Walter Zuber Armstrong


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Many musicians improvising their own trails out of the jazz wilderness took similar routes as those chosen by this artist, who performs on bass clarinet and both alto and soprano flute. In the '70s, there was something of a spirit of gentleness balancing out the often harsh nature of free jazz. One aspect of this approach was the "little instruments" favored by players from the Chicago scene, who influenced Zuber Armstrong heavily. He made a special trip of coming to meet Anthony Braxton the first time that artist performed in British Columbia, and shares with that artist a love of quiet spaces in music, the use of the flute as an improvising voice and the concept of playing in groupings such as a duo with percussion or a quartet in which additional percussion and the voice of a violin is added to the proceedings. Zuber Armstrong almost carved out a no-man's land of his own in the overlapping areas of British Columbia and Washington state, living in the latter's border town of Bellingham but making frequent trips across the border to take advantage of the constantly throbbing Vancouver live music scene. Each side of this, Zuber Armstrong's debut vinyl production, was recorded at a gig somewhere in Vancouver, and each of the side-long performances has some likeable moments. If it is easygoing, spaced-out jazz improv that the listener wants, this set might be regarded as something of a special treat, as Zuber Armstrong's flute playing is rarely aggressive at all, with the beautiful environs of British Columbia no doubt having an important overall influence on the music itself. The clarinet playing is technically lacking, a flaw that seriously hampers any real attempts at building momentum or serious interaction with violinist Larry Kennis, who has some moments of inspiration. Percussionist Gregg Simpson is an important part of the Vancouver scene, elsewhere heard as a member of the Al Neil trio.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
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