Julian Priester and Marine Intrusion: Polarization (ECM 1098)

 

Julian Priester and Marine Intrusion
Polarization

Julian Priester trombone, string ensemble
Ron Stallings tenor and soprano saxophones
Ray Obiedo electric and acoustic guitars
Curtis Clark piano
Heshima Mark Williams electric bass
Augusta Lee Collins drums
Recorded January 1977 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The trombone is the viola of the brass world. It is arid, languid, and also incredibly beautiful in its range and melodic honesty. And on Polarization, Julian Priester’s ECM follow-up to his 1973 Love, Love session, we get more of that gorgeous depth than we could ever ask for.

The first three tracks form a unified whole. “Polarization” (Priester) begins with two overdubbed trombones improvising in a lofty space. We get some wonderful staccato technique in the left channel, and a wealth of implied energy all around. As the right-hand trombone fades, we hear the slightest indication of drums at the cut’s tail end, of which “Rhythm Magnet” (Priester) fleshes out every audible detail. Synthesized strings lend expanse while bassist Heshima Mark Williams lays down a gorgeous, almost Bill Laswell-like mysticism, albeit with an added twang and sharper features. Ray Obiedo weaves a slack guitar into the mix, and as the horns settle in to their respective stations, the piano lets out a final exaltation. “Wind Dolphin” (Bruce Horiuchi) begins with a cluster of drums. From this, we get a flowing run from brass and flanged guitar. The band breaks into a powerful free-for-all, marked by a “laughing” trombone and piano. “Coincidence” (Obiedo) is a piece for trombone, acoustic guitar, and piano, as beautiful as it is short. “Scorpio Blue” (Curtis Clark) arises from a solo trombone as drums lift the piano skyward into rolling flights of fantasy. The final track, “Anatomy Of Longing” (Curtis Clark), aside from having one of the best titles I’ve encountered in a long time, brings on the funk with electric guitar ornamenting the already fine calligraphy of the brass. And just when you think the music is over, it drips into a simmering sax solo over a pellucid piano and cymbals before the bass line returns with its undeniable insistence. The sax reels while the electric guitar squeals in joy over the thematic reinstatement before hurtling itself forward into an enthralling solo of its own. A smooth nightcap to a phenomenal outing.

While not as consistent in texture as Priester’s earlier effort, Polarization delivers in its many moods and emotional travels. The musicians don’t so much feed off as feed into one another, nourishing a delicate conversation in which agreement is the norm. Their harmonies are tender, the synergy relaxed and intuitive, acute yet soft around the edges. The recording is superb, the resonance at once immediate and expansive.

Unlike its predecessor, this one is still out of print.

Julian Priester: Love, Love (ECM 1044)

 

Julian Priester
Love, Love

Julian Priester trombones, horns, whistle flute, percussion, synthesizers
Pat Gleeson synthesizers
Hadley Caliman flute, saxophones, clarinet
Bayete Umbra Zindiko pianos, clavinet
Nyimbo Henry Franklin basses
Ndugu Leon Chancler drums
Mguanda David Johnson flute, saxophone
Kamau Eric Gravatt drums, congas
Ron McClure bass
Bill Connors electric guitar
Recorded June 28 & September 12, 1973 at Different Fur Music, San Francisco
Engineers: John Viera and Dane Butcher
Produced by Julian Priester and Pat Gleeson

With a title like Love, Love, Julian Priester’s ECM debut could be nothing but a warm embrace, an abstract melodrama lifted from the pages of an epic story. Hot on the heels of Bennie Maupin’s The Jewel in the Lotus, this album gives us more than we might expect and electrifies like a Mwandishi joint sans Herbie Hancock. Between the groovy “Prologue” and brass-laden “Epilogue” lie three interconnected pieces in two 20-minute suites, each a head-nodding peregrination couched in the vibrant expanse that only an ensemble of this size can maintain. Congregations of horns abound in a funky milieu of drums and bass. The spell is immediate and unrelenting, heightened by an elegant application of synths. The late Hadley Caliman captivates with binding contributions to Priester’s own arsenal of raw materials. Guitarist Bill Connors, who would soon explore his acoustic leanings, shines on the electric, at times grazing the upper atmosphere with almost Steve Mackey-like ebullience. The first set ends as it began, fading into an originary space, leaving wisps of energy in the darkening skies. The second set arises from a tangle of sine waves. Drums stand tall like a stone circle, circumscribing the ritual within with rapt skyward attention. An electric piano courses through every gesture of this activity, petering out into a light flute-driven melody that rests confidently at the lower lip of dissonance. A fiery trombone solo from Priester forges an ecstatic peace. Bayete Umbra Zindiko works wonders at the keys, drawing lines from music to listener with every note struck, even as Connors lays a grungy scream of white noise in the face of possible self-destruction. The kinesis builds like a train until each instrument falls to the wayside, if not crushed under wheel by its passage. From this is pulled a thin urban stream of staccato harmonies that derail into a heap of conclusive breaths.

The music on this much-needed reissue at once sails through the clouds of its infatuations and plunges into the oceanic expanse of its fears. It knows exactly where it’s going, and hopes that you will be waiting on the other side.