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5 September 2011

Creative Construction Company - 'Vol. II' (Muse)

This is an all-star AACM record, featuring six musical geniuses but none household names except for Braxton. I think this was recorded in 1971, though the liner notes are confusing and this release is from '76. It's the second half of a concert, the first half of which I have never heard and I believe these two records make the totality of Creative Construction Company recorded output. As you can imagine from any record that is one composition split over two sides, this is a long, freewheeling group improvisation. It's a uniquely satisfying trip, though, exploring in 35 minutes pretty much everything you'd want from an AACM record. Leroy Jenkins and Muhal Richard Abrams steal the show, if you ask me; Jenkins is always a favourite presence for me and here he flirts around with toys and harmonicas, sometimes sounding like an accordion to jab against Braxton's meanderings. Leo Smith is underrated, as is percussionist Steve McCall -- hell, all these dudes are underrated. The live recording puts a hell of an echo on the drumset - the end of side one sounds like it's recorded in a cave, and it sets a pace for the dark modal piano that opens the flip. When they get quiet, as they often do, there's a bit of AACM magic. Richard Davis gets the bow out a lot, and these are my favourite bits. One part on side two I think has Braxton on contrabassoon while Davis scrapes away. It's like a worm rolling around, stuck on a hot sidewalk after the rain; it sneaks into something furtive and suspenseful, particularly with Smith wanders in. Ornette Coleman is credited as 'Recording Supervisor', no doubt to sell some copies - I suspect he was there at the Washington Square Methodist Church, checking out the gig, and that's about his entire involvement here. This is group improvisation as it's meant to be! And also, one of those rare instances when a supergroup actually is. Seek it out.

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