Can We Get An Amen?

As long as I can see the light...


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 conoisseur 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 calvacade 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.

Category Ric Colbeck

14 Responses to Can We Get An Amen?

  1. This one is wonderful. Mike Osborne is on fire, and the rhythm players cook. Lissack’s intro to “Aphrodite” is one of the most compelling moments in this music–as brash, powerful, and uncompromising as one kit drummer can get (I’m reminded of Louis Moholo-Moholo in the opening moments of “MRA”, which was posted here not too long ago). Colbeck, of course, is a lost talent, and if he isn’t quite the iconoclast (versus Norman Howard, one of free music’s other apparitional trumpet saints) or the blunt virtuoso, he’s at least got the spirit… his solos here are pedal-to-the-metal.

    On another note–nice to see that this may get reissue. This one has remained in the back alleys and whispers for far too long.

  2. thanks very much

  3. Hey, thanks for this. Super bass-drum-action!!! And a good suggestion: Would it be possible to get some samples of Norman Howard music for Destination out?

  4. Blessings for posting this. I’ve wanted to hear it since before I walked on two legs. (Don’t be too hopeful about that note on Sunset West Productions page. It has been up for many tantalizing years.) When will the world wake up and smell the Mike Osborne. Simply incomprehensibly great.

    Doug S.

  5. Eep. Thanks for the tip on that Sunset West page, Doug. Tantalizing, indeed. Anyone reading this right here would do well to visit Mr. Schulkind’s radio show, Give the Drummer Some, which can be easily accessed by pressing the Doug Schulkind button on your keypad.

    Thanks, too, to K, pgw, and Sami, for the comments. Sorry for the false hope, K, and thanks for the tip on Norman Howard, Mr. Pekkola. We’ll see what we can do…

  6. Loving this. And I haven’t even got to Mike Osborne’s solo. If you are thinking of doing an Osborne post one time, can I humbly suggest- ‘Straight Jack’- such a fiery track it belongs on the mythical ‘beginners guide to free jazz’ post.

  7. Thanks to all for the comments. LH – great tip on the Osborne track. You have any other fave tracks or albums by him?

    Also – if it turns out that this Colbeck album isn’t reissued in the nearish future, we will definitely be sharing the other two tracks from the album here. So stick around.

  8. Holy shit! This stuff is hot and so is that Pharoah Sanders track. I’m bummed that these are only available on vinyl but thank you very much for posting (i’ll cross my fingers and hope for a re-ish). This whole blog is fantasic. Compelling writing and well-chosen tracks.

  9. Hi
    I need an information. Does someone know something about the Basement Tapes by Ric Colbeck? tracks, musicias, year…

  10. When I was in NY in the sixties I knew Ric Colbeck quite well; he took a few studies with me on the instrument. I originally met him when he was working at the Record Center, owned by Bob Staub on 8th street in the Village. At one point such people as Bob Levin; Cecil Taylor; Ira Gittler, all worked at the Record Center. It was sort of a center of musical activity; musicians could come in, take a few recordings, and play them. This, of course, is before recordings began to be ‘bound up’. But that’s another story. Colbec, as a trumpet player, did a lot of very interesting work with Noah Howard. He also did a considerable amount of work with me in my larger groups. There is one very good piece called Motorcycle, [the title was dancer-choreographer Judith Dunn’s], a collaboration that was performed at Judson Church. The instrumentation for that performance included Colbec; Marc Levin;[on trumpets (Colbec played a Conn Constellation cornet, that looked like a trumpet and spoke with the brilliance of a trumpet); Mark Weinstein, trombone and one or two additional trumpet players], all situated on the upper balcony of the church. I played trumpet [and flugelhorn, an english Besson, that was later stolen and never recovered] and the cellist Joel Freedman, then more known for his work with Albert Ayler, who subsequently left music to do films, performed in duet form, while Judith Dunn danced. At a point in the performance the brass instruments proceed to play a row of seventeen notes, with each of them entering in a staggered fashion and echoing ethereally throughout the beautiful contours of the church wall. It was a stunning performance, aurally and visually and Earle Brown the composer, himself a trumpet player, in attendance at the performance, had many nice things to say about the work and how it was performed. Colbec was a very unique player, and a person gifted with a warm personality, a trait that he sought, successfully, in my opinion, to transfer to his work on the instrument. If one really wants to know more about his work, then Noah Howard should be consulted. He might even have tapes of their work together. Motorcycle, the piece that I’ve described above, was recorded and I have it on vinyl. I expect one day, along with some other works out of that period, to transfer it to cd.


  11. The record seems to have been remaindered on release! Colbeck died before release so there was no possibility of publicity. I bought it in a Woolworth’s remainder bin for a few shillings. The group also recorded a 25 minute slot for BBC radio’s “Jazz in Britain” which has yet to surface. I had a cassette but it printed through years ago. With the sad death of Mike Osborne Lissack is the last man standing!

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