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Bobby Bradford - Love's Dream

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Artist: Bobby Bradford

Album: Love's Dream

Label: Emanem

Review date: Mar. 22, 2004

Love's Dream is a hugely important reissue from the early Emanem catalogue. Most people know trumpeter/cornetist Bobby Bradford – if they know him at all – from his decades-long association with the late, great composer/reedist John Carter. One of the most important pairings since Ornette and Cherry, the two Texan-raised players recorded some epic music (not least Carter’s five-part exploration of the African experience in the “New World,” which – if there was any justice – would not only still be in print but would have won a Pulitzer rather than Wynton Marsalis’ drecky Blood on the Fields). But what’s less commonly known about them is that they made several trips to Europe beginning in the 1970s and there formed friendships and allegiances with important English players. Here we have a warts-and-all distillation of a six-night club engagement from Paris in 1973 (this is a re-release which has been customarily supplemented by Martin Davidson with much extra material). At a time when British free players were – like altoist Trevor Watts and percussionist John Stevens, who fill out this quartet along with bassist Kent Carter – involved in what might loosely be called “crossover” projects (I’m thinking primarily of Trevor Watts’ Amalgam band, which even had Keith Rowe shredding on guitar at one point), Bradford’s own stylistic bridge between “classic” jazz a la Fats Navarro or Booker Little and the expressionism of the avant-garde seemed a perfect fit with the raw experimentation of the Europeans.

It’s a real treat to hear Bradford dipping into the Watts/Stevens Spontaneous Music Ensemble bag of tricks on tracks like his classic “Woman” (here entitled “She”), just as it’s a delight to hear Stevens and Watts dig in to the energetic freebop of tunes like “Comin’ On” (two versions of which are included here) or “Song for the Unsung,” thanks to a generous amount of prodding from the absurdly good Carter (who, in addition to having waxed an excellent solo recording by this point, had also done time in the inside/out Steve Lacy groups, good training for this sort of date). This stuff swings like hell, and it confirms (among other things) how truly integral Stevens was in bringing different musical communities together. Watts snuggles right up to Bradford’s heated playing, the warmth of his slightly ragged tone meshing well with Bradford’s clarion voice (the leader sticks to cornet throughout this date), and has no hesitation diving into these rich themes. And if the compositions themselves sound like Ornette, that’s no detraction from the individuality and sheer kinetic charisma of the playing here. The music quite simply has what I’m looking for in jazz/improv: a blend of four unique players who come together in a single, joyous expression. Though this band was not a long-lived one, its creations stand the test of time.

By Jason Bivins

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