Norman Howard & Joe Phillips - Burn Baby Burn
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There are some great sleeve notes that come with this CD by Michael D. Anderson. They set out the socio-political context of the sixties in Cleveland’s artistic circles, the Ohio Free Music Scene, these artists’ near-anonymous status and the full story of why ESP 1073 eventually got released as ESP 4033 (and the connection with William Parker, Roy Morris and Henry Rollins)
Howard learnt to “be cool” by listening to Miles Davis and is best known for working with Ayler in the early sixties and playing trumpet on the album Spirits (a set which included Howard’s composition ‘Witches And Devils’).
The tracks on this CD were recorded some five years later in two sessions, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Signals’. Why Howard was apparently reluctant to release this CD is hard to fathom. The high speed ‘NxJx’ and ‘Bug Out’ see both ‘leaders’ battle it out in a rawkus high-speed march (perhaps gallop would be better).
Back in the worlds of the Spirits, ‘Haunted’ is the total opposite of ‘NxJx’ as it’s a mourning for a dead soldier as if ‘The Last Post’ is being played in purgatory. ‘Deep Black Mystery’ is in a similar vein with Phillips (who was latter known as Yusef Mumin Phillips) coming more to the fore. And the album starts in a reflective mood with ‘The Sounds From There’ that was inspired, if that’s the right word, after serving time in jail on the basis of a fabricated charge by the police and there’s a long track dedicated to Lady Day.
Back with the fast stuff, the album ends on the title track, ‘Burn Baby Burn’. Recorded long before the days of Disco Inferno, the trumpet is so hot you can almost feel the blisters forming on his lips.
When these guys got to California they hung out with Horace Tapscott, the Watts Prophets, Yusef Lateef, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Charles Tyler and all that lot (wow!) but this album is really a tribute to Ayler and Cleveland’s legacy to the free-thinking jazz world.
And a small plug for my local collective who are keeping the flame burning of “music that crosses boundaries”, Torque (Geoff Hearn, Jim Black and Steve Harris; all members of ZAUM) were excellent last night at a sparsely attended gig and they really deserved better so try and make sure you don’t miss UNSAFE3 (see details below) with its excellent line-up.
Hectic Mix nominations: ‘Burn Baby Burn’, ‘NxJx’, ‘Bug Out’
Reviewed: Norman Howard & Joe Phillips — Burn Baby Burn (ESP-Disk) Cat. No. ESP 4033 Release date: August 2007
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