on August 24, 2004
This album, being my only encounter (so far) with Sonny's work, is largely considered amongst his finest work, and although having long since been unavailable/Deleted, this is most definitely an album that is either (A) Worth tracking down, Second hand (which was what I did), or (B) Paying the high Prices charged by people selling their copies. Either way, it an album that's probably going to take a little effort to source. but this is more than worth the considerable effort.
"Promises Kept" is a truly jaw-dropping effort, it falls into wildly exuberant Free-jazz, that's particular upbeat and freeform, but with a truly engaging sense of musically expression and performance. it takes the best elements of jazz (particularly peak-ear "John Coltrane), and with the help of "Pharaoh Sanders" exceptional performances, melds slight elements with Avant-Garde composition, with the free flow of Jazz. An reviewer below, made a comment about the "saxophone solo being amongst the greatest modern saxophone solo ever recorded", and although I'm in no position to state that this is the case, I sure wouldn't say, that it wasn't a fairly accurate assessment. In fact I think that even more acknowledgement should be given to given to Coltrane Quartet drummer "Elvin Jones", who not only manages to play with a level of proficiency rarely seen throughout the album, but his drummer solo that closes out the latter half of this track, will go down as one of the great drum performances of recent memory.
"Who Does She Hope to Be?" is more in line with traditional Jazz-values and although it doesn't explore the more experimental ends of the Jazz genres, like a couple of the tracks here, its inclusion is more than justified by sublime down tempo warm performances that evoke the sense of a late night 'Film Noir' soundtrack piece. It's mood is one of atmospheric sax, reflective brushed drums and subtle bass. This although being the most traditional track in terms of composition, reminds of Miles Davis' more subtle moments, and admirably stands as a tremendous track in its own right after the utter brilliance of "Promises Kept".
"Many Mansions" takes more of a (slight) fusion approach, it starts as elegant jazz, and gradually over the course of the track, builds slowly and the arrangements become more fuller sounding, fleshing out into something approaching Post-Bop, with sweeping compositions and memorable themes, it certainly the work of a group of incredibly talented musicians playing to their strengths, but what truly impresses is the way that Sonny's electric guitar is very subtly introduced over the course of the track. So much so, that on the first listen or two, you may even miss it's introduction. There is no doubt that Sonny was a truly exceptional talent, as this is him playing with sincere subtly, and less of a showcase for his (stunning) guitar arrangements.
"Once upon a Time" is probably the track with a stronger elements of fusion/Avant-Jazz music than Free-Jazz. Sure this is a group largely of Jazz musicians performing here, but the approach feels more in tune with Avant-Jazz, than any form of contemporary Jazz. And here Sonny's exceptional guitar work, gets a little more room to stretch its legs, and shows him as a band leader of some considerable note. with tribal beats complementing the arrangements, of sonny's guitar chords. Which are given ample, adrenaline charged, endlessly cascading/ascending guitar lines, the energy of classic free jazz's soulful wail, this is one such piece that harkens to their past. And ends the album on a truly breath-taking & satisfyingly high note.
This is without doubt, a truly remarkable album, that becomes all the more precious after the passing over of such a talented figure, and if (like me) Free-Jazz, Avant-garde, Experimental-Jazz, Fusion, or just jazz in it's various forms appeal, then this is a unquestionably recommended title. But for those that aren't familiar with these genres of jazz, and their experience of jazz starts and stops at the more commercial end of Jazz, or aren't familiar with Bill Laswell's "Axiom" label (on which this album is on). Then for the high asking prices people are charging for this 'Out of Print' title, I'd have to suggest that you possibly consider passing on this and try something a little easier to get hold of (and ultimately far less expensive). As This is more of an enthusiasts album, and probably not such an idea for an (expensive) starting point to get into this music. But for the rest of you.....(and to be fair if your reading this review, about this Artist, then your probably fairly clued up). Beg, Steal, Borrow the money, to secure yourself a copy of this phenomenal album.