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9 August 2011

Jacques Coursil Unit - 'Way Head' (BYG)

Way Ahead (as it's referred to inside, the though cover + my memory prefer this as the more 60's Way Head) is split between two of Coursil's compositions on side 1 and a lengthy Bill Dixon-penned workout on side 2. Coursil's debt to Dixon is also evident in his style, which tends to take the meandering, Gestalt approach to his instrument. 'Duke' has lots of winds and bends, a far cry from the brassy, bright abstractions that Lester Bowie was doing also in Paris at the same time. The rhythm section is the all-white duo of Beb Guerin and Claude Delcloo, and it's rounded out by the alto sax of Arthur Jones (who also plays on Archie Shepp's Yasmina, a Black Woman but is otherwise a somewhat forgotten figure). There's some great interplay between Jones' smooth tone and Guein's bowed bass, but if 'Duke' is meant to refer to Ellington I ain't hearing it. The second track, on the naming tip, is 'Fidel', and continues the left-field sidesteps. It ends with a great bumbling bass solo, sounding like a microphone being held and walking slowly away from Guerin while he thrashes and flops. On the flip is out Dixon piece, 'Paper', which is 18 minutes of gradual opening tone clouds, hesitations, and occasional bold outbursts of resonance. I like Coursil because he's really cerebral, though this is really the only thing I know of his. There's AACM influence, sure, but maybe that's just an easy insight for any record that is slow, placid and free without being rambunctious. The imagery here is far more abstracted, apart from a subtle blues feel that comes from Jones's horn. But it's BYG not by-the-books, and I like it lots.

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