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5 March 2015

Chico Freeman - 'Chico' (India Navigation)

The very lengthy side one of this starts out with an extended Cecil McBee bass intro, and it's a pleasure, as is his playing throughout the 16-minute medley of 'Generation' and 'Regeneration'. This slow, open piece has Freeman playing soft and cautious, setting down a tone that's intense without being gusty. I heard this years back and was intrigued by Freeman's playing, but to be honest, it's McBee that owns this side of the record. 'And All the World Moved' finds Freeman fluting over some deep bowed McBee hustle; sometimes it's all-encompassing and echoing, and at other parts it's rumbling like it's about to rupture. Their start-stop interplay is pushed to two ends of the audible spectrum yet it doesn't feel empty in the middle. It's neither excessively solemn not overly tradition-based - it feels personal, open, and inviting yet hardly light. On the flip we find a quintet, the two being joined by some AACM alums including Steve McCall and Muhal Richard Abrams. This swings, and Abrams is a bit subdued; second percussionist Tito Sampa adds so much to this, making it a Larks Tongues in Aspic feel. About 3/4 of the way through the side's sole piece ('Merger', recorded live in concert in NYC), Freeman explodes with what's one of my favourite sax solos in the whole of my vinyl accumulation - a twisting, explosive and yet extremely harmonic flurry of notes that ends just before making it's pattern obvious. The proceedings are brought back down to a sweet, smooth denouement and then the audience claps. 

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