Monday, June 26, 2006
"Sightsong", Muhal's duet album from 1975 with the late Malachi Favors (pictured above) on the fine Italian label, Black Saint, is likely my personal favorite recording on which he's featured (along with the Art Ensemble's "Fanfare for the Warriors", I guess). At the time, the musicians from the AACM were really making their first major splash as far as the general public was concerned, the AEC releasing records on Atlantic, Braxton on Arista, etc., generally commandeering the position of the avant-garde in jazz. The AACM, of course, embraced the entirety of Great Black Music and it was to some degree a forceful statement of the fact that the first two tracks here are dedicated to Johnny Griffin and Wilbur Ware, two stalwarts of the Chicago bop hierarchy. The pieces are swinging, redolent of the blues and grooving, Favors making some of his most sublime music here, Abrams at his melodic best. Favors never quite received the acclaim he deserved in the Art Ensemble, preferring to provide the rich, solid bottom that held together the band's wildest forays, deferring attention to the august front line. But he had a tone and pulse that was unique. Each musician gets a solo feature on this disc and Favors', the wonderfully titled "Way Way Way Down Yonder", is just extraordinary, as deeply soulful and reverent-to-the-past bass playing as you'll ever want to hear. Short of Mingus, I'm not sure there's another bassist I'd rather bask in. Muhal's in great form throughout as well, to be sure, but when I think of "Sightsong", it's the little fellow with the elaborate facepaint I think of first. Thanks for all the beautiful music, Mr. Favors.