Alan Braufman

Valley of Search
Valley of Search VOS001

Valley of Search chronicles music created at 501 Canal Street, one of the cynosures of New York’s mid-1970s loft scene. More notably the sounds on these nine tracks, originally released on the Indian Navigation label, amply capture the fervent sincerity that five younger players brought to free-form improvisation. More distinctively the session confirms that not only weren’t all jazzers of the time involved with fusion, neo-mainstream and pop-Jazz, but that musical continuity exists among the freedom seekers of the 1960s New Thing, the Loft Era interpreters and the atonal experimenters prominent in Jazz discourses since the mid-1990s.

Confirmation exists by looking at the CD’s personnel. Although percussionist David Lee and Ralph Williams seems to have vanished, and leader/tenor saxophonist Alan Braufman now plays more accessible tunes from a Salt Lake City base, the remaining two are major Jazz figures. Bassist Cecil McBee, who teaches at the New England Conservatory, then maintained ties to both Freebop via gigs with the likes of Joanne Brackeen, and more abstract sounds with Pharoah Sanders and others. Meanwhile Cooper-Moore, who plays piano, dulcimer and vocalizes on the disc, was a recent arrival from Virginia to Manhattan. He would leave and then in the mid-1980s, return permanently and has since built his career playing on his own and with William Parker and many others.

If anything shouts 1970s it’s “Rainbow Warriors”, the disc’s first track filled with ragged country rhythms from Cooper-Moore’s dulcimer and his chanting. Luckily Lee’s door-knocking percussion and Braufman’s tenor saxophone screams soon explode this faux-folksiness, and when joined by Cooper-Moore’s keyboard cascades approximate the joyous cacophony in which Trane and Sanders specialized. From that point on the quintet’s output is pretty much what one would have heard on a good night at 501. “Love is For Real”, for instance combines Summun Bukmun Umyun-like Africanized percussion plus disco whistles with ferocious, free-flowing cries from the tenor saxophone, part-split tones and part-theme variations. Constantly expanding and contacting amoeba-like, the addition of undulating chords from Cooper-Moore’s piano, results is a monumental slab of inchoate improvising equal to those on other contemporary discs. “Miracles” is McBee’s unaccompanied bass showcase, all buoyancy and resonations; while “Little Nabil’s March” led by Lee’s cymbals slaps and backbeat ratamacues replace militaristic suggestions with surging mysticism.

“Ark of Salvation” and the concluding “Destiny” best capture Braufman’s output, but suggest why he turned from this style. Although he comfortably negotiates the first tune with accelerating screams and blustery arabesques, his sound is more linked to that decade than otherwise. This is confirmed on “Destiny”, the exposition of his affinity to Gato Barbieri playing a power ballad. On this half-hymn and half-soundtrack line, his perception and power as a saxophonist’s are confirmed, but not his individuality.

Braufman is like a tyro novelist who publishes a promising debut, but never again attains the same quality. Valley of Search is a notable artifact of its time. But its virtues are also frozen in that period.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Rainbow Warriors 2. Chant 3. Thankfulness 4. Love is For Real 5. Foreshadow 6. Miracles 7. Ark of Salvation 8. Little Nabil’s March 9. Destiny

Personnel: Alan Braufman (alto saxophone, flute and pipe-horn); Cooper-Moore (piano, dulcimer and recitation); Cecil McBee (bass); David Lee (drums) and Ralph Williams (percussion)