BOBBY BRADFORD

LOVE'S DREAM

EMANEM 4096

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BOBBY BRADFORD cornet
TREVOR WATTS alto saxophone (soprano on 3)
KENT CARTER double bass
JOHN STEVENS drums & cymbals (also cornet on 3)
 

1 - LOVE'S DREAM - 16:47
2 - COMING ON (1) - 16:46
3 - SHE (WOMAN) - 8:07
4 - ROSWITA'S DANCE - 11:32
5 - COMING ON (2) - 11:37
6 - HM LOUIS I - 12:03

Analogue concert recordings made in Paris (Le Chat qui Pêche)
by Martin Davidson - 1973 November 16-17
Total time 77:18

1, 2 & 4 originally issued in 1974 on Emanem 302
3 originally issued in 1976 on Emanem 3302
5 & 6 previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Bobby Bradford first visited London in 1971. At the suggestion of the writer Richard Williams, he contacted John Stevens, resulting in some recordings that first appeared on Freedom, and then on Nessa.

Two years later, Bradford decided to make an extended visit, and spent several months staying with us (my then wife, Madelaine, and myself). During this time, he rehearsed his music with John Stevens and Trevor Watts. Coinciding with Bradford's arrival, Kent Carter made his first visit to London in 1973 (with Steve Lacy), and he was the obvious choice to complete the quartet.

The main gig they had was a six night residency at Le Chat qui Pêche - a jazz club then in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Bradford had visited there some weeks before, and secured the gig by demonstrating to the owner that he could play! So I drove Bradford, Stevens and Watts (and Madelaine) from London to Paris, where we all stayed in semi-grotty hotels for a week - Carter then living near Paris.

The quartet had a repertoire of about seven Bradford tunes. Performances of the same piece tended to be very different from each other - hear the two versions of Coming On for instance - and things often went off in directions that the leader hadn't intended. Some routines did become fixed, such as the changing drone preceding She, originally known as Woman, (the only piece on which Watts played soprano saxophone and Stevens also played cornet), the bass and drum interludes inserted into the theme of Roswita's Dance, and the bass introduction to the Louis Armstrong tribute, HM Louis I.

I recorded the last two nights (Friday and Saturday) with a limited amount of equipment and experience. Most performances lasted about 16 minutes (an LP compiler's nightmare!). Of the pieces included here, only Love's Dream and the first version of Coming On are complete. The middle of She (Woman), the end of Roswita's Dance, and the start of the second Coming On had to be excised for musical reasons, while HM Louis I had to be edited due to technical problems.

Stevens and Watts were then working together in two very different music worlds. Their playing here with Bradford is similar to that of Watts' group Amalgam, in which Stevens played. There is, however, very little in common with their work in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Watts went on to concentrate on the Amalgam side, whereas Stevens kept a foot in both camps until his untimely death in 1994. Stevens' reputation as an innovator really lies with his small-kit drumming with the SME, rather than with his more straight-ahead drumming heard here.

Almost immediately after these Paris sessions, Bobby Bradford returned to Los Angeles where he still lives, works as an educator, and performs.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2002)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"Bradford is terrific throughout, with a trump card to pip most modern brass players in being able to assemble long melodic lines that make perfect sense and strike the ear like a cannonade. Trevor Watts, without caricaturing, pays a glowing tribute to Coleman, and by the last third of the set, John Stevens has stoked up such a seething undertow of taps, thumps, rolls and suspensions of the beat that the band develops the sort of unflagging self-propulsion that couldn't put a foot wrong if it tried. LOVE'S DREAM adds up to a radiant celebration of the dusty virtues of inventiveness and swing."

JOHN FORDHAM - TIME OUT 1974

"Ornette called him 'One of the greatest trumpet players alive' and that was almost an understatement: if Bobby Bradford were playing in New York instead of LA, he might well be considered the best. In any case the music on this album is so inviting, so exhilarating and really accessible at the same time that no matter where you drop the needle you invariably leave it on until the whole side is over. Unfortunately, Bradford may never get the full recognition he's due if he remains in southern California, and I hope this record can do something to change that. His original ballad, Woman, is one of the finest trumpet ballads I've heard on record since Miles Davis' early work."

PETER OCCHIOGROSSO - THE SOHO WEEKLY NEWS 1976

"Do not get the impression that this post-Coleman approach is simply hollow derivativeness. The music is top notch. The players are extending a style/tradition. Heads are stated in a loose unison, followed by solos and some dialoging, with the bass and drums driving and interacting in an organic type of swing feel. The motion being stated is freely varied by the supporting musicians as they march in front to interact with the soloist. The pieces then end with the head. Bradford's solos show off his range as well as an amazing ability to construct complex melodic lines punctuated with fiery bursts. His is a very unique voice. Stevens and Carter are definitely "right there" at all times, adding and supporting. A very satisfying set."

MILO FINE - CADENCE 1977

"JAZZ ALBUM OF THE WEEK: When cornetist Bobby Bradford visited England in 1973 he quickly re-established connections with a pair of Britain's best improvisers - saxophonist Trevor Watts and drummer John Stevens, whom he had met on an earlier sojourn. Together with American expatriate bassist Kent Carter, they gigged a bit, and during a club date in Paris recorded an album that has just been reissued: LOVE'S DREAM (4 stars). If, 30 years on, this lively, loose-limbed music sounds heavily indebted to Ornette Coleman, it's understandable; as a member of his early '60s quartet, Bradford absorbed Ornette's ideas about free phrasing and simultaneous rhythms - the same concepts which had originally inspired Stevens and Watts and a few like-minded souls across the ocean to explore various pathways to freedom as the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (check out CHALLENGE). Bradford's compositions drew on Coleman's characteristic buoyant lilt and harmonic tang, with the horns breaking up the theme into useful fragments, then engaging in frisky counterpoint and tag-teaming uninhibited solos as the rhythm section sustained a supple, instinctively accented pulse, drummer Stevens sometimes shadowing the soloists closely, other times racing off at a gallop. (An exception is the poised, exploratory ballad She [Woman], a lyrical cousin to Ornette's Lonely Woman.) At this point in his career, alto saxophonist Watts could approximate Coleman's whinnying cry, but had a sweeter tone, and his elastic phrasing was based on rhythmic patterns that he developed or distorted in surprising ways. Bradford's solos, on the other hand, continually reshaped lean melodic contours, intensified with spurts of colour and energy. So the music has a familiar provenance - who plays it this well today?"

ART LANGE - EPULSE 2003

"Bradford, who back in 1961 replaced Don Cherry in Ornette Coleman's quartet, is a fine, robustly melodic trumpeter, gliding the crest of Stevens' and Watts' mobility. She (Woman) is pensive and gradual; otherwise Bradford's themes serve as launching platforms for the collective surge forward. A rush of adrenaline is audible through Watts' playing. Carter's spring and responsiveness to emerging melodic contours complement beautifully the drummer's characteristic propelling bounce. This release is especially welcome, testifying volubly to Bradford's stature. It begs the question why he remains so lamentably overlooked and under-documented."

JULIAN COWLEY - THE WIRE 2004

"This is jazz as it should be. Leading a great quartet, Bobby Bradford's beautiful cornet fluctuates in the air while singing lots of flowing melodies, constantly jumping borders between 'free' and 'thematic' approaches. The plurality of thoughts and the radiant undercurrents coming out of this much deserved reissue bring us back to a time where art and 'first impulse' acts had their rewards, as opposed to today's 'corporate jazz' careerism. Watts fiercely blows his lips off throughout, his alto and soprano voices well beyond the trite 'body and soul' definition. Carter and Stevens, more than a rhythm section, resemble a couple of lamp-carrying road openers showing the way to the colleagues who will have to build from there. The high point is a memorable dialogue between Bradford and Watts in a piece called She (Woman) - quintessential counterpoint from the heart."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003

"Forget the fact that Watts and Stevens were clawing away at the very frontiers of Jazz with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble at the time. Here they fit Bradford¹s Free Jazz vision like a glove. The drummer swings a mean ride cymbal, displaying the energy of a young(er) {$Han Bennink} without resorting to theatrics. Watts plays convincing unison lines with the leader and throws in his share of inspired solos (his extended one in Love¹s Dream is a delight). Carter is perfectly himself: elegant and discreet, except in the first Coming On and at the beginning of HM Louis I where he gets a nice feature. As for the cornetist, he comes through as a frantic Satchmo-like character, his fast strings of notes propelling the music as much as the drummer' beats. HM Louis I makes an attempt at a free-form intro after the bassist¹s solo, but it feels uncomfortable. Everything else is rather straightforward free jazz. She starts with a rather feeble three-voice drone (with Watts on soprano sax and Stevens on cornet) but develops into a very original statement of the theme, Carter playing some beautiful arco counterpoint, and ends up providing the highlight of the set."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003

"If you're not familiar with the Mississippi-born, Texas-reared, L.A.-based cornetist, you might well ask yourself how a player of these abundant skills can be so obscure. Some of it is bad luck. Bradford's tenure with Coleman - a gig that should have raised his profile - came at a time (1961-63) when gigs were scarce. Later, after he had returned to Los Angeles to teach in the city's schools, Bradford was tethered to the academic calendar, and like his teaching and playing colleague John Carter, had few opportunities to build a performing career.

So this valuable little document from Martin Davidson's intrepid Emanem label should belatedly remedy that situation. Recorded in November 1973 at Le Chat qui Pêche, a Paris jazz club, this session with an Anglo-American quartet finds Bradford exploring Ornettish territory with mastery and a musical personality all his own. Though he plays cornet, Bradford gets a round, declamatory sound that is miles from the vocal inflections of Don Cherry's pocket trumpet. It's as big a sound as you can get on the smaller horn and Bradford has big ideas to match. His ballad feature She (originally issued as Woman) is a classic, warm and mysterious and a bit less lonely than Ornette's. The previously unissued HM Louis I nods toward Pops with the brassy joy of New Orleans, something you can't imagine even the famously comprehensive Cherry ever attempting.

He's joined on the front line by the British altoist Trevor Watts, whose playing should also come as a revelation. Watts has always struck me as among the most jazz-like of the first wave of Euro-improv players. His assumption of the Coleman style of playing is astonishing, especially when he takes a little fragment of melody and tries it out in multiple keys and rhythms. That Watts could so fully absorb Coleman's still-radical musical language is rather like an 80-year-old teaching himself Mandarin and then writing a credible literary novel several years later-in longhand. But this is no impersonation. Watts lacks Coleman's distinctive tone and tuning-his intonation is more constant. He's more on top of the beat, too; Ornette if he came up in New York rather than Ft. Worth, if you will."

JOHN CHACONA - ONE FINAL NOTE 2003

"Stanley Crouch's liner notes to the original album are reproduced here. Stan is (unsurprisingly) keen on placing Bradford in the lineage of Fats Navarro and Louis Armstrong, and he has a point. The cornettist's unbroken, dynamic swing and advanced bebop melodics are miles away from Don Cherry's fractured lyricism. It's a nice fit with Watts' take on Ornette (laced with a spot of Eric Dolphy's reconstructed bop figures); listen to their quickfire exchange at the top end of Coming On.

We get two versions of this piece, and listening to different takes of the same tune tells you a great deal about how a band operates. Davidson's notes suggest there was little in the way of fixed material other than the theme statements, but even these are dispatched loosely, as if the whole band had simultaneously happened across them by chance. Stevens' characteristically joyous swing keeps things close to boiling point; check his snare detonations on the title track, dodged by Bradford's agile cornet stabs.

Carter is tireless in support and often the most abstract in his solos. His dark, warm tone puts muscle on Stevens' robust but intricate rhythmic skeletons, feeding Watts and Bradford a constant stream of ideas. Neither horn is stuck for inspiration in any case, and this fine release bears testimony to an unusual and highly successful collaboration. Very, very nice."

PETER MARSH - BBC 2002

"Bobby Bradford is rare among American free-jazz musicians in forging links with British free improvisers. The rewards of that affiliation are apparent in LOVE'S DREAM. Bradford's compositions are in the style of his former employer Ornette Coleman, and the resemblance extends to the make-up of the group, with Trevor Watts on alto, Kent Carter on bass and John Stevens on drums. Stevens isn't as inventive in this context as he would be with more improvisatory groups, but Watts is as impressive in this setting as any, a quicksilver altoist whose sudden flights speak to a successful melding of influence from Eric Dolphy as well as Coleman. There's a keen sense of collective dialogue throughout as the group converses on Bradford's compositions."

STUART BROOMER - CODA 2004

"Bradford is a cornet player and educator who had a briefly fruitful relationship with Ornette Coleman, and his three partners were all equally driven by the fierce and uncompromising music of the black American avant garde. British altoist Trevor Watts sounds Albert Ayler-like in his chilling high wails in the theme statements. The late drummer John Stevens, a giant of British experimental jazz and music education, is more deliberately arrhythmic and disruptive than Coleman's drummers were, but the improvisers are so attuned to the idiom and each other that nobody loses the plot. Bradford's bright, spluttery sound and patience in developing a solo are also consistently impressive. Coming On is an Ornette-like piece in which a crowd of notes appears to be trying to get through a narrow turnstile. She (Woman) is a beautiful ambient purr of slow sounds, and the second Coming On features a superbly close-knit opening dialogue between Bradford and Watts, full of mischievous, dancing melody. Sometimes rather ascetic free jazz, but bubbling with affectionate invention."

JOHN FORDHAM - THE GUARDIAN 2003

 

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