Clifford Thornton

Freedom & Unity

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For those who don't know better, the free jazz movement is considered a sharp break with the past heritage of the music. That really wasn't the case. As Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp hearkened back to field hollers and very basic folk forms, musicians like Clifford Thornton went in the opposite direction, building on the music of the sophisticates and expanding the possibilities for jazz. Listening to music with this much space in it, it might be hard for some listeners to hear the Mingus. But it's there. And because that's there, Ellington is here in heaping handfuls as well. Sure this stuff is rough in spots. But the myriad of tones this man uses to express himself keeps things interesting and alive -- the bright clarion of cornet and trumpet, the somber, thoughtful vibes, and a rhythm section that embraces two bass players to keep things rooted. The leader plays valve trombone, an enormously flexible instrument that allows him to meld with a variety of moods and produce music at once heartachingly simple and brain-twistingly complex. This reissue is an important acknowledgment of a long-ignored musician. For those with open ears -- and minds.

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