Noah Howard Quartet

Live at the Unity Temple

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A strong live set recorded at the Unity Temple near Chicago, this performance was released on the adventurous Swedish label Ayler Records as a precursor to saxophonist Noah Howard's first tour of Sweden. Working with pianist Bobby Few, bassist Wilber Morris, and drummer Calyer Duncan, Howard leads his tight and exciting quartet through five original compositions, some, such as "The Blessing" and "Schizophrenic Blues," are very much identified with the saxophonist. Howard's playing is crisp, melodic, and clear, a tad less intense than decades past, but nonetheless compelling. His alto retains the mournful wail of Ornette, but with a distinct identity. In an interesting twist, Howard blows on tenor sax on "Lightning Rod, Pt. 1" with the same power and forcefulness, but with a naturally deeper and more gutsy tone. Somehow, he seems less restrained on tenor, perhaps not as concerned with tone and more with pure energy. Bobby Few and Wilber Morris are two of the best accompanists in the business, and neither disappoints, although the bassist is a bit weak in the mix. Few, in particular, takes numerous solos, his vision and individual style etched in the sand. Duncan, too, is a lesser known, but equally worthy sidekick, spurring Howard forward like a race driver in the midst of heated competition. Howard has made a few recordings through the years, and most are worth hearing. This may not be his best, but it nonetheless clearly reflects his stature as a giant in the genre of free improvisation.

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