- 1. TANDEM (11:59)
- 2. PETALS (10:10)
- 3. ANGLES (05:16)
- 4. PORTRAIT OF J.B.G. (06:55)
- 5. CIRCLE (08:36)
- 6. WOODMAN'S HALL BLUES (10:55)
- 7. SHE (Woman) (06:38)
- 8. ECHOES FROM RUDOLPH'S (08:48)
- 9. SWEET SUNSET (07:46)
- 10. SWISS ACCOUNT (08:13)
- 11. TANDEM (12:37)
- 12. AND SHE SPEAKS (07:23)
- 13. LES MASSES JIGABOO (06:31)
- 14. SHE (Woman) (07:50)
- 15. ECHOES FROM RUDOLPH'S (05:43)
- 16. WOODMAN'S HALL BLUES (09:13)
Clarinet – John Carter (tracks: 1-1 to 1-3, 1-5 to 2-5, 2-7, 2-8)
Cornet – Bobby Bradford (tracks: 1-1, 1-2, 1-4 to 1-7, 2-1 to 2-4, 2-6, 2-8)
All of two exceptional Worcester (Massachusetts) and Los Angeles concerts: clarinet & cornet duos & solos in improvisations on original compositions. Even those who know Carter & Bradford's work in larger groups will be astounded. The original CDs were the first (non-video) release of this duo performing unaccompanied, and the sound has been cleaned up considerably for this double CD set. 135 minutes .
Excerpts from sleeve notes:
John Carter (1928 - 1991) and Bobby Bradford (b. 1934) both grew up in the Dallas / Fort Worth area (after Bradford moved there as a young teenager), both played in Woodman’s Hall there, and both knew Ornette Coleman and Charles Moffett there. However they did not know each other until the mid-1960s when Coleman, realising that they both lived in the Los Angeles area, suggested to Carter that he look up Bradford.
Fairly early on in his career, Carter decided that he was unlikely to make a living playing the music he wanted to, so he became a teacher/lecturer - something he continued to do for the rest of his life. Fortunately, he never gave up making music, even though his other activities took up much of his time. In the 1960s, he could be heard on flute and various saxophones as well as clarinet, but by the end of the next decade, he specialised exclusively on the clarinet to become one of the supreme exponents of that then somewhat neglected instrument.
Bradford’s early career is largely a catalogue of near misses with fame. He played in Ornette Coleman’s group in Los Angeles before any recordings were made. When he was drafted into the air force in 1954, and when Edward Blackwell decided to return to New Orleans, their places were taken by Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. Bradford was invited to take part in Coleman’s seminal 1960 FREE JAZZ recording session, but he was too busy studying at the time, so Freddie Hubbard had to take his place.
When Bradford did join Coleman’s group in New York in 1961, it coincided with a period when Coleman refused to work unless he was well paid – which meant that the group rarely played gigs and did not make a record. Also, at that time, Bradford was asked to make a record for Candid, but that label went bust before anything could happen. The end result of all this, was that Bradford, like Carter, became a teacher/lecturer. More importantly for us he became one of the most melodic improvisers in Free Jazz.
Having eventually met each other, Carter and Bradford formed a musical partnership which lasted until the former’s untimely demise. Their first appearance on record was as co-leaders of the New Art Jazz Ensemble on the 1969 SEEKING (originally on a Revelation LP, currently on Mosaic), although Bradford had previously appeared on a King Perry single on the Lucky label. Since then, they have appeared together (and separately) on record several times. However, the original issue of this two-CD set was the first published non-video recording of them as an unaccompanied duo.
The 1982 concert enclosed herein was part of a rare mini-tour of the North East USA. All ten pieces from the Worcester concert are presented unedited and in the order performed.
A couple of years earlier, Carter and Bradford had been invited to play the first half of a 1979 UCLA concert that featured the Art Ensemble of Chicago in the second half. This CD set contains the whole of their exciting performance that evening – all six pieces are presented complete and in the order of performance.
It must be admitted that these recordings were not perfect. The Los Angeles ones were originally recorded on cassette and were extremely noisy. Dave Hunt managed to reduce the unwanted noise enormously, so that they were very listenable to. The Worcester ones suffered somewhat from print-through (pre- and post-echo) and traffic noise. For this reissue, I have managed to make considerable improvements to both recordings.
The important thing is that the music is superlative and unrepeatable, with both of the participants playing exceptionally well. It definitely deserves to be disseminated and heard by anyone interested in the music of the last few decades.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (1996 – revised slightly 2013)
'If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain he has something of value to replace them.' – Basuto proverb.
The world still likes to talk about 'freedom' in music, but it is worth wondering sometimes if anyone understands 'free' the way that John Carter and Bobby Bradford practised it. Applying the above proverb to the so-called Free Jazz movement of the last half century forces the immediate question: Why is the discussion still concerned with ‘freedom from’ and not ‘freedom to’? Almost anyone’s definition of this thing called free starts by naming the perceived shackles from which the music has made itself free, and most are impotent to explain the process or product of a music that side-steps repetition, key, and song structure. One important lesson to take from the example of Carter and Bradford’s collaboration is that pure escape from musical parameters is not enough to support a personal music: there must always be a constructive element – a will to design – if anything lasting is to ensue. With that will, these two built a concrete, self-sufficient partnership that allowed for expansion and contraction of time and energy according to their own vision.
Carter and Bradford had different artistic personalities long before they knew each other, and even before they became instrumentalists. Their careers illustrate that neither musician ever strayed too far from these philosophies. Les Masses Jigaboo here reflects the tendency of Carter’s solo statements and unaccompanied pieces to scrape the ends (do they still exist?) of his instrument’s expressive and physical range. Bobby Bradford with and without Carter is a deliberate, medial improviser – concerned with the infinity of architectures that can be fashioned from a relatively brief catalogue of notes. Carter’s suspenseful rendering can impart to any line the headlong leap of improvisation, while Bobby Bradford’s poise makes many of his spontaneous figures seem cast in stone like compositions. The melding of these identities transcended any discrepancy in viewpoints. Carter/Bradford succeeded in creating a duo that neither allows one of the personalities dominate, nor leaves any 'roles' unplayed.
When Carter and Bradford began playing together, improvising musicians duetting in concert or on record were scarce by any accounting. Subtract out the piano or bass 'accompaniments' to a melody player and the number dwindles further; two wind instruments playing without a net was nearly unheard of. But the meaning of what they achieved is not captured by statistics: Carter and Bradford were not the first to record wind duos and in fact their duo record made a few months before the UCLA concert was not issued until 2010 (on Mosaic MS-036). They were, however, alone in the field of musicians who pursued the duo as a self-sufficient and steady configuration.
The results may be difficult to contextualize in our festival-driven Jazz sphere where two headliners frequently encounter each other at “Summit Meetings” - one-time duets that very occasionally generate meaningful results, but more often devolve into jousts, dogfights, or conversation with no common language. Carter and Bradford had been honing this facet of their artistry for most of a decade before they premiered it in public, and another seven years elapsed before it was formally documented. Bobby Bradford narrates the development:
'In the Sixties and Seventies John and I got together a couple of days a week, whether we had a job coming up or not. We were both teachers, and our schedules were very similar; we were free at about the same times. We spent a lot of time together in duet practice just exploring possibilities, some of which bore fruit and some of which did not. It was a case of trial and error. But we never did any duos [in public] before he started specializing on the clarinet.'
Circle from their final Revelation record (SECRETS, 1972, now on Mosaic), provided a touchstone for this duo phase of the Carter-Bradford partnership. The piece’s first segment prefigured the next two decades by debuting on record their vehicle of cornet and clarinet unaccompanied. The piece also offered an adaptation of the familiar theme-solos-theme layout. But the real breakthrough of Circle was a close, tandem interplay between the voices that Carter and Bradford invented to replace the solos.
For comparison, consider that many capable musicians could come up with a convincing duo reading of a wisely-composed ballad by using eye contact and average listening skills. Petals from the Carter/Bradford repertoire is a good example of a performance drawing on those factors. But the interlocked playing of Carter’s composition, Tandem, like Circle, reveals a much deeper understanding of the possibilities for a short polyphonic discourse. It may even be appropriate to adopt that title to describe a level beyond simply duetting. Tandem playing enables the two voices to diverge independently from the exact rhythm of the theme – each improvising related but distinct figures simultaneously in complete relaxation – and land together at a point drawn from thin air. That phenomenon, also clearly displayed in Swiss Account in this collection, is responsible for a large part of what is special about the Carter/Bradford combination.
BEN YOUNG (1996 – revised slightly 2013)