Billy Bang’s New York Collage


Billy Bang’s Survival Ensemble
New York Collage
Anima : 1978

BB, violin, bells, shaker, percussion; Bilal Abdur Rahman, tenor sax, soprano sax, bull horn, percussion; Henry Warner, alto sax, bells, shaker, percussion;  William Parker, bass; Khuwana Fuller, conga; Rashid Bakr, drums.

We’re proud to introduce a new regular feature here at Destination: OUT – our LOST TONES series. Once a month (or so), we’ll be sharing tracks from hyper-rare recordings that aren’t available anywhere else on the web. Or even IRL! These treasures are courtesy of George Scala, who runs the invaluable Free Jazz Research site. He’s generously shared these recordings from his amazing archive so that they can be enjoyed by more than just collectors.

As always, we’re primarily concerned about the quality of the music itself. Rarity by itself means nothing – many things have rightfully been consigned to the dustbin of history. The music in this series will consist of albums that we unequivocally love and are excited to share. These records deserve a second chance and a far wider audience.

This coming Monday is Billy Bang’s birthday and we’re pleased to offer this post as a celebration of his exceptional music. He’s also been battling cancer, as announced at this year’s Vision Festival, so we offer this along with our best wishes for his full recovery.

It seems especially fitting to share these tracks from New York Collage, which was Bang’s first album as a leader and the first to feature his own compositions. It was released by Anima, a tiny label with only a handful of titles to their credit, all of them fascinating and all of them featuring Billy Bang.

Recorded live at Columbia University on May 16, 1978, the Survival Ensemble is a showcase for Bang’s talents as a soloist, leader, and composer. The stark album cover of Bang perched in a seemingly derelict building evokes the gritty feel of 1970s New York City, though the music inside is far more colorful. Although his work would mature, becoming more complex, the trademarks of his instrumental sound and compositional acumen are in place from the jump.

The Coltrane-tribute “Nobody Hear the Music The Same Way” opens with a lyrically keening solo violin passage. The piece alternates between solo sections, compositional segments where the group plays the head in unison, and headlong tumbles into manic group soloing. Dig how Bang alternates between richly layered playing and assaultive sawing. The piece is a bit raw but still thrilling. Give it a few spins to fully appreciate its riches.

There doesn’t appear to be a “For Josie Part I” anywhere in Bang’ s discography, but “Part II” stands on its own just fine. The piece is moodier and builds slowly through several unison sections whose loveliness is nicely counterpointed by the shambling percussion. There’s a stately, almost new classical feel to the dark textures, organically shifting ambiance, and moaning strings. Haunting stuff.

The band acquits itself well throughout. Its most notable member is William Parker, who often played with Bang during this period. In fact, Bang’s first appearance on record was on William Parker’s debut Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace in 1974. Saxophonist Henry Warner also played on that date. Strangely, after this record, he vanishes, not reappearing until the 2003 Vision Festival. And this seems to have been the only recording for the other saxophonist, Bilal Abdur Rahman.

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For some Billy Bang music that you can buy, don’t sleep on his latest release Prayer for Peace on the Finnish TUM Records label. It’s a sprawling, ambitious ensemble record that traffics in unabashed beauty and swing. The adventurous arrangements form the architectural underpinning of the music and are easy to overlook, but the fiery solos are unmistakable. An understated and quietly powerful record.

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For an announcement of a huge new venture for the site on Monday.

Discussion10 Comments Category Billy Bang, Lost Tones Tags , , , , , , ,

10 Responses to LOST TONES:
Billy Bang’s New York Collage

  1. I’m also a big fan of this record — nice to see it get this attention.

    As a side note, Henry P. Warner was part of The Freestyle Band with Earl Freeman and Philip Spigner, who privately pressed one terrific, singular LP in 1984. Here’s something I wrote about it, which also gives a bit more information on Mr. Warner:


    Many more happy birthdays to Billy Bang!

  2. Woah! Great link and story there, Lore. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Holy crap! I’ve heard ABOUT this album, but never heard a note (or even seen a copy)! This is great, great stuff. I dig how it’s a bit raw around the edges.

    Any Bang fans out there care to school a girl on some of his other choicest joints? I mostly own his recent Vietnam-flavored releases and clearly I’m missing out. I gots some catching up to do.

  4. Could this be the same Bilal Abdur Rahman? I don’t know — just googling, and I thought you guys might be able to get a better look at the picture than I can on my little screen.

    That guy also played on a couple Ahmed Abdul-Malik albums and had a Folkways album reissued recently, At the Helm with the East New York Ensemble de Music. Haven’t heard any of this but it seems like it might be in a similar bag, and there aren’t that many saxophone players around with similar names.

  5. NoBusiness Records is going to release a 2CD set of Billy Bang’s Survival Ensemble recordings. One will contain the material from the above mentioned LP “New York Collage” and another will contain a never before released session by the Survival Ensemble, recorded 30th May, 1977. So the even earlier album with Billy Bang as a leader. The sound for both sessions has been remastered. The expected day of release – December2010/January2011. Join NoBusiness Records on Facebook and you will get the latest news

  6. The Bilal Abdur Rahman who recorded for Folkways is not the same musician who is heard on this album. I’ve been told that the B.A.R. from this record was murdered many years back.

    The East New York Ensemble de Music LP is due to be reissued on vinyl by Folkways very soon.

    Further to my post about the Freestyle Band above, one track from the LP can be found in the WFMU archives, here:


  7. NoBusiness: great news! Thanks for letting us know; another great project from you guys…

  8. Lore — thanks for the info. Sorry to hear about B.A.R.

  9. Credit where credit is due, folks. The picture above post heading is a piece by artist Christian Marclay. The original is on display now at Nasher Art Museum at Duke university.

    Nice story about Bang. I second the recommendation about his newest lp. Wonderful stuff.

  10. Fair point, hook; will add credit info. Click on the image and you’ll see a lot more Marclay.

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