Dusted Reviews

Alan Silva/ Kidd Jordan/ William Parker - Emancipation Suite #1

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Alan Silva/ Kidd Jordan/ William Parker

Album: Emancipation Suite #1

Label: Boxholder

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

As anyone who's reading this probably already knows, Matt Shipp, David S. Ware and others from the New York out-jazz scene are in the midst of a well-publicized attempt to incorporate electronics into their music, an effort that sees them grappling with the problem of how exactly this hybridization is supposed to work: Should the electronics be live or prerecorded? If they're live, how do you make them sound as complex and intimate as, say, a Kid 606 record? If they're prerecorded, how do you give the impression that they're part of a real-time group interaction?

The reason these questions arise is that Shipp and company are using electronics to perform their usual functions: samplers and keyboards are used to make beats, to create unusual textures, and to make new, unheard sounds. So, given that Emancipation Suite #1 features William Parker playing in a trio with a synthesizer, it would be reasonable to assume that the musicians are dealing with the same sorts of questions of how to pit live, quirky rhythms against rigid beats, and of how to juxtapose the familiar timbres of conventional instruments with new, machine-generated noises.

Reasonable, but wrong. Alan Silva, usually a bassist (he's cut some amazing albums as a leader and recorded with Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor), is the synth player here, and he avoids these problems brilliantly by using the keyboard as just another instrument: he plays it like a horn, or even an orchestra. He shows no interest in creating unique textures or anything resembling a beat, and instead prefers to use only the presets of a keyboard that sounds like it was shipped out of the Casio factory in 1985. The ridiculously clichéd sounds he employs will cause extreme reactions-- if you aren't willing to look past the popular roles of synth-as-beat-maker and synth-as-new-sound-creator, you're going to hate this record.

But perhaps we shouldn't care that the sounds themselves are hackneyed. After all, no one dislikes hearing a conventionally-played piano on the grounds that the sound of the hammer hitting the string is a cliché. On Emancipation..., Silva's way of thinking about electronics in jazz is quite different from Shipp's or Ware's: Forget about the sounds themselves, he seems to say, and concentrate on the way I play this thing.

If your mind is open, that shouldn't be too hard, because Silva's personality shines throughout this record. He hyperactively punches out dense orchestra hits, avalanche-like cymbal crashes and moaning oboe bleats, often all at the same time, loading the mix with weird and joyous layers of sound. His choice of medium isn't all that important because his playing style is intact, as strange and charismatic as ever.

It doesn't hurt that the other players here are also superb. Kidd Jordan is a tenor saxophonist who grew up with bop but embraced free jazz when it arrived. Unsurprisingly, his style is reminiscent of Fred Anderson and 1965-era John Coltrane, who had similar backgrounds, though Jordan's sound is a bit more rowdy and bluesy than even those musicians. Parker's bass mostly stays low in the mix, but his wounded groans and frantic plucks play a critical role in establishing the mood.

Still, Silva's wild playing and his unique approach to technology demand the most attention. He has found a solution to the problem of how to incorporate synthetic sounds into a free jazz context, and while I'm not sure I'd like to hear his solution attempted by a lesser player, I'll be returning to Emancipation Suite #1 again and again.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Read More

View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Boxholder

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.