Noah Howard Noah Howard


Noah Howard Quartet – In Concert

Release Date: 11th September 1997
Available now on:


  1. The Blessing – 12:23
  2. Schizophrenic Blues – 09:32
  3. Afro Blue – 07:32
  4. The Fugitive (part 1) – 07:06
  5. Transition Flight (solo) – 02:24
  6. The Fugitive (part 2) / Sunrise / Lovers- 05:58
  7. We Remember John – 11:24
  8. We come from the Mountain – 11:36

About the album

Recording: Live September 11, 1997 at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Label: Cadence Jazz Records (CJR 1084)

 Recorded with

Noah Howard – sax
Bobby Few – piano
James Lewis – bass
Calyer Duncan – drums

Album Review

Noah Howard’s music gets under your skin; makes you want to dance, sweat, cry, pray. From the first keening notes of Quartet Live In Concert, it’s obvious that this is music rich with the contradictions of existence. Howard’s debut album was recorded in the first month of 1966, for the quintessential free-jazz label, ESP-Disk, its freak flag waving high with the sounds of artists like Sun Ra, Frank Wright, and Albert Ayler. Absolute freedom seemed possible then; in this absurd universe there were no divisions, no hierarchies. A jazz bar patron recently recalled for me a concert he attended where John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and Gato Barbieri were calling youths up from the audience during the performance, letting them play their own horns, whether they knew how to or not – the sense of community allowed for everything. But alienation eventually set in; “the roar of cataclysmic Soul,” as Amiri Baraka put it recently, would prove too much for many in the audience, and for some of the musicians themselves. Howard, like many of those who did not want to give up the Ghosts that Ayler had raised, left for Europe.

The road that led to this often stunning performance at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam’s premier jazz club, is marked by Noah’s travels through, and stays in, Paris, Africa, Nairobi, Germany, Belgium… as he says in introducing himself, “I’m Noah Howard – of the World.” In the thirty-some years since he first hit the scene, his chattering, flying, slashing alto saxophone has retained its love of freedom, and has deepened in emotional resonance. The way he shapes and produces his notes, so close to the human voice, places him in the tradition of such great players as Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and Marion Brown. These notes can be raised in joy and sadness simultaneously, and are sometimes set loose in a fusillade, and in phrases that push up and outward but refuse to resolve. He’s also well aware of the value of economy; listen to the way he floats into Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro-Blue,” subtly changing the tune’s emotional hue by the simple alteration of one note of the melody. East Village Other columnist Lionel H. Mitchell wrote on the back of Howard’s second ESP album, Live At Judson Hall, of “the ferocious superstition that the sacred and the sensual are antagonistic.” In Howard’s music there are no such divisions. It encompasses everything he’s lived, not in the sense of the easy cross-pollination of genres that characterizes so much of what passes for “innovative,” but in the way it suggests a universe of sensibilities.

This universe is considerably enriched by pianist Bobby Few, in whom Howard has the perfect accompanist for his music. Constantly embroidering his lines and chords with shifting emotional undercurrents, Few adds immeasurably to the leader’s vision; small wonder that Howard refers to him as “the Mozart of the jazz piano.” I’ll namecheck from a different era and say that Few also draws from one of the richest blues feels this side of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Calyer Duncan, whom Noah calls “my engine,” drives the band with a sometimes ferocious intensity on drums, with wonderful, voluble cymbal clatter. James Lewis subs here for the band’s usual bassist, Wilber Morris, and has worked with Howard and Few on a number of occasions. As Noah told me recently, Lewis “fitted into our band and the structures we’re playing like he had been playing with us all his life.” Together, the band breathes life into the music and, if our ears, minds, and pores allow passage, the music can breathe life into us. Let the ear of the behearer be open.
- Larry Nai