Mal Waldron: Rat Now


Rat Now


Mal Waldron (piano)


Free at Last (ECM (G) 1001)

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Mal Waldron (piano),

Isla Eckinger (bass), Clarence Becton (drums)


Composed by Mal Waldron


Recorded: Ludwigsburg, Germany, November 24, 1969


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

Free at Last marks the very first release from the ECM label, and “Rat Now,” the album’s opening track, will therefore forever be documented as the first ten minutes of ECM music. Waldron was in the post-breakdown/recovery/European relocation portion of his career, and his minimalist playing here, unsurprisingly, is dark and dense. While it may lack the feverish spark of his early Prestige dates or his audacious interpretation of Monk’s catalog with Steve Lacy, this track is especially enhanced by Waldron’s intense, freewheeling commitment to challenging his listeners with his meandering keyboard investigations. Waldron performed with his friend John Coltrane on numerous occasions in the latter1950s, and this trio date has a definite Tyner/Garrison/Jones feeling throughout – complete with a slow swell of barline-blurring fills with a constant six-over-four feeling. While the usual Tyner-esque rousing conclusion we’re used to never really happens here, Waldron’s horde of compelling ideas along the way should leave the listener plenty satisfied.

Reviewer: Eric Novod

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