Max Roach-Anthony Braxton: Tropical Forest
Birth and Rebirth (Black Saint (It)BSR0024)
Recorded: Milan, September 1978
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
My younger brother is like a renaissance man; he does all kinds of things. A few years ago, some of his friends would come by our studio and hang out, playing chess, and they’d put on this record. These people were in their early twenties, they weren’t musicians, though some of them were dancers, and they really got into the music. I found that very interesting. This date is a set of extemporaneous compositions. They’re just hitting. But man, these people played this thing over and over again. It spoke to them in a very powerful way. So I guess music can transcend boundaries of the acceptable or the unacceptable, or what people call “avant-garde” or “free.” This is a jewel right here!
It’s all beautiful to me, but on this particular cut what strikes me is that Braxton is playing clarinet, and Max is only playing the hi-hat and also a pitch-bending floor-tom, almost reminiscent of the tympany. Max wasn’t afraid to take chances. I don’t know anybody else who had that on their set—the pitch-bending floor tom with the tympany-like pedal. This piece sounds like, I would think, cut-and-splice—they went in and hit for however long a period of time, and took what they liked. “Ok, this is kind of a song form; let’s deal with this one right here.” This one starts out like that. Max initiates a basic phrase on the hi-hat, Braxton comes in and starts responding to that, they’re still having a conversation, and then Max opens up a little bit to the cymbals, and then he goes to the floor tom and alternates between the floor tom and the hi-hat. That’s it. He doesn’t touch any other part of the set for a little over five minutes. But he creates such a wonderful setting.
In a lot of Max’s tunes, the title creates a certain image, and I wondered why they called this “Tropical Forest.” But then I realized that Braxton sounds almost reminiscent of those crying birds, like a toucan. I started seeing a rainforest setting—tropical colors, yellows and oranges.
This made about as powerful an impression on me as when I heard Roy Haynes play “Subterfuge” on Andrew Hill’s Black Fire. Roy just plays hi-hat the whole track, but still projects the force and drive as if he was playing the ride cymbal. Just that same phrase. I got the same feeling when I heard this track. Sonically, it’s almost a three-part structure, but they transmitted the feeling so effectively. That’s one I’m going to have to go back and revisit a lot.
Reviewer: Nasheet Waits
Tags: 1970s jazz