Second compilation of lost treasures from one of the most individual and eccentric...
Peter Marsh 2004
Even amongst the company he kept, Gary Windo was a one-off. Rock fans might know him from appearances with Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen's Gong or even the Psychedelic Furs; jazzers might know him from his spells with Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath or Carla Bley's band. Those of us who were around in the early 70s may have unwittingly been exposed to his tenor as it bolstered up glam classics by Gary Glitter or Suzi Quatro. And all this from a student of cerebral saxophone master Warne Marsh. In between, Windo found time to lead his own bands or put together looser, more casual outfits with some of the talents he met on his travels.
This is Cuneiform's second issue of unreleased or rare material to emerge since Windo's untimely death in 1992, compiled by the ever-reliable Mike King. Both strands of Windo's activities are well represented. With the bands that bore his name (which often included his wife Pam), Windo specialised in a quirky fusion that could encompass sweet folky ballads, cheesy rock'n'roll and absurdist art punk songs (often about dogs), often all in the same track. The five selections from the quartet lineup here (featuring Steve Swallow) are more restrained than you might expect, but are sweet enough. The gloriously dirty "Radio Improved" (credited to Pam Windo and the Shades) is proof of Windo's ability to hold his own in a straightahead rock context as he whips out a slice of fearsome tenor overblowing that would have any competing guitarist cowering in the corner.
If it's jazzier pleasures you're after, there's the messy, urgent freebop of Symbiosis (I wish someone would unearth some more from this lot) or the more spacey excursions of WMWM, both featuring Wyatt. The latter outfit also features Matching Mole's Dave Mcrae on piano, and the second half of "Spiderman" gets into the kind of abstract vocalese that Mole and Wyatt pioneered. Very nice, and a must for Wyatt completists.There's also the delights of a murkily recorded chunk of fiery improv from a band featuring the likes of Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana and Louis Moholo.
Throughout, Windo's tenor comes over as a strange genetic fusion of Junior Walker and Pharoah Sanders. Maybe there's even a spot of Ayler and Coleman Hawkins in there somewhere too. He can do fruity R'n'B honk, wring the guts out of a ballad (check the classic prebop/R'n'B stylings on the lovely "Baxter") or dispense furious screeches that'll scorch your eyebrows at 100 yards. The first thing you hear on this album is Windo telling how he had to beat up the rest of the horn players in big band to get a solo, The last thing you hear is the sound of his tenor saxophone casually blowing its heart out after the rest of the band fades out. Seems like he got his solo after all. Highly recommended.