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Alan Braufman
Valley of Search Zara Hedderman , June 28th, 2018 17:14

Essential, accessible and masterful free jazz, reissued after 43 years

Rising street crime, political gloom and fiscal despair battling alongside extravagance and glamour: New York City was a culturally charged metropolis in the 1970s. The chaos of the city was captured in the films of Scorsese, while free-jazz pioneers Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders created a new way to play.

Outside Studio 54 and Warhol’s Factory, there was 501 Canal Street: a building inhabited by Berklee Music School graduates which became the cornerstone of the Lower West Side’s improvisational jazz contingent. It was here that saxophonist Alan Braufman recorded Valley of Search, an almost-forgotten album released in 1975. Forty-three years later these visceral songs have been re-issued for the first time, and their rejection of convention still resonates.

A melange of melodies, steered by Braufman’s sax, simultaneously evoke discordant despondency and a fleeting serenity. The quintet (with Cooper-Moore on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, David Lee on drums, Ralph Williams on percussion) abandon chordal structures and explore extraordinary soundscapes throughout the album. On ‘Thankfulness’, a Creolean influence provides a foundation to the rhythmic unrest. The power in David Lee’s drumming takes centrestage, his cymbals like waves crashing against a bed of rocks, and an undercurrent of piano mirrors the social anxiety of the decade.

The album’s highlight is in the polyrhythms of gorgeous closer ‘Destiny’. Recalling the saxophone solo on ‘Ark of Salvation’, Braufman’s playing is immensely emotive. Coupled with the distant trickling of elegant piano lines and a macabre upright bass, Valley Of Search leaves the listener on a sorrowful tone.

This reissue coincides with the current new wave of free jazz, championed by Colin Stetson, Kamasi Washington and BadBadNotGood among others, that’s encouraging a deep dive into the discographies of the free-jazz greats. Braufmann can be considered one of those greats: Valley of Search is accessible and essential listening.

Alan Braufman is playing in Brooklyn in a few weeks. Details here

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