Streams of Consciousness
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Few figures in jazz have more effectively made
a case for the melodic aspect of percussion than Max Roach. As one of the
progenitors of bebop drumming, he favored a style of playing that often traced
the contours of a song. Just as remarkably, Roach dove more or less
headfirst into free improvisation during the '70s, erecting compositional
structures where there was previously shapelessness. Streams of
Consciousness (Piadrum), a 1977 tête-à-tête with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim,
fits comfortably in both the melodic and freeform categories of Roach's
Strains of gospel, blues and swing weave
throughout the canvas of these duo improvisations, along with percussive
interludes imported from the African continent (where Ibrahim, then known as
Dollar Brand, spent his youth). In fact, black music serves both as an
animating principle and a framework for Streams, giving shape to an otherwise
open-ended dialogue. The ease with which Roach and Ibrahim speak this
language is evident; their clear rapport signals both a shared grasp of jazz's
origins and a shared commitment to the cause of freedom. Tellingly, the
album begins and ends on the same ascending gospel tremolo, implying eternity
and a journey come full circle.
- JazzTimes - Nate Chinen 11/03
Originally released in 1977 on the Bay State
label, Streams Of Consciousness is a classic, open-ended summit meeting between
South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and African-American drummer Max Roach
that blazes with drama, suspense, sympathy and surprise. Both musicians
were at the top of their games - fearless, ferocious, high-spirited and hopeful
- and eminently able to execute whatever came to mind.
Roach, a consummate designer of sound who
thinks like a composer, excels in sparse duet situations like this.
Knowing when to yield and when to charge, when to complement and when to take
the foreground. Roach adds not just melody, but color, shape, texture and
form to everything he plays here. Ibrahim was still willing in 1977 to use
the piano as a resounding, dissonant canvas, rumbling and clustering, as well as
waxing glassy with folksy melodies and aching tremolos.
All four tracks here were spontaneously
composed. The centerpiece is the title opener, a 20-minute excursion that
begins, as so much Ibrahim does, in church, with a tremolo hymn. Roach
follows using a simple kit that sounds decidedly African - not because of
non-Western drums - but because his bass drum and a dry-sounding tom dominate a
series of quick, discreet figures that subtly change in each cadence. The
pair then finds a medium swing feel, as Ibrahim leaps into dissonance and Roach
finds a funky skip in his bass drum. Five minutes in, these guys are just
flying through territory that is dark, deep and delicious. AT one point, a
happy, dancing blues arises; at another, Roach's half-shut hi-hat whispers and
shakes. There are Ibrahim vamps, suspense-movie interludes and a cymbal
symphonette and , finally, a heart-rending , beautiful waltz.
Of the other three shorter tracks,
"Consanguinity" stands out, living up to the then-political overtones
of this Africa/African-American conference. Roach sets up a 12/8 feel on a
deep, loose-headed tom, and Ibrahim punctuates, as if he were a drum. Roach's
subtle integration of marching-band fundamentals and additive, African Layering
is brilliant. "Inception" is quiet and exploratory, with lots of
rests, leaving only the footprints of a township tune, á là Thelonious Monk's
Surprisingly, the duo lets the tempo get away
from them on "Acclamation," a deliberate, 4/4 march with an old-timey
feel and a rumbling vamp. It's the least appealing track. A further
deficit is the quality of the recorded drum sound, which has that dry,
sock-in-the-tub tone that probably sounded really hip in 1977. But never
mind. This conversation is a marvelous rediscovery.
- Downbeat - Paul de Barros 8/03
Ibrahim is exponentially better in the company
of strong partners. Here he's got the strongest imaginable, Roach in
incredible form circa '77, driving gracefully and holding the pianist's more
noodly tendencies at bay. Stunningly recorded, it's a definite keeper.
- Downbeat - John Corbett 8/03
There's a section midway through the title cut
where Roach perfectly punctuates the pianist's short burst of boogie - really
impressive. But Ibrahim lacks the derring-do that marks Max's work.
Balance is key to his art; he's rather build slowly toward bravado than wobble
for even a second, and that tempers some of the session's possible glory.
- Downbeat - Jim Macnie 8/03
Roach and Ibrahim make a dense duo, alternating
between settled interludes and spread-edge splendor - nowhere more than on
"Acclamation," whose second gospel theme is hammered home with fire
and brimstone intensity. The title cut meanders a bit, but the rapport is
- Downbeat - John McDonough 8/03
During the interim period when Abdullah Ibrahim
was once again known as Dollar Brand, he went into the studio with Max Roach.
That particular event happened on September 20, 1977. Roach, in his brief but
all-encompassing notes, says that there were no rehearsals and no plans as to
what they were going to record. Sure, it is said that they were friends, and
they shared social and cultural backgrounds.
Those are good points of reference, but there
has to be something more: a perspicacity, a feel, anticipation and vision that
have to course through the blood and in the mind. Roach and Ibrahim are in the
swell of the tide. Now that Streams of Consciousness is available once
more, listen to two articulate imaginaries as they take you on their completely
improvised journey, savor the experience and acknowledge, as well, the good
sense that activated the re-release of the music.
The sum of the four tunes (witness the names
given them!) make up the breathtaking whole. The title tune runs just over 21
minutes, every one of which offers a dynamic of exploration. Ibrahim sets up the
mood in a virtuosic panoply of rich euphonic chording that Roach reinvents with
a shifting timbral pulse. And then eloquence converges, the piano setting mood
and pace and melody, the drums singing in tandem with chromatic swells or
chugging along and accenting rhythms that extend the constantly changing motifs.
The flavor of “Inception” is subtle.
Ibrahim probes and instils the spaces with a gradually evolving melodic thread.
A jubilant, gospel air stirs “Acclamation” before it moves into the wont of
Ibrahim, the happy land of a South African melody, as spellbinding as it can be
as he shapes varied patterns from the nucleus. If ever there was consanguinity
between two musicians, this is proof positive.
allaboutjazz.com - Jerry D'Souza 8/03
irresistible piano introduction that sends us back to the far and ancestral
echo. It’s like a South African hymn. Then a short thought of drum solo
follows. It’s nearly structuralist. A way of drumming that explores the
melodic side, beyond rhythmic. Now the two instruments travel on a common road,
and they meet on a cool timing, very jazz, with elegance and authority. Think
that the album is called Streams of Consciousness, which reminds us the concept
of James Joyce on his way to write the Ulisse... But this is not an inner
monologue. Rather a dialogue absolutely at par. Free, very free, where
reciprocal listening is most important to prevail. This is one of the most
beautiful and undervalued duets in the history of jazz. So that we have to wait
for 27 years before the CD is released.
This is an event.
We like to remember and listen because this work is so fresh, spontaneous, as a
Ibrahim's South Africa, in full apartheid, is present in various passages
while the masters of piano appeared on the background (Ellington and Monk). His
art found an ideal partnership in the music of the intellectual and
African-American Roach. It is in perfect agreement but also spiritual and human,
and an act of love for swing (the irresistible Acclamation). All this in just
four tunes, is a result of instantaneous compositions. Things of another time,
Dischi del Mese - JAM 95 - Ivo Franchi 8/03
... (The best Ibrahim disc I've heard lately is a
reissue of a 1977 duo date with drummer Max Roach, Streams of Consciousness,
on Piadrum.) ...
Chicago Reader - Kevin Whitehead 7/03
Max Roach has to be one of the most adventurous musicians jazz has ever
seen. The man was an architect of bebop, only to record albums of duets
with extremely avant-garde giants Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton decades
course if you then put on Piadrum Records' reissue of 1977's Streams of
Consciousness...""These spontaneous duets with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim
(a.k.a. Dollar Brand) are fierce, energetic beasts. Ibrahim has never been
an especially avant-garde player, but as the title suggests, letting the music
flow directly from his brain results in a wilder side of him. But don't
expect Cecil Taylor-like dizziness - his playing is very rhythmic, and at times
it's as though Ibrahim is accompanying Roach's lead drums. And as his
duets with Taylor and Braxton proved, Roach can really let the ideas fly in this
setting. His drums has a crisp, tough, almost angry sound, and he plays
the absolute crap out of them. While it may seem like he sounds like a
totally different person from the one on Friendship, on both recordings
he is easily identifiable because of the peerless sense of melody, and even
composition, that he brings to the idea of improvisation. Keep going, Max.
Stomp and Stammer - Dugan Trodglen 7/03