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New American Music Vol. 1

Here’s the first of four volumes in Folkways’ New American Music series. You know it’s new American music because the Eagle on the cover is playing a harp. Eagles mean America, harps mean music and new means new. But this record is actually 30 years old, so I guess in this case new means old. This is, in my opinion. the best of the series, focusing on (out) jazz – the other three volumes tend to fall more on the contemporary/avant garde classical side of the spectrum.

The records centerpiece is the (I believe) otherwise unreleased Milford Graves track “Transmutations.” Which works out nicely because I normally can’t afford most real Milford Graves records. But as you can see from the eternal princeton record exchange pricetag, I only had to pay $5 for 12 minutes of him and Hugh Glover going apeshit with whistles, gurgly mouth noises and yes, sometimes even saxophone and drums. Glover also plays a samumba, I’m not sure what that is because when I googled it I mostly got hits for Irish pop sensation (and my new desktop wallpaper) Samantha Mumba. Anyway, this track is some certified soul swallowing shit. The beautiful thing to me about Graves’ “compositions” (if that’s even an appropriate noun) is their ability to be both sparse and chaotic. I once saw an en espanol in-flight segment on Graves’ research into rhythmic therapy on an airplane and it was so hardcore that I had to ask the flight attendant for stool softeners.

The Sunny Murray cut, “Encounter,” backed by his Umum Quartet is equally nasty and finds him chanting about how “time has changed and dreams have turned from hate to love.” The record also features some woodwind massacre courtesy of Sam Rivers, the bouncy post-fusion Gil Evans jernt “Blue Fish”, and two very nice tracks from the great Mary Lou Williams’ Zoning LP, which is another record I cannot afford. In short, this compilation does a great service for us poor people who still want and deserve to listen to experimental jazz. [Cue hackneyed “If they call it free jazz, then why do I have to pay for it?” routine]

samumba:
Samumba

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