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Michael Gregory Jackson: Frequency Equilibrium Koan - Live! The Ladies Fort, 2 Bond Street, NYC 1977

The scene is a New York venue entitled The Ladies Fort; it’s here we can be transported via an arcane cassette recording from 1977 and behold a wild confluence of color and sound led by guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist) Michael Gregory Jackson. It was during this period that he was determined to explore untapped areas of creativity and spiritual uplift with fellow musicians whom he described as “autonomous islands of individuality”. These four recordings present a wild, searching, sometimes conflicting array of dynamics whose sheer invention and clinging collaboration transcends the less-than-optimal sonics.

During the opening title track, I did wonder if these guys had a clear destination in mind. Certainly, some of the frenzied, dissonant moments here would suggest a desire to exhaust every avenue. At times disturbing, peaceful, euphoric; each instrument wanders through dark crevices, groping around seemingly without direction. An intriguing mission statement.

Jackson’s guitar refrain underpins ‘Heart & Center’ whilst Pheeroan aKLaff’s drums scaffold the wilder excursions of the Julius Hemphill’s sax. This looping smartly builds intensity whilst merely teasing at upping the ante. ‘Clarity 3’ dispenses with the discipline of the preceding track �" giving way to formless, spidery ascensions from Abdul Wadud’s cello whilst the sax appears to proudly display its ability to roam free and untamed. Guitar and drums saddle up beside these elements, occasionally cutting through but ultimately serving as an earthly connection amidst the screeching heights of the sax and cello.

‘A Meditation’ slow-burns into action; with flutes, chimes, and assorted percussion creating a middle-eastern flavour that never seems trite or superficial. Equally, the delicate support of the players never undermines the arresting quality of Jackson’s flute excursions. There is an understated determination to the prod, poke, and flurry of the notes that creates an aura of mystery without becoming too esoteric or unpalatable. It’s moments like this whereby the hiss and ‘distance’ inherent in these old cassettes actually benefit the character of the recording; almost like it’s straddling two planes of reality.

This is an exciting fly-on-the-wall experience of a group of disparate, stubbornly individual, yet keenly sympathetic musicians expanding and contracting in pursuit of an undefined goal. The more profound commentaries on spiritual dalliances and communication (the inspiration for the title) will always resonate more for the players in the moment of creation but this doesn’t dim the excitement and sense of adventure on display here. It’s not without a tinge of ironic sadness that this boundless pursuit of the future seems to be a hallmark of the past.


Michael Gregory Jackson - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Body Percussion, Chimes, Bamboo Flutes, Recording, Post Production, Digital Editing & Compositions
Julius Hemphill - Alto Saxophone
Abdul Wadud - Cello
Pheeroan aKLaff - Drums


Track Listing
1. Frequency Equilibrium Koan (09:17)
2. Heart & Center (09:47)
3. Clarity 3 (11:21)
4. A Meditation (09:10)

Added: February 21st 2021
Reviewer: Martin Delaney
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 272
Language: english

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