Labels > Black Saint > Muhal Richard Abrams > MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Volume 2

Muhal Richard Abrams


Black Saint BXS 1041


Artists :
Muhal Richard Abrams ( Piano, Synthesizer )
Release date
Nov 18, 2016


9 CD box-set


THE COMPLETE REMASTERED RECORDINGS ON BLACK SAINT & SOUL NOTE is a monographic box-set collection aimed at recounting the most beautiful chapters that revolutionised the history of jazz. A deep philological work, beginning with the original recordings on original master tapes, patiently integrally remastered paying strict attention to sound quality.

Stay closely tuned for more exciting upcoming box-set releases.


Muhal Richard Abrams Volume 2

The story of the founding of AACM is repeated often enough that it’s codified into legend: pianists Muhal Richard Abrams and Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall and trumpeter Phil Cohran, having come together in Abrams’ Experimental Band, met to lay the groundwork for what would be an independent organization for the production and promotion of creative jazz on Chicago’s South Side. As an organization committed to egalitarianism and self-determination, Abrams’ clear role as the spiritual godfather of the organization never quite seems to fit so tidily into the timeline. But before there was an organization, he was the bandleader and before there were bands, he was their leader. Those of us outside his inner circle might be wise not to mourn his passing Oct. 29th at the age of 87 so much as to marvel at the sphere of influence he held over innovative jazz for more than 50 years. It’s only natural to go back and revisit an artist’s discography once we’re aware that they’ll no longer be actively contributing to it. Italian label CAM Jazz has made that fairly easy to do with its ongoing repackaging of the Black Saint and Soul Note catalogs into affordable, artist-specific boxes. The first of two Abrams boxes came out in 2012, with the erroneous claim of being “complete”. This second set completes the collection and is labeled “Volume 2” (even though volume 1 wasn’t marked as such). Also, perhaps unexpectedly, Volume 2 includes albums where Abrams was a guest on someone else’s session. Added to these missteps is the fact that the CAM releases never actually seem to be remastered (there’s no clear upgrade from the Black Saint digital discs), but now is not a time to quibble. Now is a time to listen. A little less than half of Abrams’ output (depending on how one counts “with” and “special guest” appearances) was issued by Black Saint, so the survey is hardly thorough, but those records are among his most exciting and most innovative. Included in the second volume are duo albums with bassist Malachi Favors, violinist Leroy Jenkins, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and pianist Amina Claudine Myers. The ensemble albums include 1-QCA+19, Colors in Thirtythird, Familytalk and Song for All (a painter as well as a musician, his covers often depicted his visual artistry and his titles often reflected that as well). Also included is trombonist George Lewis’ excellent Shadowgraph, 5 and if Abrams only appears on two of the four tracks, it’s well worth revisiting nevertheless. Plunging into the box, we hear how fantastically jazzy he could be in Sightsong, the duo album with Favors. We hear a theatricality that puts him in the camp of early Art Ensemble of Chicago records on “Balladi”, the second track on 1-QCA+19, with an AACM allstar ensemble (McCall, saxophonists Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill and bassist Leonard Jones) contributing to layers of off-mic vocals. And we hear in a number of tracks, both solo and group, Abrams’ surprising synthesizer work. Volume 2 wasn’t meant to be a thorough retrospective. But it is as good a place to start as any for a composer and innovator who still holds surprises, no matter how many times you’ve listened.

4/1/2018The New York City Jazz RecordKurt Gottschalk
Muhal Richard Abrams Vol. 2

While a number of leading contemporary pianists, from Jason Moran to Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer, are happy to cite Abrams as a major influence his oeuvre is not celebrated anywhere near as much as it should be. This 9CD box set thus shines a welcome spotlight on a pivotal figure in the history of the AACM, black cultural self-empowerment and independence in America. In a wide variety of musical settings Abram’s unremittingly personal, mercurial approach to composition and improvisation shine through, and the unpredictability of the creative directions taken by the work is well sustained. While the duets with Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins and Malachi Favors crackle with conversational electricity it is the group sessions that reveal Abrams’ skill at bringing together exactly the right players to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the not inconsiderable parts. 1-OQA + 19 is a highlight in this respect, a summit meeting in which Braxton, Henry Threadgill and Steve McCall perform with a verve that makes a mockery of putative boundaries between swing, bebop and avant-garde. Abrams has managed to draw from all of these schools without being beholden to them and in the process created music that has a dawn-of-time gravitas as well as futurist propulsion. In particular, the interaction of his keyboard playing with the excellent drumming of Steve McCall, best known for his work in the trio Air, is joyous for the focused subversion both bring to their use of high and low registers in the music, making the point that a bass drum can really be the ‘top’ rather than the bottom of an arrangement and a left hand as much the lead as the right. Abrams’ 1980s output was also consistently daring, and 1997’s Song For All showed no signs of any creative dip.

1/3/2017JazzwiseKevin Le Gendre
Black Saint & Soul Note

Déjà un deuxième volume pour Muhal Richard Abrams, avec neuf CD où le pianiste fondateur de l’AACM officie sous diverses formules: solo, duos (avec Malachi Favors, Amina Claudine Myers, Leroy Jenkins, Roscoe Mitchell), petites formations où l’on croise, entre autres, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Henry Threadgill. Coup de cœur pour “Sightsong” et le morceau éponyme.

2/2/2017Jazz Magazine - JazzmanFrançois-René Simon
Muhal Richard Abrams Volume 2

Quatre ans après le volume inaugural (8 CD de l période 1979-1994), la suite des aventures du pianiste-compositeur-activiste de la créativité musicale afro-américaine avec les labels italiens Black Saint et Soul Note. Des disques sous son nom, des duos (avec Amina Claudine Myers, Malachi Favors, Roscoe Mitchell....), des collaborations de sideman (avec George Lewis, Leroy Jenkins), et bien sûr des disques en leader. C'est une occasion supplémentaire (et elle n'est pas inutile, tant l'importance de ce musicien est souvent ignorée) de vérifier comment la créativité la plus audacieuse se conjugue avec le prolongement de la tradition, dans une effervescence qui jamais ne faiblit. En 9 CD, un beau panorama de la Great Black Music durant deux décennies. Pas un coffret de spécialiste: un objet sonore à mettre entre toutes les oreilles mélomanes!

15/12/2016Les dernières nouvelles du jazzXavier Prévost
Muhal Richard Abrams, compositeur expérimental mariant jazz et contemporain

C'est pour moi une surprise, une grosse surprise. Je connaissais évidemment l'importance du pianiste Muhal Richard Abrams comme fondateur de l'AACM dont l'Art Ensemble of Chicago m'apparaissait comme le fer de lance. L'Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians défendait la Great Black Music à coups de free jazz particulièrement inventif, à la fois festif et revendicatif. Parmi les premiers membres de l'AACM figuraient également Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette... Je rencontrai Threadgill au Québec lors du fameux Festival de Victoriaville où nous jouions avec Un Drame Musical Instantané, mais le choc remonte au Festival d'Amougies en 1969 où l'Art Ensemble avait pastiché les groupes de rock, me faisant basculer de la pop vers ce jazz libertaire. Il faut y avoir vu Joseph Jarman, entièrement nu, à la guitare électrique, incarnant un guitar hero au milieu de l'extraordinaire instrumentarium de l'Ensemble où officiaient Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, à l'origine de ma première mutation musicale. La panoplie de multi-instrumentiste ne me quittera plus. Or voilà que je reçois le deuxième volume des disques remasterisés de Muhal Richard Abrams sur les labels italiens Black Saint et Soul Note. Le coffret rassemble 9 albums d'une exceptionnelle variété : Sightsong est un duo avec le bassiste de l'Art Ensemble Malachi Favors (1975) ; le Shadograph, 5 (Sextet) réunit Abrams, Antony Davis, Douglas Ewart, Leroy Jenkins, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell, Abdul Wadud, mais c'est un disque de George Lewis où d'une pièce à l'autre l'instrumentation jazz glisse vers une écriture contemporaine utilisant violoncelle, sousaphone, basson, violon alto, cassettophones, synthétiseur Moog, etc. (1977) ; 1 - OQA + 19 est un quintet de free jazz avec les souffleurs Braxton et Threadgill plus la section rythmique de Leonard Jones et Steve Mc Call (1978) ; Lifelong Ambitions est l'album qui m'a donné envie d'écouter l'ensemble, duo frénétique enregistré en public sous le nom du violoniste Leroy Jenkins dont j'avais découvert l'originalité avec le Jazz Composer's Orchestra, en particulier son For Players Only (1981) ; Duet est pour deux pianos, le faux reflet étant incarné par Amina Claudine Myers et les pièces formant un hommage élastique où les dissonances dessinent l'histoire de la Grande Musique Noire (1981) ; Colors in Thirty-Third est un nouveau sextet avec le violoniste John Blake, Dave Holland parfois au violoncelle, le saxophoniste-clarinettiste John Purcell, le bassiste Fred Hopkins, le batteur Andrew Cyrille, démontrant que la frontière entre jazz et musique contemporaine est extrêmement ténue (1987) ; Familytalk enfonce le clou, passionnant mélange où Abrams passe du piano au synthétiseur et dirige l'orchestre composé du trompettiste Jack Walrath, de Patience Higgins au ténor, à la clarinette basse et au cor anglais, du bassiste Brad Jones et des percussionnistes Warren Smith et Reggie Nicholson (1993) ; Duets and Solos figurait déjà dans le coffret consacré au saxophoniste Roscoe Mitchell dont j'avais salué le coffret sur ce même label (en le détaillant un peu plus !), car on peut retrouver les mêmes albums selon ces compilations de rééditions, comme Shadowgraph 5 qui y figurait aussi, ainsi que Spihumonesty de Muhal Richard Abrams présent sur son volume 1, ce qui n'est pas si grave étant donné le nombre de disques et le prix très modique de la collection (1990) ; Song For All est donc le neuvième du coffret avec la chanteuse Richarda Abrams, fille du compositeur, et un septet où l'écriture contemporaine s'inspire encore une fois des racines afro-américaines (1995) ! Car les musiciens de Chicago n'ont jamais célébré aucun repli communautaire. Ils affirment leur authenticité en la partageant avec le reste du monde. Pour être de partout, il faut être de quelque part. Muhal Richard Abrams n'assume pas seulement la Great Black Music, il célèbre toute la musique américaine depuis le ragtime et le blues jusqu'aux recherches les plus contemporaines en passant par Charles Ives. Sa recherche de couleurs personnelles lui confère une originalité réjouissante. Il fait partie des musiciens étiquetés jazz comme Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Julius Eastman, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, Steve Lacy et bien d'autres, qui devraient être joués dans les festivals de musique contemporaine aussi souvent que ceux dont la couleur de peau a viré au blanc. D'autant qu'en plus de leurs écritures inventives ils swinguent, ce qui n'est pas le lot de tous les musiciens "classiques", endimanchés dans leur costumes souvent étriqués.

6/12/2016mediapart.frJean-Jacques Birgé
Muhal Richard Abrams

Se all’inizio del secondo conflitto mondiale Thelonious Monk - grazie ai laboratori quotidiani aperti al pubblico press il Minton’s Playhouse - è stato un riferimento culturale primario per gli innovatori del rivoluzionario be bop, allo stesso modo i giovani jazzisti attivi nell’agitata Chicago degli anni Sessanta si sono rifugiati sotto le ali protettive di Muhal Richard Abrams. Sono artisti di talento tuttora attivi - tipo Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell - che hanno sostenuto Abrams nella leggendaria AACM, finalizzata a sperimentare una credibile alternativa al free di New York. Quell’autorevole associazione è riuscita a mettere in pratica le sue ambiziose utopie: anzi, continuano ancora a suggerire nuove ipotesi per il jazz di domani. Gli otto CD del precedente box sommati ai nove di questo secondo volume compongono l’integrale Black Saint del pianista-compositore nato a Chicago nel 1930. Apre “Sightsong” (1976) e chiude “Song For All” (1997): nel ventennio spicca ogni ben di dio, a cominciare da gemme del jazz moderno quali “Colors in Thirty-Third” (1897), “1 - OQA + 19” (1978) e “Song For All” (1997). Abrams e soci dimostrano di conoscere a menadito anche il linguaggio dei pionieri; lo confermano le dondolanti frenesie ritmiche in “Ritob” (nobilitato dai saettanti botta e risposta di Braxton e Threadgill, e dalle frasi lucide, nodose e stringate del titolare), il tempo sghembo marcato da Andrew Cyrille in “Drumman Cyrille”, l’ostinata marcetta in stile Residents in “Marching With Honor”, i geniali pruriti free funk di “Over The Same Over”. Il cofanetto custodisce però una ben più ampia messe di chicche, in cui si coagulano mirabilmente sketch accademici, folk afroamericano, swingante aleatorietà.

5/12/2016AudioreviewEnzo Pavoni