Sonny Simmons

Global Jungle

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Sonny Simmons' Global Jungle is one of the precious few works of his prolific writing period during the 1980s to have been recorded. Originally released on a limited-edition LP in 1990, it was recorded with a band of local musicians in keeping with Simmons' long-held belief that music should be a community effort. That said, there isn't anything lacking here. Simmons is firmly out front, but his rhythm section -- comprised of a drummer, a cellist, and electric and acoustic bassists on the first three tracks, and one acoustic bassist on the remaining three -- stirs up a hell of a tonal, multilingual brew. The title track opens the set and features a burning solo from Simmons after the briefest of melodic statements. His elongated legato phrasing, his skeins of arpeggiated intervals and roaring scalar assaults are picked up and carried into different melodic and modal realms by different parts of the rhythm section. When the soloing is over, the band moves through three modes, all more insistent than the last, all of them rooted in urban musics, and all of them standing in sharp contrast to what was perceived of -- in the United States anyway -- as "jazz reality." When Simmons and crew fight their way through the hairy tempo and pitch courses in the final seconds, they begin to brew up "Global Prayer," the other side, or mirror image, of "jungle." With the trio of strings opening the tune, the dynamic is held taught, shimmering in harmonics and multiphonic sounds. Simmons enters with an angular blues phrase that quotes Illinois Jacquet, Ornette Coleman, and Roscoe Mitchell simultaneously. Beginning in 12/8, Simmons plays behind the beat with Kirk Heyatt's cello providing a slippery chromatic slope for him to climb. When he does and gets to the top, the track breaks wide open and pulls all of the rhythm section into the tumult, and it's a free for all for six caterwauling minutes before Simmons feels he's exorcised the demons properly. This dynamic of tension, disintegration, tension, and release follows throughout the album, carrying within it a holistic view of improv and composition being the same animal to be woven into one another, not played segmentally. It's one of Simmons' finest records and showcases him at the very top of his form.

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