Record label: BYG/Charly (France)
Format: 3xCD
Release year: 2001

the year was 1969, and American Blacks were mad as hell. by this time, a church bombing had killed four little girls, Martin and Malcolm had been assassinated, and cities stayed covered in flames. for the African-American musician, anyplace was better than the States at that time. couple that with the Pan-African Festival in Algiers and the free jazz exodus was on. once in Paris, these forward-thinking men and women found acceptance and creative freedom amongst their European musical counterparts. Mr. Claude Delcloo (editor of Actuel Magazine) was there to capture it all in a series of recording sessions for the BYG label. packaged in this triple CD box set, Jazzactuel features some of the most powerful music ever recorded.

highlights are many – where does one begin? perhaps we’ll start with some of the leaders of the scene: Archie Shepp’s “Blasé” is a beautiful and somber piece, featuring an odd bluesy harmonica duet between Chicago Beau and Julio Finn. the track also contains the provocative poetry of Jeanne Lee (“blasé, ain’t you daddy / you, who shot your sperm into me / but never set me free / this ain’t a hate’s a LOVE thing...”). Don Cherry coos, shakes bells and plays other percussion on “Teo-Teo-Can” while Sun Ra leads his Solar Myth Arkestra through another cosmic journey (“The Utter Nots”). Notable efforts by Sunny Murray (“Red Cross”) and Sonny Sharrock (“Soon”) show dazzling performances on their respective instruments – drums for Murray, guitar for Sharrock – tapping into the strength of what is known as “fire music.” also worth mentioning is Andrew Cyrille’s “Pioneering,” a dynamic percussion solo, and a track from Gong that mixes psychedelic rock with free jazz.

but if you really want to experience the full fury and freedom of the music, look no further than the gargantuan moments provided by Dave Burrell and Alan Silva. Burrell’s “Echo” is an unbridled beast, his fingers a blur on the piano while Shepp and Arthur Jones wail away with Clifford Thornton and Grachan Monchur III. meanwhile, Silva leads the Celestrial Communication Orchestra on “The Seasons, Part 6,” with a lineup that reads like a who’s who of free jazz: Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman, Steve Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Burrell...about 20 members altogether. the places they travel on this one are simply amazing. No other collection will thrill the avant-garde / free jazz aficionados (and satisfy the curious and daring listeners) like this one will.

{steve crognale}

NOTE: this collection was also released as a vinyl box set on Get Back (Italy).

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