JOHN CARTER & BOBBY BRADFORD

TANDEM (remastered)

EMANEM 5204

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BOBBY BRADFORD cornet
JOHN CARTER clarinet

A1 - TANDEM - 11:55
A2 - PETALS - 10:05
A3 - ANGLES - clarinet solo - 5:12
A4 - PORTRAIT OF J.B.G. * - cornet solo - 6:51
A5 - CIRCLE - 8:32
A6 - WOODMAN'S HALL BLUES - 10:52
A7 - SHE (Woman) * - cornet solo with clarinet accompaniment - 6:34
A8 - ECHOES FROM RUDOLPH'S - clarinet solo - 8:47
B1 - SWEET SUNSET - 7:42
B2 - SWISS ACCOUNT - 8:05

B3 - TANDEM - 12:33
B4 - AND SHE SPEAKS - 7:19
B5 - LES MASSES JIGABOO - clarinet solo - 6:27
B6 - SHE (Woman) * - cornet solo - 7:47
B7 - ECHOES FROM RUDOLPH'S - clarinet solo - 5:39
B8 - WOODMAN'S HALL BLUES - 9:12

All compositions by JOHN CARTER except * by BOBBY BRADFORD

Analogue concert recordings
B3 - B8: Los Angeles (UCLA Schoenberg Hall) 1979 OCTOBER 20
A1 - B2: Worcester (Piedmont Center for Arts) 1982 APRIL 30
Total time 134:49

Reissue of Emanem 4011 & 4012 with improved sound.

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

John Carter (1928 - 1991) and Bobby Bradford (b. 1934) both grew up in the Dallas / Fort Worth area (after Bradford moved there as a young teenager), both played in Woodman’s Hall there, and both knew Ornette Coleman and Charles Moffett there. However they did not know each other until the mid-1960s when Coleman, realising that they both lived in the Los Angeles area, suggested to Carter that he look up Bradford.

Fairly early on in his career, Carter decided that he was unlikely to make a living playing the music he wanted to, so he became a teacher/lecturer - something he continued to do for the rest of his life. Fortunately, he never gave up making music, even though his other activities took up much of his time. In the 1960s, he could be heard on flute and various saxophones as well as clarinet, but by the end of the next decade, he specialised exclusively on the clarinet to become one of the supreme exponents of that then somewhat neglected instrument.

Bradford’s early career is largely a catalogue of near misses with fame. He played in Ornette Coleman’s group in Los Angeles before any recordings were made. When he was drafted into the air force in 1954, and when Edward Blackwell decided to return to New Orleans, their places were taken by Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. Bradford was invited to take part in Coleman’s seminal 1960 FREE JAZZ recording session, but he was too busy studying at the time, so Freddie Hubbard had to take his place.

When Bradford did join Coleman’s group in New York in 1961, it coincided with a period when Coleman refused to work unless he was well paid – which meant that the group rarely played gigs and did not make a record. Also, at that time, Bradford was asked to make a record for Candid, but that label went bust before anything could happen. The end result of all this, was that Bradford, like Carter, became a teacher/lecturer. More importantly for us he became one of the most melodic improvisers in Free Jazz.

Having eventually met each other, Carter and Bradford formed a musical partnership which lasted until the former’s untimely demise. Their first appearance on record was as co-leaders of the New Art Jazz Ensemble on the 1969 SEEKING (originally on a Revelation LP, currently on Mosaic MS-036), although Bradford had previously appeared on a King Perry single on the Lucky label. Since then, they have appeared together (and separately) on record several times. However, the original issue of this two-CD set was the first published non-video recording of them as an unaccompanied duo.

The 1982 concert enclosed herein was part of a rare mini-tour of the North East USA. All ten pieces from the Worcester concert are presented unedited and in the order performed.

A couple of years earlier, Carter and Bradford had been invited to play the first half of a 1979 UCLA concert that featured the Art Ensemble of Chicago in the second half. This CD set contains the whole of their exciting performance that evening – all six pieces are presented complete and in the order of performance.

It must be admitted that these recordings were not perfect. The Los Angeles ones were originally recorded on cassette and were extremely noisy. Dave Hunt managed to reduce the unwanted noise enormously, so that they were very listenable to. The Worcester ones suffered somewhat from print-through (pre- and post-echo) and traffic noise. For this reissue, I have managed to make considerable improvements to both recordings.

The important thing is that the music is superlative and unrepeatable, with both of the participants playing exceptionally well. It definitely deserves to be disseminated and heard by anyone interested in the music of the last few decades.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (1996 – revised slightly 2013)

'If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain he has something of value to replace them.' – Basuto proverb.

The world still likes to talk about 'freedom' in music, but it is worth wondering sometimes if anyone understands 'free' the way that John Carter and Bobby Bradford practised it. Applying the above proverb to the so-called Free Jazz movement of the last half century forces the immediate question: Why is the discussion still concerned with ‘freedom from’ and not ‘freedom to’? Almost anyone’s definition of this thing called free starts by naming the perceived shackles from which the music has made itself free, and most are impotent to explain the process or product of a music that side-steps repetition, key, and song structure. One important lesson to take from the example of Carter and Bradford’s collaboration is that pure escape from musical parameters is not enough to support a personal music: there must always be a constructive element – a will to design – if anything lasting is to ensue. With that will, these two built a concrete, self-sufficient partnership that allowed for expansion and contraction of time and energy according to their own vision.

Carter and Bradford had different artistic personalities long before they knew each other, and even before they became instrumentalists. Their careers illustrate that neither musician ever strayed too far from these philosophies. Les Masses Jigaboo here reflects the tendency of Carter’s solo statements and unaccompanied pieces to scrape the ends (do they still exist?) of his instrument’s expressive and physical range. Bobby Bradford with and without Carter is a deliberate, medial improviser – concerned with the infinity of architectures that can be fashioned from a relatively brief catalogue of notes. Carter’s suspenseful rendering can impart to any line the headlong leap of improvisation, while Bobby Bradford’s poise makes many of his spontaneous figures seem cast in stone like compositions. The melding of these identities transcended any discrepancy in viewpoints. Carter/Bradford succeeded in creating a duo that neither allows one of the personalities dominate, nor leaves any 'roles' unplayed.

When Carter and Bradford began playing together, improvising musicians duetting in concert or on record were scarce by any accounting. Subtract out the piano or bass 'accompaniments' to a melody player and the number dwindles further; two wind instruments playing without a net was nearly unheard of. But the meaning of what they achieved is not captured by statistics: Carter and Bradford were not the first to record wind duos and in fact their duo record made a few months before the UCLA concert was not issued until 2010 (on Mosaic MS-036). They were, however, alone in the field of musicians who pursued the duo as a self-sufficient and steady configuration.

The results may be difficult to contextualize in our festival-driven Jazz sphere where two headliners frequently encounter each other at “Summit Meetings” - one-time duets that very occasionally generate meaningful results, but more often devolve into jousts, dogfights, or conversation with no common language. Carter and Bradford had been honing this facet of their artistry for most of a decade before they premiered it in public, and another seven years elapsed before it was formally documented. Bobby Bradford narrates the development:
'In the Sixties and Seventies John and I got together a couple of days a week, whether we had a job coming up or not. We were both teachers, and our schedules were very similar; we were free at about the same times. We spent a lot of time together in duet practice just exploring possibilities, some of which bore fruit and some of which did not. It was a case of trial and error. But we never did any duos [in public] before he started specializing on the clarinet.'

Circle from their final Revelation record (SECRETS, 1972, now on Mosaic MS-036), provided a touchstone for this duo phase of the Carter-Bradford partnership. The piece’s first segment prefigured the next two decades by debuting on record their vehicle of cornet and clarinet unaccompanied. The piece also offered an adaptation of the familiar theme-solos-theme layout. But the real breakthrough of Circle was a close, tandem interplay between the voices that Carter and Bradford invented to replace the solos.

For comparison, consider that many capable musicians could come up with a convincing duo reading of a wisely-composed ballad by using eye contact and average listening skills. Petals from the Carter/Bradford repertoire is a good example of a performance drawing on those factors. But the interlocked playing of Carter’s composition, Tandem, like Circle, reveals a much deeper understanding of the possibilities for a short polyphonic discourse. It may even be appropriate to adopt that title to describe a level beyond simply duetting. Tandem playing enables the two voices to diverge independently from the exact rhythm of the theme – each improvising related but distinct figures simultaneously in complete relaxation – and land together at a point drawn from thin air. That phenomenon, also clearly displayed in Swiss Account in this collection, is responsible for a large part of what is special about the Carter/Bradford combination.

BEN YOUNG (1996 – revised slightly 2013)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"Dramatically improved audio quality from their original issue."

SQUIDCO 2014

"The music on this double CD was all previously available on two single Emanem CDs released in 1996. They have now been withdrawn and replaced by this release. In the process the music has been programmed in a more sensible order and, as the album title highlights, the sound of the recordings has been improved. Cook and Morton's The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings said that 'the sound on these live recordings is pretty deplorable', which has always seemed rather a harsh judgement given that many listeners have enjoyed it for well over fifteen years without batting an eyelid. Would Cook and Morton have commented on the sound if Martin Davidson had not mentioned it in his own sleeve notes? But, comparing this remastered version to the original releases, it does sound a bit better. Having said that, there is no need to dwell on the sound; by far the most important thing about these recordings has always been the quality of their music.

The combination of clarinet and cornet, with no further accompaniment, gives the duos a stark simplicity and beauty, putting the interactions between Carter and Bradford firmly in the spotlight, with no hiding place for either. The pair had played together since forming the New Art Jazz Ensemble in the mid-sixties, first recording together in 1969. So, by the time of these concerts, they had long experience together... and it shows. Their interactions display the effect of those years together, and the resulting knowledge and understanding of each other's instincts; the two give a convincing impression of telepathy at work.

Everything about their playing makes them compatible and complementary — the contrasting sounds of their instruments so that each can be clearly distinguished, their ability to weave around each other to create a totality which is dependent on each of them but is greater than the sum of its parts. The seven solo tracks serve a dual role, revealing the constituent parts of the duos in isolation from one another, and also acting as cleansing interludes between the richness of the duo pieces.

Carter and Bradford continued working together until the clarinetist's early death in 1991, including recording Carter's epic five-part masterwork Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music (Black Saint & Gramavision, 1982-9). Wonderful — and ripe for rediscovery — as that is, it is arguable that the two were never better together than on the duo performances here. Simply essential."

JOHN EYLES - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2014

"Emanem just reissued as a 2-CD set both volumes of Tandem published separately in 1996. I took this opportunity to revisit this beautiful record – I hadn’t listened to it in years. What a treat! Two concerts, 1982 and 1979, by a duo who blended melodicism and avant-garde in wonderful ways. What a treat to listen again to the gorgeous cornet solo Portrait of J.B.G. For this reissue, the tapes have been cleaned up to further reduce noise, and it shows."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - MONSIEUR DÉLIRE 2014

"TANDEM is a reissue of music remastered and with further noise reduction; the audio is quite acceptable. Perhaps it is the cleared up audio but this time around I’m far more impressed by this music. While there is some noodling around in the beginning of the ’82 material, as the two seem to explore tonalities and sound as an end in of itself., it is soon forgotten in the wonderful music that follows. Even if you have the original issues this cleaned up 2 CD set will bring greater wonders."

ROBERT RUSCH - CADENCE 2014

"Here the pair take themes from their quartet repertoire and reduce the music down to its essence - freely phrased melodic lines that intertwine, support and inspire. They incorporate extended techniques as casually as breathing, all the while retaining a commitment to song, whether traditional swing (Woodman's Hall Blues), pastoral delicacy (Petals), or angular counterpoint (Tandem). Bradford's trumpet is a liquid, lyrical joy, darting and weaving with aplomb, while Carter, a reed master and model for younger players like Don Byron and Ben Goldberg, solos with slippery, serpentine abandon, his tone as lush as velvet, dangerous as barbed wire, or evebescent as a cloud. Together, their richly textured filigree and flights of fantasy are breathtaking. There's better sound on TANDEM 1, but both discs are musically exhilarating."

ART LANGE - PULSE! 1997

"The two find an ideal balance between composed and improvised elements. Few musicians in improvised music have played together as much as the two and the interplay and dialogue are at a sublime level. Accompaniment is a rare talent among jazz wind players and it's responsible for much of the success of this music, and easy give-and-take that has the two exchanging lines and roles and even timbres. Lovely, too, is the way Carter uses register contrasts and near-electronic sounds to extend the dialogue."

STUART BROOMER - CODA 1997

"Slap one of these CDs in the machine and what leaps out immediately at the listener is the originality of Carter's playing: he was a clear-headed improviser with awesome control of his instrument. Never unduly burdened with history, his compacted solo contributions (particularly the wonderful Les Masses Jigaboo) are dense and brilliant pieces of music, pushing at the boundaries of the instrument and jammed full of melodic zest. The bluff and pithy Bradford is less ambitious solo, but comes into his own in the duo pieces. In tandem, which is what this is all about after all, the pair work semi-independently, pursuing paths that diverge and continually cross and re-cross in unexpected ways. The two-voice format is a challenging one over the duration of even one CD, but the music amply rewards the concentration - thoughtful free music, buzzing with invention."

WILL MONTGOMERY - RUBBERNECK 1997

"Clarinetist Carter and cornetist Bradford collaborated from their first meeting in 1964 until Carter's untimely passing in 1991. Their partnership was the most significant one for each man in his adult professional life, and these simpatico exchanges are a testament to that fact. Carter and Bradford were two mature, individual voices on their respective instruments who were in their prime (as Bradford still is). They essayed original material exclusively because they saw no need to interpret other people's music. Carter's clarinet could fluidly snake up and down the registers in the blink of an eye, while Bradford favoured linear statements. They anticipated each other as brilliantly as they followed their own muses: While the lead voice played staccato, the support went legato. Carter and Bradford played all the ramifications of the Texas blues on these two discs with warmth, lyricism, drive, melancholy, mirth, and shouting rambunctiousness."

KIRK SILSBEE - JAZZIZ 1997

"The name Tandem is a succinct summation of how they played with each other. They could have easily named the piece 'Call and Response', the ancient method of improvising a song though multiple cycles. The 1979 version of Tandem opens with the rapid melody, goes into improvisations until the head reappears at the end of the first minute. Then they 'chase' each other, frequently exchanging leadership, one voice or the other drifting in and out of the melody, almost always ending sections in high-note harmony. The composition ends with a rapid high-note re-statement of the melody.

The 1982 version opens with a slow, seven note progression on clarinet which Bradford reprises with variation. The harmonization is purposeful until 2:18, when they take a moment for a 'down-beat' and launch into the fast melody. This version has greater variation in tempi, and ends expressing the melody quite softly. Both versions are playful, like cats chasing each other.

Carter and Bradford's duet work is characterized by telepathic interplay, ability to hit and hold the same high tones simultaneously mid-improvisation, and their phenomenal ability to alter tempi at will without sacrificing the forward motion and logic of the composition. One never feels that they are displaying technique, but rather that they are achieving a musical end through the use of harmonic and melodic devices.

Les Masses Jigaboo is a Carter solo, an opportunity to examine Carter's virtuosic technique. The composition is based on a four note riff, which he uses to explore the range of the horn and the splitting out of upper-register harmonics. He runs the riff and improvisations prestissimo, altering the progressions between the bottom end of the horn and the treble but with a gradually increasing arc extending the high field of the horn. By 4:30, he is broadcasting exclusively in the treble zone, reaching high above the clarinet's nominal range. The harmonic overlays begin to break into a series of discreet and simultaneously well-differentiated tones. The tension among these notes causes suspense, an unbelievingness in the aural sensation. At the moment of highest intensity Carter pauses and dramatically drops into the chalumeau timbre. The abrupt transition releases the tension and gets the kind of surprise applause that is virtually impossible to achieve in a solo concert."

LAURENCE SVIRCHEV - www.svirchev.com 2001

 

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