Noah Howard Noah Howard


Live at the Village Vanguard

Tracks Side One

  1. BACK A’TOWN BLUES – Howard (Time: 2.42)
  2. CONVERSATION – Howard (Time: 8.33)

Tracks Side Two

  1. DEDICATION (TO ALBERT AYLER) – Howard (Time:14.34)

 About the album

Recording: Live at the ViIlage Vanguard, New York City, 22nd August 1972
Recording Engineer: John Sadler
Label: A Freedom recording (FLP40127)

Recorded with

Frank Lowe, (tenor saxophone and bells)
Robert Bruno (piano)
Earl Freeman (electric bass)
Jumasutan (congo drums and timbali)
Rashied Ali (drums)

Album Review

Noah Howard belongs to the first generation of post-Ornette Coleman saxophonists. That Means that although he is relatively young, he is an experienced artist by comparison many of the younger players in United States.
He comes to the music with all the right credentials. His birthplace was New Orleans, the city famed not only for its contribution to early jazz, but for the funky rhythms that sparked a whole era of rhythm-and-blues. Motown tried to pin down those unchainable rhythms but could never duplicate them; Noah Howard can draw on them at any time and that, combined with his extensive experience in the Black Church, makes him a exceptional musician. Whatever Noah does, and wherever his impulsive head may lead him, he always retains his technical skill and what the critics usually refer to as ‘taste’. That means that although he will yell lustily through his instrument, he never achieves the grainy coarseness of, say, Pharoah Sanders or Albert AyIer. His is more of a conventional purity and contrasts well with the hoarse “desperation” of Frank Lowe.

This remarkable tenor saxophonist, who joined the Howard unit for this and several Sunday concerts at the Village Vanguard, has sand-blasted most of the surface of his horn to increase its overtones. He is an energy man first and foremost. Born and raised in Memhis Tennessee, Frank Lowe had most of his playing experience in San Francisco whilst in New York he has played ith Sun Ra’s Arkestra, with Alice ColtrAne and Milford Graves.

Robert Bruno, a pianist since the age ‘of 12, comes from Silver Springs, Maryland. He has recorded with Louis Armstrong, and played for artists as diverse as the Platters, Fathead Newman and the late Jimi Hendrix. Playing conga drums and other percussion is Juma Sutan, another Hendrix alumnus from – the Band of Gypsies days. Originally from California, he has. lived in New York since the late I sixties where he is most famous as a manufacturer of the non-Western instruments which are played by the floating population of his Aborikinal Music Society. That Noah Howard takes care of business in all departments is obvious from his choice of bassist. The adept and propulsive Earl Freeman who appears here on Fender bass instead of his more usual acoustic model, was born in Oakland, California. He had played with Sun Ra in Chicago, but most of his professional experience was acquired in Europe with Sonny Murray, Kenneth Terroade, Burton Greene, Noah and Frank Wright. Rashied Ali, immortalised through his work with the late John Coltrane, is a king among percussion’s princes. He never falters for an instant wherever he plays; he is the modern drummerman for all seasons. His work here is absolutely superb, even though he was called in at the last minute to substitute for Noah’s regular drummer, Art Lewis.

Back A’ Town Blues (not related to the Louis Armstrong piece of similar name) is a reminiscence of one of the sections of New Orleans, and is his bowtothe sounds he heard there as a child. The next selection, Conversation, a solo composition for alto saxophone, has the leader’s most relaxed playing of the evening. Essentially melodic, it is lengthy but to the point, and revealing of the artist’s inner nature. Dedication, was written by Noah Howard in memory of the late great innovator Albert Ayler. Frank Lowe, propelled by Rashied Ali blows with almost frightening intensity, and is the ideal foil for Howard’s more thoughtful approach.

There are those who dislike ‘live’ recordings, preferring i’me more controlled conditions of the recording studio. But given that it is still difficult to really capture the energy and impact of the new music through any recording process, ‘live’ dates contain more of those elements than do their studio counterparts This is a strong session because Noah Howard picked his components with taste and skill. The same way he plays his saxophone, in fact.
- Valerie Wilmer