Clifford Thornton Freedom & Unity

This disc is surely the widest exposure valve trombonist Clifford Thornton has ever received. Thornton was an adventurous, socially conscious trombonist who had contributed to Sun Ra's Chicago recordings. One of the reasons Thornton remains little known is that he opted to own and release his own records, a difficult proposition in any music, especially hard at a time (1967) when the commercial prospects for jazz were rapidly declining. Thornton did have the respect of his peers - Archie Shepp and Ornette Coleman both contribute liner notes - and he also had a unique sound: this group doesn't whip up the fury that characterises much American free jazz in the '60s. These songs are long, involved compositions that can take several minutes to state an entire theme and it may take a few spins of this disc to fully appreciate and internalise the slow moving logic of this band. As a composer, he allocates drums to specific sections in these themes so that they too have specific roles in the development of the themes. This is definitely not "energy music" - the sense of control of all players is amazing. The sound quality of this disc is probably the scratchiest yet on any Unheard Music Series issue, but you can pretend you're listening to a dusty old record on ESP, which is really the closest comparison, musically. (Atavistic)