A still active figure specializing in super-galactic, ever-evolving and super inventive free jazz for over five decades, five string double bassist Steve Tintweiss is perhaps still best known for his contributions to the avant-garde music of the late 60’s and early 70s as a sideman and creator of the septet The Purple Why. His legacy also includes the Spacelight Band, which he founded in 1976 and led until 2003.
The fifth archive release produced for the INKY DoT MEDIA label, the two disc Live at NYU: 1980 captures the group at one of its early peaks, creating unusual and fascinating, vibrantly raw and wildly unpredictable freewheeling anything goes energy in concert at the NYU Loeb Student Center Eisner and Lubin Auditorium for the venue’s New Music Showcase series. While the playing is powerful throughout, there’s a certain poignancy because saxophonists Charles Brackeen and Byard Lancaster (who also played flute, piccolo and bass clarinet) are no longer alive.
That sax magic lives eternally on pieces like the wildly improvisational “Knowledge is Power,” and Lancaster’s flute wizardry creates hypnotic otherworldly bird chirp vibes over Lou Grassi’ bustling drums on “Risk-O-Disk.” Another point of intrigue is “Spring Raga,” whose tradition of the Indian set scale lays a soulful foundation for some gorgeous (and sometimes operatic) vocalizing by Genie Sherman.
Sherman, a major muse of that free jazz scene, offers the most memorable and tuneful elements of the concert, most notably on the song/mantra and eventual soliloquy “Love’s Fortune” (with its ultra-infectious, ever intensifying chant “I Would Love to Love to Love You”) and the boisterous “Flash!” where she builds emotion via sung lyrics, scatting and then otherworldly soulful and yodel-like sounds – all over the fiery saxophones.
This kind of music is not for everyone – but those who appreciate the kind of energy Tintweiss made in his heyday will love the opportunity to revisit a memorable and spectacular night in his and his bandmates’ lives.