Lorraine Baker – Eden
(Spark! 006 CD Review by Jon Turney)
I like many drummers but Ed Blackwell, I love. It’s always good to hear tunes dedicated to the man, best-known for weaving his dancing rhythm into Ornette Coleman’s music but – although he was under-recorded – noted for a wealth of associations with other greats, from Dolphy to Lovano.
But part of me was wary of this set – a collection of tunes Blackwell performed, presented by a drummer-led quartet. I needn’t have been. Lorraine Baker has impressive command of his vocabulary, and a deep connection with electric bassist, Paul Michael. Together they furnish a rollicking, joyful underpinning for some impassioned interpretations by Binker Golding on tenor and Liam Noble on piano.
Blackwell could give you a simple, rock steady simple cymbal beat, but was best known for bouncing, melodic patterns. Still, he was no great composer, and the tunes here originate with others. A short drum feature opens the set, then the band dig into Karl Berger’s Dakar Dance, with its characteristic spring-heeled polyrhythm.
Pieces by Ornette, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and two from Mark Helias – bassist in both Cherry’s Mu and Blackwell’s own quartet – complete the set, topped and tailed by brief solos from Baker. It’s a vastly enjoyable set, whether you know the originals or not. If you do, these readings stand up well in comparison, even on the pieces that revisit genuine classics. The bump and grind of Old and New Dreams’ Mopti gains much from Noble’s determinedly percussive piano – Cherry’s own piano playing here was rudimentary, at best. The pianist’s answer to the invitation to solo on a Coleman tune, Blues Connotation, is slyly Monkish, and he has a tumbling duo with Golding on Helias’s Pentahouve. Blackwell was linked with some notably distinctive sax players, especially Coleman, Dewey Redman and Carlos Ward. Golding, paying homage to each without imitation, contributes strongly throughout.
Revisiting the masters is always one of the ways jazz renews itself. When they are as distinctive as Blackwell, it’s a daunting challenge. The players in this project rise to it beautifully.
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