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CD LR 369


Wally Shoup / Paul Flaherty / Thurston Moore / Chris Corsano 

Live at Tonic

Release date: 2003/04

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Wally Shoup is here again, but the line-up is different: Paul Flaherty on tenor and alto sax, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame) on guitar, Chris Corsano on drums. As Dan Warburton writes: "It is only just that this magnificent work should find itself on the venerable Leo label, and I for one can't wait to hear more of it, especially now that the likes of Matt Shipp, William Parker and David Ware are sliding progressively back towards orthodoxy... It's good to know there's still somebody on the edge willing to come back and remind us what it's like out there." Recorded live at Tonic, New York, to the ecstatic reception of the crowd. Duration: 73'05.

Liner Notes

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Should one wish to explore the thorny question of where "free jazz" ends and "free improvisation" begins (I don't particularly want to get into it, but..), it's perhaps the continuing need on the part of some musicians to retain the idea of a theme, a "head" (albeit symbolically) that ought to be discussed (that and the role of the rhythm section � bass and drums, but that's another story). Despite its audacious title, Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" followed the time-honoured bop structure of head (ensemble) alternating with individual solos (horns first, rhythm section last), and the idea of a head remained central to Coltrane, Ayler and Frank Wright, to name but three major players. Though it soon lost its earlier role as central organising pillar (either vertical, as harmonic "changes" to be played over � the legacy of bop � or horizontal, as melodic/intervallic material to be developed by the soloist � Monk, Ornette, Lacy...) the head nevertheless retained a structural function. (Ayler used it to delineate form, marking the end of one solo and preparing the ground for the next.) When American free jazz, as Sunny Murray put it, "got lost" in the late 1970s (some musicians crossed over into funk; others retreated into academia; some plied their trade wherever they could in draughty lofts; others disappeared altogether and died in the street), a few brave souls established links with like-minded explorers in Europe and Japan, where younger generations of players (free from the constraints of the Tradition imposed by the American media, that pompous self-appointed arbiter not only of what jazz is, but also apparently of what's good and bad jazz), had taken the plunge and dispensed with themes altogether.
  Twenty years down the line, discovering that they can quite easily do without the head, and the melodic and/or harmonic information it contains, what do musicians improvise "over"? Answer: they improvise full stop, they play, they take it to the edge. Parameters other than pitch, harmony and rhythm (in the strict metrical sense of the word) are less important here than timbre, event-density and volume. To adopt an analogy from the visual arts, we've moved away from figurative to abstract expressionist � it's no coincidence that a Jackson Pollock was chosen as cover art for "Free Jazz", and no coincidence either that many improvising musicians are also painters: Alan Silva, Bill Dixon, Peter Br�tzmann, Ivo Perelman, Jack Wright and, as you can see, Wally Shoup.
  Shoup and Paul Flaherty have doggedly pursued the goal of improvised music for over two decades in a United States where jazz (and its attendant codes of behaviour) still holds sway. (This isn't to say that they are uninfluenced by it � name me a saxophonist who is � both men possess a strength and purity of tone and a determination to pursue musical ideas that clearly points not only to Ayler and Coltrane, but further back to Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins.) Until recently they've had to labour on in relative obscurity � between 1984 and 1994's "Project W" (Apraxia), Shoup only released his work on self-produced cassettes, while Flaherty curated his Zaabway imprint with kindred spirit Randy Colbourne until 2001's magnificent "The Ilya Tree" (Boxholder) and the sensational "The Hated Music" on Ecstatic Yod.
  Guitarist Thurston Moore needs little introduction, of course, neither as a performer in his own right with Sonic Youth nor as a tireless champion of free music. In an interview in 1998 with The Wire's Biba Kopf, he recalled the thrill of his discovery of the "amorphous [...] spontaneous blowout" at a New York loft session in the early 1980s featuring guitarists Glenn Branca and Rudolph Grey (whose group The Blue Humans with Arthur Doyle and Beaver Harris was one of the first improvisation outfits to cross over into the ugly, noisy world of No Wave). Moore subsequently asked writer Byron Coley to compile some free-music tapes to take on a mid-80s SY tour (Coley made sixty!) and "then someone gave me a copy of [Br�tzmann's] "Machine Gun" and it was all over..." Coming from rock, Moore arrived in free music without the baggage of a jazz soloist (i.e. notes matter � he recalls being bemused the first time he heard Derek Bailey) but with an arsenal of extended techniques that would make any jazz guitarist (with the possible exception of the late Sonny Sharrock) shudder with fear.
  Drummer Chris Corsano (who partners Flaherty to perfection on "The Hated Music" and the more recent "Sannyasi" on the saxophonist's new Wet Paint imprint) is, as he has to be in such company, a veritable powerhouse, just as adept at exploiting percussion's timbral potential as he is its rhythmic propulsion. Sunny Murray would be proud of him.
  It's only just that this magnificent work should find itself on the venerable Leo label, and I for one can't wait to hear more of it, especially now that the likes of Matt Shipp, William Parker and David Ware are sliding progressively back towards orthodoxy, secure in the knowledge that the safety net of Tradition � be that bebop or hiphop � lies beneath them. It's good to know there's still somebody on the edge willing to come back and remind us what it's like out there.

Dan Warburton

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