Frank Wright

Kevin, My Dear Son

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

This is an interesting record. If nothing else, listeners can say of Kevin, My Dear Son that it is one of only a handful of free jazz vocal sessions. Archie Shepp's Blasé and the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Les Stances a Sophie both come to mind, but this sounds more like what would have happened had Ornette Coleman made an entire LP out of tunes like his 1972 piece "Good Girl Blues." In other words, most of these songs employ a relatively standard bop rhythm section while attempting to combine (rather than contrast) vocal jazz with the free horn solos normally associated with the avant-garde. As strange as this proposed hybrid sounds, it is largely successful in this case. This may be because the group mixes it up with every piece. On "Odeon," the opener, the theme sounds like ESP-era Wright, but without the screeching and yelping listeners have come to expect from Your Prayer or Frank Wright Trio. The following track, "No End to the Sun," introduces Eddie Jefferson on vocals and gets a little further out. The result can only be described as "free scat," as Jefferson eventually abandons lyrics for scat and, from there, abandons standard scat for what sounds like speaking in tongues. Alongside Wright's shredding tenor it all makes sense. If horns can play "out," then why not the human voice? In this sense, talk about the speech-like qualities of avant-garde reed players really comes to life, in that on this session, listeners hear horn-like speech, and hearing the one helps the listener understand what to listen for in the other. As the record continues, listeners hear a completely straight bop rhythm section coupled with free piano and tenor ("November the First"), a Native American-inspired piece with some exceptionally free Jefferson vocals ("Cowboys and Indians"), a straight mid-tempo blues with free tenor ("Long Way From Home"), and finally another slow ESP-like theme ("Kevin, My Dear Son"). This highly recommended record is proof that if one approaches an endeavor as natural and not as an overly labored and calculated risk, the result will often be less self-conscious and more "in the moment." This session was reissued in the U.S. by Chiaroscuro.

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