music and musicians are linked irrevocably to a specific era, either because
premature exits or enforced retirement have limited their contribution to
those particular times or because their strongest work appeared then. Feza,
of course, suffered an all too early exit while Windo kept on going until
1992. While it is impossible to predict what the trumpeter would have gone on
to achieve, in Windo’s case I feel that the work done in the ferment of the
1970s was among his strongest and most intense.
South African trumpeter Feza was a guest with Bernt Rosengren’s quartet along
with Turkish percussionist, Okay Temiz, during November and December 1972 and
Free Jam was
recorded during this time in an old paint and glass-blowing factory in
Stockholm. The location may not seem inspiring but the sound definitely is,
being both raw and full of the energies of collective improvisation, with
band members shouting encouragement while the rest respond with vigorous,
ebullient solos and group blowing.
On the first cd the opening ‘Theme Of The Day’ is nearly forty minutes of
this approach and features a typically buoyant solo from Feza as well as a
freely ranging alto break by Rosengren and some muscular tenor from Tommy
Koverhult. But much of the track is a high energy group interaction with
players moving to the foreground then shifting back into the ensemble again.
It is a truly exhilarating sound driven by the twin percussive assault of
Temiz and quartet drummer, Leif Wennerstrom. It ends with Rosengren
abstracting a melodic theme, apparently from a pop song, ‘Sambabiten’,
stretching it a little and bringing the piece to a joyously steady rhythmic
From the same day ‘Group Notes 1’ continues the mood of free improvisation
and highlights Feza’s dynamic playing alongside Koverhult and Rosengren.
‘Group Notes 2’ also finds the tenor man exploring though in slightly more
restrained manner, holding notes then unleashing cascades of them. It
reminded me of Coltrane momentarily. There is a more spacious feel to this
track though the energy levels are still quite high.
The second cd also opens with ‘Theme For The Day II’, in this case a
spiralling motif that gradually mutates into a group improvisation led by
Rosengren. The drumming is particularly fierce and it is a shame that the
track seems to fade before it really gets started. Following on though, is the
first of several tracks which prominently feature Feza. ‘Mong’s Research I’
allows him space to build a furious solo supported only by Wennerstrom and
Temiz. He then carries this on at the start of ‘Group Notes III’ wrenching
squirming metallic figures from his trumpet whilst again being powerfully
driven by the force emanating from the twin percussion team. It is probably
one of the longest solos I’ve heard him take and his energy and invention
become quite staggering, cutting a swaggering path through the track. The other major force on this
track is Rosengren who matches Feza in resourcefulness and power.
A further three sections of
‘Mong’s Research’ also contain stunning examples of his technique as he
bursts out in barely contained melodic torrents over Rosengren on piano. He
seems to want to explore every aspect of the improvisations, his tone
shifting through a range of moods. Again, this is another one of the most
sustained performances I’ve come across, possibly even surpassing work he
laid down with Brotherhood Of Breath and The Blue Notes and reminding me what
a terrible loss his early death was for the music.
Although this is ostensibly a guest session from the trumpeter he contributes
much of the excitement and verve to the performances, sounding like a small
musical tornado, aided crucially by the empathies of both drummers. For
anyone, like me, who feels they’ve never heard enough of his work this is
absolutely essential listening. Jan Strom’s team at Ayler deserve an award
both for making it available in the first place and for presenting it in an
informative and attractive package with distinctive cover artwork, as ever,
by Ake Bjurhamn.
Windo was a real maverick and a ubiquitous presence on the English jazz scene
during the 1970s when he could be found raising the musical temperature with
those of similar propensities. For example he and Feza were soul mates
frequently playing side by side in various ensembles where they could unleash
their penchant for free
Sure enough they team up here, as part of this second retrospective of
Windo’s work, in the band Symbiosis with fellow free spirits Nick Evans and
Robert Wyatt. This piece, ‘Standfast’ from 1971 is typical with bluff
trombone from Evans, joyous trumpet from Feza and Windo’s own tempestuous
tenor. As he says in the notes this was ‘a perfect portrait of the
restlessness and searching that was happening in the English music scene at
Similarly, ‘Take Off’ from 1976 showcases what looks like a scaled down
Brotherhood of Breath with Dudu Pukwana, Mark Charig, Nick Evans and the
Harry Miller/Louis Moholo drum and bass axis. The spirit of that ensemble is
certainly present here, as all the horns simultaneously blend and fire off
individually while Moholo’s powerhouse drumming fuels them. It’s a pity that
it ends abruptly after around 5 minutes since the band were obviously in full
A smaller group, WMWM, featuring Wyatt, Ron Mathewson on basses and Dave
MacCrae on electric piano recorded in 1973 and this smaller scale line-up
allows Windo to indulge some of his wildest tenor explosions, free and
blustery he rides over the steady rhythms on the lengthy ‘Carmus’.
Occasionally he digs in and sounds like a tough old style rhythm ‘n’ blues
tenor man but mostly he’s off exploring the outer reaches.
Much of the other material here is from 1979 and 1981 recordings when he was
living and working in the States, often as part of Carla Bley’s band. There
is a beautiful example of the, all too rare, mellow Windo on the title track,
recorded with his quartet. It is
testament to the fact that he could put restraint before ebullience
when the mood was on him, coaxing subtle nuances from Pam Windo’s moving
melody. From the same session comes the rockier ‘Is This The Time?’ where he
ranges across the tenor to produce gutsy honking and ecstatic free blowing
while the rhythm section of Steve Swallow and D. Sharpe is locked tight and
solid. Windo’s other main instrument, the bass clarinet, has its moment on
the improvised ‘Free To Go’ gargling darkly against the jabbing piano and
busy percussion. I wish he had recorded more on this horn.
There was often a cheesy, irreverent humour behind his work, as on his
version of The Stranglers’ ‘Peaches’ which appears on the previous
retrospective ‘His Master’s Bones’. Here it manifests itself in a version of
‘Red River Valley’ with ex-Soft Machinist Hugh Hopper on rock ’n’ roll bass.
It oozes Windo’s sheer joy in playing, mistakes and all, and highlights a
little of his bluesy unaccompanied tenor.
He leapt from project to project leading an intense and tempestuous life,
which is reflected in a good deal of his music. This selection goes some way
to re-creating the excitement of those time through the exuberant music he
and his associates made. Hopefully it will encourage new listeners to
discover what a distinctive and passionate musician he was.
© Paul Donnelly 2004