Can We Get An Amen?

As long as I can see the light...

Originally posted 17 December 2006


Ric Colbeck
The Sun Is Coming Up
Fontana : 1970

RC, trumpet; Mike Osborne, alto sax; Jean-Francois Jenny-Clarke, bass; Selwyn Lissack, drums.

It’s always satisfying and not a little surprising when one of the grails of avant jazz turns out, when finally found, to deliver the goods. It’s as if, for one brief, blazing moment, one’s faith is restored, and justified (if not one’s dorkiness). This quartet session has been canonized by none other than ecstatic noise connoisseur Thurston Moore. Moore’s Top Ten from the Free Jazz Underground originally appeared in 1995 in Grand Royal magazine (issue #2, with Lee Scratch Perry on the cover), and noted the following about his number five selection:

Issued in the UK only in 1970. Ric was an interesting white cat who came to the U.S. to blow some free e-motion with NYC loft dwellers. He’s most well known for his amazing playing on the great Noah Howard’s first ESP-Disk release (ESP 1031). The picture of Ric on the Noah Howard LP shows a man with race-car shades and a “cool” haircut playing his horn while a ciggie burns nonchalantly from his relaxed grip. A very hip dude. And very FREE. His only solo recording is this Fontana LP which he recorded while cruising through Europe. He connected with South African drummer Selwyn Lissack (whatever happened to…) and the UK’s famous avant-altoist Mike Osborne and bassist J.F. ‘Jenny’ Clark (student of 20th century compositionists Lucian Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen) to create this exceptional and complex masterpiece.

Exploring some kind of Anglo-Franco-Africano deep soul axis, this group plays beautifully together, mining a free-bop vein that’s both instantly familiar (if you’ve heard any ESPs, say) and utterly singular. Not totally dissimilar in tone to Jimmy Lyons’ Other Afternoons either.

“Aphrodite” is a corker. Lissack opens the track with a cavalcade of rhythm and continues to thrash away throughout. Jenny-Clarke alternately sprints and strolls, laying down a crabwise groove. Colbeck sprays, but not carelessly so, and Osborne provides one stunning statement after another.

The title track begins with a bass solo that sets up the dramatic entrance of the horns. As the song kicks into gear, the band slides slightly out of synch. Purposefully wobbly. The horns unfurl a series of long tones like they’re trying to regain their bearings. The piece builds to a ferocious crescendo where the number of horns seems to have suddenly doubled. It’s a carefully textured cacophony – or maybe a densely vocal colloquy. A visceral rush, in any case.

There are tantalizing clues that this record will soon see the light of day (so to speak) on CD. One can be found here. The complete Colbeck discography, incidentally, is here.

Regarding Moore’s note about Lissack, he is currently experiencing a reemergence, spurred by the DMG/ARC reissue of his Friendship Next of Kin / Facets of the Universe, comprehensively reviewed in the October Paris Transatlantic by Clifford Allen. Lissack is pretty much the last man standing from this quartet. Their sun is no longer coming up, but we can still don our race-car shades and bow to the East in respect, admiration, and love. Keep the faith.

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