Sounding at times like pages out of the Sun-Ra book, at other times like hip post-bop blowing, at other times like ecstatic quasi-Ayler-esque playing, this reissue of a live 1988 Catalina Hollywood session should help bring this quintet the attention it deserves, or at least bring us up to date on the first-rate cutting edge music we missed the first time around.
While flying under the radar of the mainstream jazz signals, this is music that has or should have had wider appeal (sadly, Carter is no longer with us), and it is hard to understand why someone like Bradford isn't more of a household word, at least among jazz aficionados who revere players like Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. Bradford has the chops and imaginative wherewithal of the aforementioned stars, evidence of which abounds throughout, but especially on the vigorous reiterated lines of his long solo in "Room 408." What maybe has kept him out of the limelight is the repertoire — here made up of two Bradford compositions and three by Carter — which does not include the light fluffy fare Miles and Hubbard both faltered into for obvious commercial and popular aesthetic reasons. The closest they come to this vein is in "Sunday Afternoon Jazz Society Blues," but even that sounds more like a rootsy Mingus foray than anything remotely spelling commercial airplay.
This is not to say that the music on Comin' On is difficult and inaccessible — far from it. While there are many instances of adventurous counterpoint play between Bradford's trumpet and Carter's clarinet — as in the 15-minute smorgasbord of tasteful in/out playing on the title track — a piece like "Ode to the Maiden Flower" lays down some pretty sweet melodic fare. These are players who know the ins and outs of the jazz language. Carter's soaring and diving virtuosic arabesques are absolutely engaging throughout, but most obviously over the driving bass ostinato with synth and firm drum support in "Encounter," which allows Carter to really take off into the stratosphere. Bradford, for his part, is as nimble and inspired on every track.
The trumpet and clarinet front line with the standard bass-drums-piano (with occasional synthesizer) provided by Richard Davis, Andrew Cyrille and Don Preston, respectively, has not been seen very often since the days of Louis Armstrong, but here sound natural and contemporary, even 25 years after the fact, showing how hip these guys were and still are.
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