a trace, but now it’s emphatically back. (Also available on CD, Sonorama C-77.)

Categories: miscellaneous

4 replies »

  1. Ali Haurand and Rob van den Broeck also played on Gaynair's final recording as leader ('Alpharian' by the Wilton Gaynair Quintet, recorded in Cologne in 1982 and released on CD by Konnex in 1991). Very listenable and very straight-ahead in style, this album showcased Gaynair in prime form alongside Danish trumpeter Allan Botschinsky and does not deserve to be out of print.

  2. Let us hope the other Third Eye album, a 1982 live recording from Bonn, will also be rescued from obscurity. Tony Levin replaces Kollges and it's Alan Skidmore instead of Dudek, but Gaynair, Haurand and Van den Broeck remain – and are joined by Kenny Wheeler. More good stuff.

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