Arthur Blythe: Bush Baby
Arthur Blythe (alto sax)
Bush Baby (Adelphi AD 5008)
Ahkmed Abdullah, conga.
Composed by Arthur Blythe.
Recorded: New York, December 1977
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Arthur Blythe's outstanding '70s trio with Bob Stewart and Ahkmed Abdullah was unlike any other in jazz at the time. Indeed, it is unique in the history of jazz. The band's music hearkened back to early jazz (using a tuba instead of a string bass) and jazz's pre-origins in Africa (hand drums rather than traps), yet adopted techniques of the post-Coleman avant-garde.
Of course, other bands at the time combined African elements with a free jazz sensibility. Blythe's vision differed by virtue of its particular stripped-down sound and his willingness to explore certain primordial aspects of funk. "Bush Baby" is perhaps the consummate example of this. Stewart lays down a funky, repetitive bassline, over which Blythe blows the riff-based melody and an in-the-pocket-but-out-to-lunch solo (think Maceo Parker meets Eric Dolphy). Abdullah's rhythmic accompaniment is funky in its way, but extremely varied and complex; it's left to Stewart to hold down the groove, which he does in tandem with Blythe until there's nowhere to go but "out."
The spare instrumentation—in particular a lack of high, metallic sounds in the form of cymbals and/or snares—throws Blythe's sound in relief. It exposes the altoist's every nuance, which is a good thing. For all its earthiness, this is extremely subtle music, and the more interesting for it.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey