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Roll Back by Peter Aaron

Arthur Rhames & Charles TelerantTwo in NYC (Ayler Records)
Steve GeraciAliqae Song (Sunjump Records)
Second SightFlying with the Comet (Sunjump Records)

Multi-instrumentalist Arthur Rhames is the Buddy Bolden of free jazz, a pivotal figure who never released a record during his too-short life, yet influenced a generation of players. Of course, Bolden died when both jazz and recording technology were still in their infancies, which helps explain why no sounds by him have surfaced. Rhames, on the other hand, was in the thick of the 1970s and ’80s New York scene, so one can assume that it was only his legendary eccentricities that stood between him and any prospective labels. But Rhames, primarily a saxophonist and guitarist who sang and was deadly on piano, is nevertheless still spoken of in hushed, reverent tones by those who saw and played with him (comparisons to both Hendrix and Coltrane are not uncommon). Thus, the appearance of any recorded evidence—such as the download-only Two in NYC’s club, loft rehearsal, and outdoor busking tracks (the latter with drummer Charles Telerant)—is downright historic. Rhames’s searching horn on Trane’s “Mr. PC” and “Impressions” and searing guitar on the two-part “Pressing On” are indeed revelatory, but it’s the lengthy Cecil Taylor-meets-Leon Thomas piano/voice piece “Remember Me” that’s most arresting.

Rhames plays alto on the previously shelved 1980 sessions for guitarist Steve Geraci’s Aliqae Song, a date that also features frequent Rhames side men drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel and pianist John Esposito (Esposito was profiled in Roll’s December 2008-January 2009 issue and released the disc on his Sunjump label), as well as fellow Hudson Valley resident and bassist Charlie Knicely, and, on one track, the great drummer Rashied Ali. That its title tune’s melody is plucked from Donovan’s “There is a Mountain,” betrays the fact that Aliqae Song is very much of its time; a record that veers dangerously into pop-jazz crossover territory, courtesy of smooth production and singer Kit Potter’s airy vocalizing—though Rhames’s occasional fiery solos certainly make it worth checking out.

The Second Sight disc, though, is quite another matter. Yes, Flying with the Comet was originally released in 1986 and the members might be dressed like bankers in the photos, but a conservative, Wynton-esque Young Lions set this is not. Comprised of composer Esposito, Siegel, bassist Allen Murphy (another area player), percussionist Frederick Berryhill, saxophonist Jeff Marx, and, making his first appearance on record here, New York trumpet god Dave Douglas, Second Sight boldly bridged mainstream bop with out styles, an approach that unsurprisingly made it difficult for the band to fit in with either camp during its existence. Douglas’s concise, brash lines on the explosive title cut clearly show that the then 23-year-old is a genius in the making, while Marx’s relentless Trane-chasing over the driving Latin rhythms of “Birthright” make one wonder why he’s not a bigger name. This reissue adds four excellent tracks to the first edition, and Esposito’s notes mention a 1987 album still in the can. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to hear it soon.



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