bobthiele

John Carter/Bobby Bradford ‘Flight for Four’

Quite a record, but not for the timid, and if you’re looking for melodic, mellow grooves to begin/end your day, you might wanna look elsewhere. Be prepared to spend some time wandering the multitude of harmonic pathways herein—this is music for the mind. John Carter (saxes/flute/clarinet) and Bobby Bradford (trumpet/cornet)—both originally from Texas but transplanted to Los Angeles—discovered they were of similar musical mindsets after becoming acquainted through mutual friend and fellow Texas expat Ornette Coleman. Recruiting bassist Tom Williamson and drummer Bruz Freeman, they recorded this gem in 1969 for the Flying Dutchman under the supervision of producer Bob Thiele. ‘Flight for Four’ has become a bit of an underground legend—a marriage of post-bop and free jazz that packs A LOT into its grooves. The album is deeply conversational…dialog ebbs and flows freely, shifting rapidly from quartet to double duo to soliloquy and then back again. However unlike many freer jazz records, this one never explodes into an onslaught of high velocity honking, or descends into droning atonality. Instead, it has the feel of a complex murder mystery series, where there’s no one central character, no urgency to find the killer, and it’s never quite clear who is on which side of the law. Ultimately it doesn’t matter—the storytelling is so compelling you just hope it gets renewed for another season. There’s also a perpetual blues undercurrent that keeps things firmly in the realm of post bop jazz, even in its furthest-out moments. Ultimately, while this doesn’t always swing in any sort of obvious way—sometimes the pulse is thready—the compositions retain enough structure and players enough interpersonal groove that it rarely sounds chaotic. I still don’t fully understand this album, but I’m having a blast trying! Flying Dutchman FDS-108, stereo, 1969