Grachan Moncur III – Evolution (1963)

Recorded in the hours before the assassination of President Kennedy, this document foretells the haywire mood of the times with a sound that floats between waking and dreaming. The final of a suite of three 1963 albums featuring Moncur with Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson preceded by McLean’s twin LPs One Step Beyond and Destination… Out! which tinkered with avant jazz enabled by Moncur’s minimalist demento compositions that singularly suggested benign menace and harlequin naïveté, “Evolution” spaces out even further with a kind of chamber jazz that Dolphy would soon after expand upon with the thoroughly tasty Out To Lunch!. The players here are liberated by the openness of the song structures and all solo expressively. McLean sizzles, free and manic but not unhinged. Lee Morgan rarely played as out as he does here, inspired by Tony Williams typically constructive and jagged drumming and Hutcherson’s cinematic shape-shifting vibraphone. Bob Cranshaw on bass completes the piano-less rhythm section and together they create a harmonic climate that describes the forever maze-universe of Borges’ Library of Babel. But the overall tone is defined and guided by Moncur’s trombone, a forlorn and solitary sound. Occasionally he displays fleetness and élan but his true nature is introspective and ultimately unknowable. There is a gradual quicksand pull in his playing and in his music, part bop and part sober, playful then moody. The pieces never rush to a conclusion, the shortest track on the LP winds itself up at a shade under eight minutes, the title track at over twelve minutes is the longest which, shaped by one sustained tectonic whole-note per bar, is a timbral exercise in describing ancient planetary formation. Quite an achievement for a quintet of guys in a room with nothing but their acoustic instruments channeling inspiration while the tape rolls. This is the sound of waking in a darkened hall of mirrors at three in the morning without memory or orientation. Highly recommended.

 

 

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