Time is Past. Three Steps in the Right Direction. Decision for the Cole-Man. Today’s Blues Tomorrow
Byron Allen (a-sax); Maceo Gilchrist (db); Ted Robinson (dr)
ESP-DISK 1005 (43:38)
Here’s a real time capsule from ESP-Disk, packaged in a simple, no-frills cardboard sleeve sans liner notes. Byron Allen recorded this album on the afternoon of September 25, 1964, then disappeared from the studios until 1979 when he resurfaced with a different trio on the Interface label. The All Music Guide claims that his solos, though “searing” and in the Ornette Coleman mold, were “not as original or memorable.” What’s intriguing, though, is that Allen was recommended to ESP by Coleman himself, so he must have sensed an affinity. What I hear may or may not agree with your ears, but to me Allen sounds much more like Bird than Coleman did—not just in his tone, but in his construction of lines. Allen’s playing is fluid and fluent, more rhythmically “free” than Parker, but his playing is based more on the traditional tonal system than Coleman, who pretty much jettisoned tonality in his pursuit of “harmolodics.” (One online blog accurately states that “Allen’s playing is firmly rooted in the blues.”) Allen’s bassist, Maceo Gilchrist, is just as much a virtuoso of his instrument as Charlie Haden with Coleman, and in fact plays in a more rhythmically fluid manner (Haden generally played in a
fluid style, but kept up a relatively steady 4/4 unless required to do otherwise). Drummer Robinson knows exactly when to pepper the music with accents, keeping pretty much to the snare and cymbals. By staying away from the bass drum as much as possible, he gives Gilchrist more room to explore. In
Three Steps in the Right Direction,
the bassist finally gets to play a “walking” pattern, but here the rhythm sounds like it’s more of a 6/8 or 12/8 rather than a conventional 4/4 (at least, that’s how the rhythm feels as he plays). When Allen re-enters on this track, he is playing very high up in his range, almost on the edge of his reed, creating a slightly quartertone feel before settling back into normal playing.
Decision for the Cole-Man,
even more rhythmically free and emotionally searing, features Gilchrist playing with his bow in one section, and there is an intriguing
before the bassist returns for his walking solo.
It should be noted that this disc is part of ESP’s “rESPlica” series that copies the exact design and packaging of the original LP, and is being pressed in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, so when it’s gone, it’s gone. The label is selling the disc on its own website for a mere $8.98, which is a steal for music this good (espdisk.com/official/catalog/1005.html).
Lynn René Bayley