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Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray Trio - Jump Up

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Artist: Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray Trio

Album: Jump Up

Label: Hatology

Review date: Jun. 29, 2012

Altoist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray need no explication to ardent followers of free jazz. Each earned iconic status under the auspices of Cecil Taylor’s groundbreaking ensembles in the 1960s and later went on to lead his own influential groups. Bassist John Lindberg is less of a ringer on the recognition scale, but not for want of prodigious work over the decades. Jump Up folds back the calendar to when he was youthful relative newcomer on the scene, one with the extreme good fortune to find himself in the company of giants at the Willisau Jazz Festival in the summer of 1980. Though his surname didn’t garner the billing of his partners, his presence was no less essential to the musical outcomes documented on the highly invigorating set.

Regrettably, this latest incarnation of the album still leaves off music from the original double LP release (the side-long “What to Do About #1 and 2” is missing). What is present is magnificent and all but guaranteed to bring a big dumb grin to most listeners’ faces. Annotator Art Lange connects Lyons to string of counter-intuitive antecedents, including Jimmy Lunceford, Chick Webb and Elmo Hope. These ears aren’t advanced enough to concretely pick out those arcane referents in the altoist’s playing, but his hard-charging vernacular of swing (riddled as it is with vertigo-inducing intervallic leaps and switchbacks) advances without a shred of timidity or equivocation.

The title piece and “Riffs #1” comprise two side-sized slabs of collective improvisation. Lyons is credited as composer here and on the disc’s other three cuts, but the fragmentary themes the trio works off of are more commonly springboards than clear cut song structures. Communication comes fast and frenetic from the outset, with Lyons blowing puckered, lemon-scented progressions against a simultaneously churning and sprinting backdrop. Lindberg is all over his strings, plucking and sawing with a rapidity that approximates hummingbird wings, particularly on the protracted master-class that embodies his ear-exploding solo on the second piece. Murray keeps the semblance of time loose and unconditional, building up cymbal-accented pulse patterns that buttress Lyons’ airborne soloing.

“Sea Treas” starts comparatively slow, but swiftly accumulates steam, with Lindberg’s rubberized pizzicato percolating against more concentrated cymbal spray from Murray as Lyons cavorts on top through a barrage of concentric riffing. The tail of the statement finds the altoist at his most playfully Dolphy-esque, dropping out for a solo from Lindberg that makes genius use of corpulent instrument amplification in another Flamenco-tinged improvisation, echoing the heights Jimmy Garrison used to scale in concert with Coltrane. “Tortuga” closes the set, flirting with a more conventional schematic before once again going for broke in a close-knit fusillade of forward momentum built on a stout bass ostinato and consummately controlled percussion chatter.

Lyons passed away just five years later in 1985, but he made the most of them, recording a few more records for Black Saint and performing with regularity. Lindberg has stayed active in the ensuing years, pursuing a myriad of projects from large groups to solo work. Murray’s still with us, too, and residing in France, though recent reports sadly suggest that his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse. Here’s hoping this reissue does its small part in revitalizing interest in his legacy and importance, because as that old adage so apposite to jazz goes: “it’s best to give them they’re flowers while they’re still here.”

By Derek Taylor

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