February 23, 2020
Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited
More than 50 years after they were first issued these advanced Jazz sessions which may have sounded transgressive at the time are now relatively mainstream, Freebop would be the proper designation. Additionally while the four tracks came out on two LPs by the under-rated alto saxophonist Marion Brown (1931-2010), they could easily be attributed to trumpeter Alan Shorter (1932-1988), who composed two of the four tunes.
A peripheral figure among FreeJazzers, Shorter recorded with the likes of Archie Shepp and François Tusques in the US and France, but after a period of inactivity died in obscurity. In contrast Brown who was also an academic played and theorized until the end of his life, including dates with John Coltrane, Shepp and Gunter Hampel. A lyrical player, like pianist Dave Burrell, who is featured on this CD’s final tracks, Brown had a much more varied career after he recorded his first album reissued as this date’s first two tracks.
Of the quartet tracks, it’s Brown’s “Capricorn Moon”, with the added input of Sun Ra bassist Ronnie Boykins added to rhythms from bassist Reggie Johnson and drummer Rashied Ali that snakes along like a bright Soul Jazz riff. Following convention the head is recapped at the end, but Brown’s pumping altissimo slurs and a bass solo that includes spiccato and sul ponticello buzzes proclaim the next sonic step, as does Shorter’s capillary double tonguing and short brassy breaths. With upfront drum and cymbal action Shorter’s “Mephistopheles” confirms this exploratory expression as trumpet screams alternate with altissimo reed smears, prodded by double bass thumps and culminating in energetic definitions.
Shorter maintains his atonality throughout, detouring his solos on the remaining tracks towards The New Thing. Expanded with Burrell, tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin and trombonist Grachan Moncur III added to the trumpeter, Brown and Johnson and with Beaver Harris replacing Ali, the selection are more comprehensive but more conventional. Moncur’s notable slurs and slides are a stand out as is the call-and-response among the horns. Yet when the trumpeter mocks Harris’ straight march tempo by quoting “Reveille”, musical fissure seems to be surfacing. Brown knife-sharp cries and more trombone blats are emphasized on “Iditus”, but Maupin’s Boppish outpouring and the pianist’s gentling comping go against Shorter’s shaking variables on his composition with its movie thriller soundtrack resemblance.
Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited is a pleasurable listening experience reflecting Free Jazz’s birth pains. But considering Shorter never again recorded with any of the other principles suggests that at least one player would have gone even father out if he could have.
Track Listing: 1. Capricorn Moon+# 2. Mephistopheles 3. Juba Lee* 4. Iditus*
Personnel: Alan Shorter (trumpet); Grachan Moncur III* (trombone); Marion Brown (alto saxophone); Bennie Maupin* (tenor saxophone): Dave Burrell* (piano); Ronnie Boykins+, Reggie Johnson (bass); Rashied Ali# or Beaver Harris* (drums)