Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Alan Silva - Skilfullness
Alan Treadwell DaSilva played bass on a number of noteworthy recordings during the 1960s, including Cecil Taylor's mighty 'Unit Structures' and Albert Ayler's impulse! recordings from the Village Vanguard. He was heavily involved in the whole Paris scene of 1969-1970, and it was there that he recorded the first album under the name of the Celestial Communication Orchestra, 'Luna Surface' on BYG. The music on that record was captured as part of the mammoth session from 13th-18th August 1969 that also featured such major names in the avant-garde as Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie and Sunny Murray (as well as some very unusual names indeed - step forward, Philly Joe Jones and Hank Mobley).
1970 saw Silva on ESP records with the release of 'Skillfulness'. This time around the group featured less well-known but still excellent musicians, particularly Karl Berger on vibes. The album features only two tracks, both occupying a single side of vinyl. The meat of the sandwich is definitely the title track that runs for 20-odd minutes on side A. If you click on the link through to the review of 'Luna Surface', you'll see that reviewer mention this track also and describe it as 'skull-crushing'. I'm not sure I agree. 'Solestrial' on side 2 is certainly made up of free-noise, but 'Skilfullness' is much friendlier than that - one could almost call it intimate. Once you get past the dissonance and strange shrieks of Silva's violin, you'll notice that the piece is actually made up of a series of duets between Silva and usually just one of his sidemen. The highlights for me are the intricate interplay between Silva and Berger around the 11-minute mark, and the smooth lines of Becky Friend on flute that contrast with Silva's urgent, high-pitched piano style (he is heard on violin, cello and piano on this track).
ESP releases are known for their uncompromising freedom, and this album is no exception. The label was set up in 1965 and is still going, with many of it's past releases still available on CD - this album being no exception. Have a look!
Alan Silva's 'Skilfullness' at ESP records