Sonny Greenwich: Libra Ascending
Sonny Greenwich (guitar)
Live at Sweet Basil (Justin Time 26-2)
Sonny Greenwich (guitar),
Fred Henke (piano), Ron Seguin (bass), Andre White (drums).
Composed by Sonny Greenwich.
Recorded: live at Sweet Basil, New York, September 2, 1987
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
In the mid-to-late '60's, Sonny Greenwich played with Charles Lloyd, toured with John Handy, and after a week-long working audition in Toronto in 1969 was invited by Miles Davis to join his band. Due to Sonny's immigration difficulties, that opportunity was never realized, although he got to play with Miles again in Toronto in 1972. From that point to the present, Greenwich has been relatively reclusive, playing – and sporadically recording – in and around Montreal and Toronto in his native Canada, and very rarely making trips elsewhere.
One such trip was to New York in 1987 for a weekday matinee concert at the now-defunct Sweet Basil jazz club, as part of that year's Greenwich Village Jazz Festival. A few hip New Yorkers, including yours truly, took that afternoon off from work to hear the esteemed Canadian guitarist up close and personal. Greenwich has a style influenced by cubist artist Paul Klee, classical composers Ravel and Debussy, and most especially the spiritual modality of John Coltrane. Sonny's "Libra Ascending" is "dedicated to the memory of John Coltrane." The guitarist's gently subdued intro is an unusually brief one for him, as he suddenly surges into a driving extended passage with a ringing, metallic tone, urged on by White's flailing drums. A gratifying release transports Greenwich into his main improvisation, his urgent staccato phrasing gradually building to an almost uncomfortably impassioned peak. Henke's piano solo maintains the leader's forceful momentum, but is overwhelmed by White's unrelenting drum rolls and cymbal crashes. Greenwich is better able to match White's aggressiveness in the duo's rousing exchange of fours. If you ever wondered what Coltrane might have sounded like on guitar, Greenwich could be the answer.
Reviewer: Scott Albin