Quickies: Bennie Maupin, Porcupine Tree, Dewey Redman

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by Pico

This version of Quickies focuses on new rock and old jazz. One thing they have in common: it’s all good.

>Bennie Maupin The Jewel In The Lotus

Multi-reedist Bennie Maupin first made his mark contributing that bad-assed bass clarinet to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and then joined Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi space-funk fusion group, staying on with Herbie to join his Headhunters band in 1974. Right about the time Mwandishi was wrapping up and the more accessible Headhunters was getting assembled, Maupin decided to record his first solo album and brought in most of the band members from Mwandishi, including Hancock, to be his supporting band. This 1974 debut by Maupin has now been remastered for re-release on the ECM label.

It’s only natural to compare this record Hancock’s Mwandishi recordings
Only the title track bears close resemblance sonically, however, as Herbie plays a spaced-out electric piano similar to what he did on “You’ll Know When You Get There.” But all of the tracks lack a groove; percussion exists for coloring and the rhythm is free-flowing. This is the kind of abstract chamber jazz that you’d expect a mid-seventies ECM record to sound like. That isn’t to say there isn’t some good comping going on; Buster Williams plausibly impersonates Ron Carter on “Mappo,”for instance. But Maupin is generally more interested in the kind of group improvision that made Mwandishi special and with Manfred Eicher’s sterile production and without the dated synths, The Jewel In The Lotus stands the test of time better.

Porcupine Tree Nil Recurring

Unlike some EP’s which are previews to upcoming full-length albums, Nil Recurring is really more of a supplement to the last one, the phenomenal Fear Of A Blank Planet. Clocking in at just under a half an hour total, these four tunes were composed during recording of that album and as such, contain much the same structure and feel. In fact, “Normal” steals the chorus from Fear‘s “Sentimental.” “What Happens Now?” sounds like an idea inspired by “My Ashes,” at least in the lyrics.

But there really aren’t a lot of lyrics overall. It’s a little more textural than the long player and even Mr. Texture himself Robert Fripp provides a yelping lead guitar on the instrumental title track. These songs are not quite up to the level of the Fear tracks, but that’s not to say they aren’t worthy listens. Far from it. After all, Porcupine’s chaff of late have sounded better than most rock band’s wheat. PT fans will want to pick this up if they hadn’t already.

Dewey Redman The Struggle Continues

I’m old enough to have been aware of the tenor saxophonist Dewey before knowing anything about his son Joshua. Joshua, of course, has become the star that his father never quite came close to being himself. But having grown up in Fort Worth around Ornette Coleman gave the elder Redman some long standing exposure to the “new thing” in jazz and he’s even gigged and recorded with Coleman’s band in the late sixties and early seventies. He was also in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Keith Jarrett’s mid-seventies quintet.

Like the Maupin record, The Struggle Continues from 1982 is an ECM remastering/re-issue and is Redman’s only record for that label as a leader. The music is not really whack jazz, it’s mainly solid, straight-ahead bop anchored by Ed Blackwell’s steady drums. But the second track “Love Is” is a beautiful, gentle waltz where Dewey reveals his delicate side. Dewey Redman passed away about fourteen months ago without getting his due recognition, but hopefully this re-issue will help to posthumously furnish him a start on getting that.

“Quickies” are mini-record reviews of new or upcoming releases. Some albums are just that much more fun to listen to than to write about.

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