Following on from the Fractal reissue of Frank Wright's two Center of the World albums three years ago, the French label Black Keys has unearthed and issued an even rarer free jazz gem. Originally released in 1973 on an obscure label called Calumet, only 300 copies of Church Number Nine ever made it into circulation. As was customary at the time, the sides of the original album were entitled "Part One" and "Part Two," but each is in fact a separate track and is presented as such on the CD. The booklet retains the original Calumet front and back covers, along with Val Wilmer's liner notes and also includes a useful complete Wright discography. The personnel is the same as on Wright's BYG Actuel album One For John: Wright on tenor, Noah Howard on alto, Bobby Few on piano, and Mohamed Ali (sic) on drums. The first track, a 26-minute explosion of holy-rolling free gospel, finds the leader extending the tradition of free jazz's two most influential saxophonists, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler -- the theme is a churchy chord sequence which could have come right out of Ayler's songbook, and the occasional extra percussion instruments recall late Coltrane. Few's playing is particularly volcanic, including Tyner-esque comping and spectacular runs of clusters and glissandos, and Ali's drumming throughout is close in spirit to the raw energy of Sunny Murray. The second track has no theme other than a ten-note idea Wright blurts out ten times before taking off on a high energy solo flight. Howard's solo starts out more florid, but the rhythm section's relentless attack and Wright's preaching vocals and percussion eventually blast him into the upper atmosphere.
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AllMusic Review by Dan Warburton