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9 September 2009

Gato Barbieri and Dollar Brand - 'Confluence' (Arista)

For some reason I've always been really unfair towards Arista records, a label that I associate with the bottom of the barrel (weird Lou Reed albums, Barry Manilow, Milli Vanilli). These mid-70's Black Lion/Freedom series releases are generally worth hearing and there are a few gems (this record being one of them, and Braxton kicked out a few killer releases too) but the graphic design and liner notes feel like something the music has to struggle to overcome. This series of duets was actually recorded in Milan during March, 1968 though the record was issued in 1975. With great phrases like "the pianist had rejected apartheid, but not the Christian hymnal" and "Confluence, the flowing together of two or more streams, becomes confluence, the combined stream formed by conjunction" you know you are in for a treat. (The notes were written by Robert Palmer). This record is split between Brand's compositions on side 1 and Barbieri's on side 2. Barbieri's 'To Elsa' is a beast quite unlike In Search of the Mystery, opening with a chunky Brand piano solo and then being followed by a tenor sax solo by Gato - really the opposite of 'confluence', but it's beastly in a brainy way (especially the piano part). Brand's pieces pick a point between traditional spiritual/African folksong and super disjointed avant-jazz stylings, and Barbieri meets him with equally cold Gestalt sax lines. When Brand switches to cello it seems to flow a bit better, but the interruptions and angles are what make the piano/sax duets so good. The final track, 'Eighty First Street', features a piano line lifted straight off Meredith Monk's Dolmen Music. It rolls along with Gato getting back into his pimp-dogg mode before it all comes crumbling down into a pile of melting ice cream.

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