Picks and Pans Review: Blues Forever
Muhal Richard Abrams
At first listen, it may not appear to be the blues that are always the basis of Abrams' avant-garde pieces for big band. If you're of skeptical or unsympathetic mind, they might sound more like tuning-up sounds. Actually, no matter how far out pianist-composer Abrams gets, the spirit of the blues never quite disappears. In an ambitious piece like Ancient and Future Reflections, he may bring to mind Webern and other astringent European modernists, but he writes more emotionally than they and is also experimenting with call-and-response patterns, an important feature of blues and African music. If some of Abrams' experiments are an acquired taste, on this album his progressive voicings often seem just ways to give swing a contemporary identity. A piece like Du King (Dedicated to Duke Ellington) is a wild, vertiginous and convincing case in point. Then there is Blues Forever, as down-home a straight-ahead blues as anyone could ask for, with a big, bawling trombone solo from Craig Harris and Jean-Paul Bourelly's wicked guitar. In this title cut, Abrams, 50, who founded the avant-garde Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago in 1965 and moved to New York in the late 70s, seems to be reminding listeners he hasn't forgotten where his music comes from.
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