Billy Bang – violin, poetry, bells, shaker, percussion | Bilal Abdur Rahman – tenor and soprano saxes, bull horn, percussion | Henry Warner* – alto sax, bells, shaker, percussion | William Parker – bass | Khuwana Fuller* – congas | Rashid Bakr – drums
This release contains never earlier released Survival Ensemble session from 29th May, 1977 recorded at A Day of Solidarity with Soweto in New York City. Also a 40 pages booklet with essay written by Ed Hazell about the Survival Ensemble, original flyers, photos, etc.
Tracklist CD 1 – “Black Man’s Blues”: 1. Spoken introduction (1:07) 2. Albert Ayler/Know Your Enemy (19:27) 3. Ganges/Enchantment/Tapestry (William Parker) (30:47) 4. Black Man Blues (Bilal Abdur Rahman)(18:27)
Tracklist CD 2* – “New York Collage”: 1. Nobody Hear the Music the Same Way (Dedicated to John Coltrane) (Billy Bang) 12’17” 2. For Josie Part II (Billy Bang) 10’28” 3. Illustration (Poetry written by Billy Bang, music – Bilal A. Rahman) 8’22” 4. Subhanallah (Bilal A. Rahman) 14’35”
CD 1 was recorded 29th May 1977 at A Day in Solidarity with Soweto: A Fund Raiser, Harlem Fight-Back, 1 East 125th St., New York. This session has never been issued before. CD 2 was recorded live at Columbia University Radio WKCR 89.9 FM 16th May, 1978 Recording Engineer – Taylor Storer. Assistant Engineer – Jim Defillippis. Edited by Peter Kuhn / All songs published by GHAZAL MUSIC. Originally released on ANIMA/RECORDS in 1978. Remastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov
The late, great violinist’s first two albums
— the first so obscure I missed it when I assembled a discography for my 2005 Voice piece on Bang. A quartet for the first record, with Bilal Abdur Rahman on tenor and soprano sax, William Parker on bass, and Rashid Bakr on drums. Rahman, an old friend of Bang’s, picked up Islam in prison and recorded reluctantly but more often than not his cutting and slashing is terrific here. Both albums are hit and miss, with bits of spoken word spouting political critique — “when the poor steal, it’s called looting; when the rich steal, it’s called profit” is one turn of phrase. Second album adds Henry Warner on alto sax and Khuwana Fuller on congas — Warner’s another player who shows up on rare occasions but always makes a big impression. Way back when I would probably have hedged my grade, seeing each album as promising but half-baked, but now they’re indisputable pieces of history — and not just because Bang and Parker went on to have brilliant careers. Also note that the label in Lithuania that rescued them cared enough to provide a 36-page booklet on the era and this remarkable music. — Tom Hull
Billy Bang | Moers, Germany 1980 | Photo by Gérard Rouy
Violinist Billy Bang
made his recording debut as a leader with the Survival Ensemble, the first working band he ever led, on New York Collage in 1979. Bang, saxophonists Bilal Abdur Rahman and Henry Warner, bassist William Parker, and percussionists Rashid Bakr and Khuwana John Fuller played incendiary free jazz more clearly indebted to the New York avant-garde of the preceding decade than any album Bang would record again. The music’s urgency and passion arose from the exhilaration of artistic self-discovery shared by everyone in the group, and the intensity of their need to express their feelings. The albums really are a loft era classic. Proudly flaunting its New York roots, it insists that music based on the innovations of Coltrane, Ayler, Taylor, could grow in new directions, absorb new influences, and engage contemporary political realities. — Ed Hazel
Billy Bang | Moers, Germany 1980 | Photo Gérard Rouy
Violinist Billy Bang
had been through a lot by the time he was ready to record his first LP as a leader, included as part of this extraordinary two-disc collection of his early work. Bang had survived a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam, an influx of competing musicians from the Midwest, and the economic hardships that creative musicians in New York City always face. The music itself however, is raw and fascinating. The lengthy liner essay by Ed Hazel documents the scene in great detail, citing the influence of Black Nationalism and particularly the writings of Malcolm X as a driving force behind the group’s mission. The Survival Ensemble consisted of: Billy Bang on violin, Bilal Abdur Rahman on tenor and soprano saxophones, Henry Warner on alto saxophone, William Parker on bass, Khuwana Fuller on congas and Rashid Bakr on drums. In addition, musicians would recite poetry and play percussion instruments as well.
The first disc, entitled Black Man’s Blues was recorded in 1977 at an anti-apartheid fund raiser, consists of two lengthy medleys, “Albert Ayler/Know Your Enemy” and “Ganges/Enchantment/Tapestry” along with Rahman’s strong “Black Man’s Blues.” Incorporating spoken word extolling the life and music of Albert Ayler, the first medley builds to a wonderfully deep and raw exploration of improvised music. The half-hour long middle medley written by William Parker, allows the bands dynamism to come to the forefront, developing open sections of bass and percussion with full band improvisation. “Black Man’s Blues” includes some incendiary poetry before the equally powerful music that follows.
Disc two was Bang’s first proper album, New York Collage, originally released on the small Anima label in 1978. Recorded at the studios of WKCR, the music is even tighter and more polished than the previous disc. Dedicate to John Coltrane, Bang’s “Nobody Hear Music the Same Way” is a wonderful exploration of the late period Coltrane aesthetic, as is the deeply moving “For Josie, Part II.” Mixing poetry and music is “Illustration” which develops a patchwork of words and music into a coherent whole. Rahman’s “Subhanallah” wraps up the album with a strong and potent improvisation. This was a very well done release with the re-mastered music sounding crisp and clear and the extensive liner notes and photography putting everything in context. This is a model historical jazz release and serves as a potent reminder not just of the potency of Billy Bang’s music but a missing link to the music of the Loft Jazz Era.– Tim Niland
Double CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)
LP version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)