A welcome reissue of cornettist Bradford's live adventures with Trevor Watts, John...
Peter Marsh 2004
In 1971 Los Angeles based trumpeter Bobby Bradford arrived in London, fresh from the sessions for Ornette Coleman's classic Science Fiction. Soon he was hooked up with a group of young British musicians inspired by Coleman, Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and the AACM. Among them was drummer John Stevens;he and fellow players like alto saxophonist Trevor Watts were also involved inthe nascent British free improv movement as well as playing more conventionalfree jazz.
Bradford got involved with both scenes, but he was an odd fit with the pointillist abstractions of Steven's seminal Spontaneous Music Ensemble. In full on freebop mode (as with this album), he seems much more comfortable. Love's Dream was first released in 1974 and was recorded the previous year by label owner Martin Davidson during a week's residency at Paris jazz club Le Chat Qui Peche. Stevens and Watts are present, with fellow S.M.E. member and Anglocentrically inclined American Kent Carter on bass.
Stanley Crouch's liner notes to the original album are reproduced here (together with a slightly rueful note on Crouch's subsequent interest in 'more conservative areas of jazz').Stan is (unsurprisingly) keen on placing Bradford in the lineage of Fats Navarro and Louis Armstrong, and he has a point. The cornettist'sunbroken, dynamic swing and advanced bebop melodics are miles away from Don Cherry's fractured lyricism. It's a nice fit with Watts' take on Ornette (laced with a spot of Eric Dolphy's reconstructed bop figures); listen to their quickfire exchange at the top end of 'Coming On'.
We get two versions of this piece, and listening to different takes of the same tune tells you a great deal about how a band operates. Davidson's notes suggest there was little in the way of fixed material other than the themes statements, but even these are dispatched loosely, as if the whole band had simultaneously happened across them by chance. Stevens' characteristically joyous swing keeps things close to boiling point; check his snare detonations on the title track, dodged by Bradford's agile cornet stabs.
Carter is tireless in support and often the most abstract in his solos (reflecting his S.M.E. experiences, perhaps). His dark, warm tone puts muscle on Steven's robust but intricate rhythmic skeletons, feeding Watts and Bradford a constant stream of ideas. Neither horn is stuck for inspiration in any case, and this fine release bears testimony to an unusual and highly successful collaboration. Very, very nice.