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Various Artists: Jazzactuel [Box Set] [Box]

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (June 2002, p.64) - 4.5 out of 5 stars - "...JAZZACTUEL serves as a supreme label smapler as well as an ideal introduction to a number of first and second-generation freedom fighters..."

Album Notes

Includes a 36 page illustrated booklet.

Performers include: Don Cherry, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Gong, Sonny Murray, The Art Eneemble of Chicago.

All tracks have been digitally remastered.

The release of Jazzactuel reclaims from obscurity a remarkable period of avant-garde music. Compiled by devoted fans Thurston Moore and Byron Coley, this three-CD box set compiles free jazz, electronic, and psychedelic rock tracks originally released in the late '60s and early '70s by the French label BYG. According to the informative, but at times overzealous, liner notes, the BYG sessions originated from a music festival held in Paris in 1969 that was headlined by such American free jazz legends as Sunny Murray, Dave Burrell, Grachan Moncur III, and Archie Shepp. The music is just as wild as one might expect from such a roster. Sunny Murray's "Red Cross," which opens the first disc, is a near-perfect document of late-'60s free jazz battery, with the leader's drums scrambling and crashing underneath Kenneth Terroade's foghorn tenor drones and the siren-like altos of Arthur Jones and Roscoe Mitchell. Archie Shepp's "Blasé" shocks through brooding intensity, as Jeanne Lee coolly recites a chilling indictment of machismo over a spooky Dave Burrell piano vamp; in the context set by Lee's words, Shepp's burly tenor obligatos take on a predatory quality. Other highlights of the set include Sonny Sharrock's "Soon," on which the guitarist's ferocious tangle of distortion spurs his wife Linda to primitive, orgasmic wails; Dewey Redman's "Tarik," where Redman's snaking muzette lines dance over Ed Blackwell's relentless, often polyrhythmic march beat; and lastly the sublimely noisy "The Seasons Part 6," a 22-minute free workout by Alan Silva's Celestrial Communications Orchestra, comprised of most of the BYG crew and special guests like the elusive trumpeter/flugelhornist Alan Shorter. Admittedly, this music can be numbingly extreme, but there are enough surprises to merit close listening all the way through. A delightful moment is the Art Ensemble of Chicago whooping their way through a parody of military music called "Get in Line" that captures perfectly the revolutionary spirit that infuses seemingly the entire BYG catalog. It should also be mentioned that though free jazz dominates here, the listener is also treated to tripped-out psychedelia courtesy of Daevid Allen and Gong, and electronic exploration by Musica Elettronica Viva. These oddball tracks reveal the period from 1969-1971 as a true renaissance of "out" music, to which Jazzactuel serves as a wonderful introduction. ~ Henry M. Shteamer


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