Alan Silva is probably best known as a bassist, having appeared on several seminal albums of free jazz with Sunny Murray, Albert Ayler, and Cecil Taylor, but for his own solo outing on ESP-Disk, released in 1970 but recorded before Silva went to Europe in 1968, he's featured on piano, violin, and cello. As well as Silva's ecstatic swoops, "Skillfullness" features passionate and sensuous flute work from Becky Friend and hypnotic vibraphone playing from Karl Berger, and gives the lie to the idea that free jazz in New York in 1968 was all about blowing the wall down. "Solestrial" is a more ambitious affair, featuring a larger ensemble including Dave Burrell, Mike Ephron, Lawrence Cooke, and two other musicians simply (and mysteriously) credited as Mario and Barry, and is the first appearance in Silva's discography of the conduction techniques he went on to perfect with the many subsequent incarnations of his Celestrial Communication Orchestra. Using a conducting technique derived in part from his studies with Sun Ra, Silva was able to summon extraordinary solo performances from his musicians (Burrell is outstanding here) without losing sight of the work's overall architecture. "My work was based on John Coltrane's Ascension," Silva has commented elsewhere. "The first ten minutes of Ascension, before the solos start, were revolutionary. I always thought if Coltrane had gone on with just the collective improvisation he'd have got it. So I felt he left that to me to do!"
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AllMusic Review by Dan Warburton