Ellen Christi -vocals
John Shea -bass
Tom Bruno -drums
Recorded March 22, 1979, NYC
Engineered by Phil Clendeninn
Produced by The New York City Artists' Collective
The other day (well ok, it was 22 months ago) we posted the New York City Artists' Collective's 'Plays Butch Morris' LP. This is following on from that record and that post..
In fact, this record *preceded* the NYCAC Plays Butch Morris LP - straddling the line between the 70's and the 80's respectively - this one from 1979 being a more compact grouping of guitar, acoustic bass, drums and voice. Ellen Christie (voc), Tom Bruno (drums) and Juan Quiñones (guitar) are the common musicians to both records, and the core of the NYCAC
501 Canal St, near the Holland Tunnel entrance on the lower East Side of Manhattan was already well established as NYCAC headquarters, and is seen on the front cover here. A rehearsal and performance space, as well as residence for some (Bruno lived there), the NYCAC was a non-profit organization for the promotion of visual and performing arts.
In its formative years (1974-80), the Collective presented a nine-month concert series produced by Tom Bruno and Ellen Christi. Artists such as David Murray, Ray Anderson, William Parker, Keshavan Maslak, Lefferts Brown, Gene Ashton, William Parker, Roy Campbell, Patricia Wilkinson, Juan Quinones and Dave Burrell were featured. These concerts, produced in the storefront of 501 Canal Street, provided an alternative performance space. With the success of these concert series, the Collective was able to expand, presenting concerts in larger community based performance venues. A few examples were galleries in Soho ( Artists’ House belonging to Ornette Coleman. The Prince Street location, under the name Artists House, became the site of various performances by Coleman and others over the next few years ), universities, churches, museums, lofts (Sunrise Studios) , and other community centers (Bronx Community Center with Machito). By 1976, a core group of N.Y.C.A.C. members were invited to perform throughout Northern Europe as a part of the “Sounds of Life” touring series. The need for documentation of these concerts was the first step in founding the New York City Artists’ Collective recording label, N.Y.C. A.C. Records. While the Collective maintained its primary commitment to public performance, it also had an active role in documenting much of the concert work. Following the “Sounds of Life” recording, “And You Ain’t Ready for This One Either (1979) and New York City Artists’ Collective Plays Butch Morris (1984) were released on the N.Y.C.A.C. recording label. These recordings created an additional medium through which to present the Collective’s music to the public. - from Eclectic Arts Inc website
The title of the record is presumably a wry response to the general reception of Christi and Bruno's previous Sounds of Life LP from a couple of years before.
Although sounding almost nothing like the Plays Butch Morris LP, this is still not overtly 'jazzy music' - of a Free, or any other, jazz type or genre.
For what must have been a budget-priced studio , I like the way Bruno’s drums are recorded. In fact the whole group is recorded pretty well for what must have been a self-financed chunk of studio time. Also, his liner notes on the back cover are worth reading.
The Children is as uptempo as any of the 4 tunes here, with a mélange of cascading guitar figures, impassioned bass double-stopping and double-time single note playing. Bruno pushes and splashes from the drums as Christie wordlessly improvises over the top before dropping back for the 3 instrumentalists to solo – without actually obviously soloing at first, until Shea’s unaccompanied bass interlude cues Christie to return whilst the guitar reprises a version of the opening figure. For all the bustle of the tune, it tapers away to an ending that’s quiet and calm.
New Blues is all Ellen Christie vocal improv, over a slow, understated blues skeleton. Bass player Shea and Quinones sketch, rather than explicitly color, a post-vocal instrumental passage before Christie closes with a verse of words that are (almost) intelligible. “New blues” and something else.. - what’s she singing?..
Mystic Lover opens with a verse of generic world-weary love lyrics before an extended vocal improvisation from Christie , an understated guitar solo, and a lyric reprise of the only words.
Christie sounds both inspired *and* controlled on the slow-drag wordless improvisation of Dewey - whilst Quinones puts up a responsive accompaniment like nailing a hessian sack to the wall, and Bruno’s drum dynamics ebb and flow over a kind of stately, steady pulse. With the kind of slow-lope bass & rhythm vamp of Pangea-era Miles, the inspiration for the title seems evident.
For me, this is the strongest track – Dewey - , maybe least strong is Mystic Lover.
Tom Bruno writes on the back cover “The NYCAC was formed primarily to give people work. It is a non profit organization designed to promote understanding between all people. Our efforts are geared towards enhancing the beauty of the human spirit”
On the front, the 4 musicians smile in front of a now-demolished Manhattan shopfront, their sense of purpose and community almost palpable.
Likely this record won't change your life (how many do?), but it’s real, and unmistakably and authentically from its time and place. Perhaps, just maybe, a better time and place.
Ellen Christie's Website - http://www.ellenchristi.com/
Tom Bruno Memorial - http://tombrunothedrummer.tumblr.com/
Eclectic Arts - NYAC Website - http://eclecticarts.org/index.htm
TEST - Tom Bruno's group with Sabir Mateen, Daniel Carter & Matthew Heyner - http://www.sabirmateen.com/ensembles/test
Tom Bruno 'White Boy Blues' on Eremite Records- http://eremite.com/album/mte-22
If you have respect for artists, please BUY music from them or through legit outlets !
It supports the prospect of continued creativity.