Bobby Bradford

Midnight Pacific Airwaves

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Bobby Bradford's switch from trumpet to cornet exclusively gave the world of creative improvised music one of its sole progenitors on the instrument, allowing him to carve out a unique voice on it that has never been matched. During that transition circa 1977, these live sessions were recorded over the airways of Pacifica station KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, and have finally been released for public consumption some 30-plus years hence. Teamed with the extraordinary flute wizard James Newton, Bradford plays free music unencumbered by fads or trends of any kind, reflective of his days with Ornette Coleman, yet showcasing his own approach to spontaneous compositions that identified him as not only a pioneer and a maverick, but a highly intelligent improviser and democratic teammate. Bassist Richard Rehwald was with Bradford for a handful of years, while drummer John Goldsmith was a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra in the early '70s. Together they all fit feelings, sonic texts, and lengthy loose associations with great variations of color and dynamic spins. "Comin' On" borrows Coleman's approximate note theory, with churning drums and bass converted to free thought buzzing from Bradford, some easy swing, then Bradford and Newton dueling it out with Newton winning the discussion. There's always room for soloing in Bradford's concept, and everyone gets their turn, especially Rehwald and Goldsmith by themselves. The dirge ballad "She" parallels Coleman's "Lonely Woman" in pace and phrasings, but over 18 minutes is free and unencumbered until bass drum bomps start the engine roaring with a ton of blues before decomposing, and reverting to the desolate theme. There's a pagan ritualism extant in "Improvisation #12" where Newton and Bradford are everywhere at once, yet centered. African style drumming and the overwhelmingly overblown vocal flute of Newton cannot be denied, switching to bop, and a second rumble in the jungle keyed by great listening skills and direct responses. A version of "Blue Monk" sounds more in the pocket, but Newton's unusual off minor interpretations set it apart from previous versions, always thinking of another way to play it. Bradford is at his most thoughtful and measured here, digging deep into the blues of his at times misguided Los Angeles home. There is an alternate version of "She" from a 2003 recording with Bradford and clarinetist Vinny Golia that is vastly different than the quartet take, less dirge and with an open feeling, as they discourse on buzzing and scattered trading of tones and ideas, a less defined spacious blues, featuring the fluttering, trilled sounds of the woodwind. As there are few Bobby Bradford recordings available, and that the source material, as old as it is, was well preserved and digitally reproduced, this is an important and easily recommended addition to his discography. It fully displays Bradford's unique contribution to the modern creative idiom, right alongside peers such as Don Cherry, Raphe Malik, or Bill Dixon, and contemporaries Hugh Ragin, Ralph Alessi, or Cuong Vu.

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