Muhal Richard Abrams

One Line, Two Views

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Pianist/composer extraordinaire Abrams needs no preface for his singular-minded, forward-thinking music, save that this recording might represent its zenith. Jazz contexts, progressive ideals, improv within deft frameworks -- it's all here. Abrams is accompanied by New Yorkers Mark Feldman (violin), Marty Ehrlich and Patience Higgins (reeds), Tony Cedras (accordion), Anne LeBaron (harp), Eddie Allen (trumpet), Bryan Carrott (vibes), Lindsey Horner (bass), and Reggie Nicholson (drums). The bulk of this program is based on developmental themes. Four of the seven pieces are quite long. The 18 1/2-minute "Ensemble Song" features all group members freely playing percussion and tossing polyphonic snippets of poetry lines under Ehrlich's elongated alto sax and Cedras' inquiring accordion. A pure blues piano-trumpet figure concludes this awesome concerto-like piece. The highlight of the recording, "11 over 4," is a hard bopper, as Abrams' Mal Waldron-like piano intro lights the fuse on an impressive poly-melody and 12 minutes of Muhal's best-ever sounds. A similar bop rhythm is used in "Tribute to Julius Hemphill and Don Pullen," with busy piano and cool accordion representing these fallen jazz princes. The shorter, seven-minute "Textures 95" is lovely in its construct, with cascading piano and serene violin giving way to accordion and surging saxes. "The Prism 3" starts with crying horns, boppish lines, and Nicholson's hyperkinetic drums leading to Allen's "Tequila"-inflected trumpet solo. The combination of these instruments, and the unique way that Abrams brings them all together, is delightful. This is certainly Abrams' shining hour -- one of many bright moments for a pivotal American icon.

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