When Rashied Ali died on August 12, 2009 at the age of 74, the Philadelphia-born drummer left behind not only an avant-garde jazz/free jazz legacy, but also, a post-bop legacy. Ali had no problem handling even the most extreme of avant-garde jazz -- his stint with John Coltrane during the last few years of Trane's life included some of the most ferocious and brutally atonal free jazz ever recorded -- but he was also quite comfortable playing post-bop melodies. And both sides of Ali -- his avant-garde side and his post-bop side -- assert themselves with exciting, often explosive results on Live in Europe, which was recorded at the Jazz Happening in Tampere, Finland in 2007. The group that Ali leads on this 67-minute CD is the acoustic quintet he formed in 2003; Ali is joined by trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clarke, pianist Greg Murphy, and bassist Joris Teepe, all of whom are obviously open to both inside playing and outside playing. Trane's influence is strong throughout Live in Europe, which makes sense considering that Ali's association with that saxophone giant is -- of his many accomplishments -- the thing he is best remembered for. Murphy's pianism recalls Alice Coltrane's contributions to her husband's group, and Clarke's aggressively probing tenor acknowledges both the avant-garde John Coltrane and the post-bop John Coltrane. Clarke's melodic "Lourana" is pretty much a straight-ahead post-bop performance, while the improvisations become much more dissonant and outside on extended performances of two pieces by avant-garde electric guitarist James Blood Ulmer: "Theme for Captain Black" and "Thing for Joe" (as in Joe Henderson). And it is certainly intriguing to hear Ulmer's pieces being so passionately explored in a drummer-led acoustic quintet that doesn't have a guitarist. Live in Europe is a consistently absorbing document of Ali's Jazz Happening appearance.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson