Friday, October 28, 2005

The Music of Charles Brackeen


CHARLES BRACKEEN
Rhythm X

Strata East SES 19736

Dolphy Series 4


Recorded January 1968

Side One

1. Rhythm X 8:03
2. Hour Glass 11:31

Side Two

1. Charles Concept 7:50
2. C.B. Blues 7:00

Personnel

EDWARD BLACKWELL; drums
CHARLES BRACKEEN; saxophone
DON CHERRY; trumpet
CHARLIE HADEN; bass

This is an intriguing LP by an obscure sax player. He may be obscure, but he certainly can play. This LP pairs him up with what is basically Ornette Coleman’s rhythm section in a recording of 4 Brackeen compositions. As you might expect from the personnel, the mood is one of freedom, but the pieces are in tempo, and ‘Rhythm X’ in particular could even be said to have a groove – think of Pharoah Sander’s ‘Black Unity’. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound is not as good as it could be – the horns, and even the bass come through well, but Blackwell sounds like he’s playing a couple of old tea chests. It’s a testament to the quality of his playing that he still manages to mesmerise with his solo towards the end of the first track.

The playing is uniformly excellent. Cherry, Blackwell and Haden’s credentials are already well established, and Brackeen is more than a match for them. Amazingly, despite such quality playing, Brackeen didn’t record a session under his own name again until 1987! He was, however, married to post-bop pianist Joanne Brackeen, who was much more prolific throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s.

The design and artwork is also excellent – the front sleeve depicts the personnel during the recording of the album, while the rear sleeve contains an uncredited abstract drawing that I assume is the work of Brackeen. The LP itself is a reissue of the original 1968 set, and is part of the ‘Dolphy Series’ – anything carrying the name of that outsanding musician must be worth a listen. The other albums in the Dolphy series are;

1. Clifford Jordan – In The World Strata-East SES 19721
2. Pharoah Sanders – Izipho Zam (My Gifts) Strata-East SES 19733
3. Zodiac – The Music of Cecil Payne Strata-East SES 19734

On the basis of this one, I’d highly recommend anyone with a passing interest in avant-garde jazz to go out and get hold of them all.

2 comments:

Ford Mf said...

It's too bad Brackeen wasn't more prolific, since almost all of his recorded output verges on genius. And he certainly has one of the most recognizable tones in post-60s jazz, comparable to Rollins and Coltrane I think. His three records for Silkheart are terrific too, if you don't have them already.

Anonymous said...

Illustration by Caton