Roy Brooks

The Free Slave

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Originally released on the Muse label, this album is of vital importance not only because it is one of Brooks' few dates as leader, but also because it introduced much of the jazz world to trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Hugh Lawson, and bassist Cecil McBee. Recorded at the Left Bank Jazz Society in Baltimore, MD, Brooks and company reflect the music of the day, from straight post-bop and soul-jazz to ultra-modern sounds and unique percussion musings. There are four lengthy selections -- three written by Brooks, one by McBee. The set starts with the title track, which features soaring horn lines and a steady feel-good boogaloo fueled by ostinato piano and bass. Coleman's smooth tenor and Shaw's pungent trumpet contrast each other to good effect on this number. "Understanding" features a head where lead trumpet meets harmonious tenor. Shaw's trumpet solo intensifies Brooks' lovelight beat, and the piece ends in ticktock mode with counterpointed horns and delirious gong ringing. "Will Pan's Walk" has the seeds of a classic, with McBee's heavy ostinato contrasting Lawson's delicate shadings. On the finale, "Five for Max," Brooks cops many of Max Roach's signature trappings and adds a few of his own, including using a breath-a-tone device that allows him to heighten or lower the pitch of his drums by exhaling or inhaling through a pair of plastic tubes. Brooks can drive 'em completely wild -- and does on this exciting piece of modal modern jazz. Of course, Coleman, Shaw, Lawson, and McBee are nothing less than world-class. This is a band for the ages.

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