On the intro track “2 Pieces of One: Red”, the bass improvisation and percussion interplay is reminiscent of Free Improvisation, holding a musical form but operating near the boundaries some may call music. And then the band kicked in, and blew my socks off. This is how I knew I was in for a treat of Avant-Garde Jazz.
Seriously I love this album. Everyone just nails it together on this, it isn’t a raucous affair of noise but rather a fairly open production with a lot of room to breathe. For example on “2 Pieces of One: Green”, Sam Rivers tenor saxophone is just the perfect cut through the room reverb as Tony Williams follows right behind on the drums. When Sam Rivers breaks the quiet at around the 8:30 mark in the track is cold water shower that kicked my butt, and then Tony Williams comes in with an amazing drum solo that completely stands on its own. Really these hold their own even more due to the mixing here, everything is at the “right” level. “Tomorrow Afternoon” is a brilliant example of that, everybody is playing their ass off and aren’t falling into a rhythmic backdrop loop. Not a single wasted or seemingly repeated note on this jam.
On a similar note, I think something this album does well is bring in new players and instruments throughout the pieces but maintain a consistent tone. The vibraphone on “Memory” or the bowed bass on the “2 Pieces Of One” pair of tracks are prime examples. These new textures and play-styles over the course of the album coming together in a consistent way is mind-blowing. This assembly is especially brilliant considering the improvisational nature of the tracks. All of this settles on the closer, “Barbs Song to the Wizard”. A piano and bass duet between Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter respectively, the dynamic nature of their playing fuses in an absolute stunning display. So many standout moments on this cut: The rumbling bass soloing over Herbie’s initial chord progression, the driving rhythmic bass thump while Herbie fires off dramatic chords, and Herbie’s piano arpeggios over Ron’s bowed bass as the tracks climatic statement. Seriously a beautiful and final conclusion to the album.
I don’t have anything negative to say about this album, it just works. I am as amazed by the music as I am of the story of how this was assembled. I mean the fact Tony Williams was only 18 years old when he led the creation of this…incredible. Given more listens (no doubt will happen!) and a more emotional connection with this album I could easily see myself calling this among my favorites of all time.