Looking Ahead

Prestige Records (1960) Looking Ahead
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Track listing: Geo's Tune; They All Laughed; Dianna; Curtsy; Lautir; Head Shakin'

Personnel: Makanda Ken McIntyre: alto saxophone, flute; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet; Walter Bishop, Jr.: piano; Sam Jones: bass; Art Taylor: drums

Review by John Tynan
March 2nd, 1961 - Downbeat

Don't dare listen to this record in complacent mood or when headache hints; it will shatter your complacency and/or sharpen the headache. Better lend an ear when the need to rebel and to shake your fist at the stars nags to the point of action. This album, in short, is another dose - almost a purgative - of jazz rebellion.

Admittedly, the two horn men on the firing line fall somewhat short of out-Colemanning Ornette Coleman, for if their emotional approach is similar, their tactics are more formalized. Unlike Coleman, they seem to feel the need of a piano (a blessing in this instance), and they do at least adhere to sets of chord progressions.

Of the two, McIntyre is perhaps the wilder, more unpredictable soloist; and he comes closer than Dolphy to Coleman's intensely personalized expressionism. One feels for example, that a sudden compulsion to sneeze is translated by him into a musical snort. McIntyre is unafraid of the unexpected and unpredictable; indeed, he appears to delight in exploiting it.

Not that Dolphy is any striped-pants conservative. His alto solo on Laughed is conclusive testimony to his radicalism. But Dolphy reveals more of a debt, more fealty to musical discipline and consequently less need to gush forth the naked, neurotic cries of a soul in torment than does McIntyre - or Coleman.

A 30-year-old Bostonian, McIntyre studied saxophone with Andrew McGhee, Gigi Gryce and Charlie Mariano before studying further at the Boston Conservatory of Music and for his masters degree at Brandeis University. This is his first appearance on record. Dolphy is the ex-Chico Hamilton reed man who more recently worked with Charlie Mingus in New York and who is no longer a new comer to recording.

Possibly because of the characteristics of the flute, McIntyre is less the firebrand on that instrument that he is on alto sax. He confines himself to flute on the two long tracks comprising the second side, Head Shakin' and Dianna, and it is Dolphy who dons the helmet of Tarter. Eric gobbles like a turkey in his alto solo on Shakin' and performs some amazing sonic gymnastics on bass clarinet in the course of his solo on the waltz Dianna. (All the tunes except the standard, Laughed, are originals by McIntyre.) As a flutist, McIntyre is a competent technician with enough know-how to communicate valid and interesting ideas.

The first four tracks tend to give us a more revealing glimpse into the forces motivating Dolphy and McIntyre. Lautir is a sort of amoebic, atonal blues line, which both horns (altos) play in unison as if they were afraid to go home. Curtsy, which gets its title from a rather longish tag at the end of each chorus of 32 bars, is a medium up and oddly lyrical line on which both altos solo and trade frenetically, each striving to outdo the other in a racing stream of consciousness. An Afro beat stamps Geo's Tune, and in the exposition of the line and the following solo McIntyre smears, chokes, and laughs (remember The Laughing Saxophone?).

All things in account, this is an album worth considering, not only for the consistently fine (and orthodox) jazz piano of Bishop and the rhythm work of Jones and A.T. but also for the experiments of the "Terrible Twins." If what they are playing is truly looking ahead, the prospect before us would appear to be one of continuing disquiet, and this is not necessarily bad for jazz. After all, painting has its Dali.

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