Michael Gregory Jackson

Clarity

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Michael Gregory Jackson's first recording as a leader has been reissued on CD from the ESP-Disk group, and it's a vivid reminder of how melodically charged his music is from a more subtle perspective. With Jackson primarily on acoustic guitar, the memorable melody lines he stretches to full Zen-like lengths are perfectly clear, yet evoke his individualism with little doubt. Help from tenor saxophonist David Murray, flutist and saxophonist Oliver Lake, and trumpeter Leo Smith support Jackson's agile and facile musings without use of a bassist or drummer, a bold move considering the standard procedures of most free jazz ensembles. Not that those brazen post-John Coltrane groups ignore beauty; it's just manifested differently on this gorgeous set of spontaneous and composed pieces that have a breadth and depth all their own. With Jackson as a soloist on "Prelueoionti," his cascading acoustic guitar lines tumble and glisten with the sheen of a waterfall, while the ensemble pieces (like the title track) float in time, the woodwind players giving supple but not demonstrative support. Later in the program, a spiky or angular approach is heard, as you would expect, from Lake and Murray, but a somber mood ("Ballad") or patient improvisation ("IOMI") identifies this music more accurately. Considering Jackson's later amplified work, Clarity is good to hear again, reminding everyone of his starting point, where flowering talent brightly bloomed.

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