The Revolutionary Ensemble
India Navigation : 1973
Leroy Jenkins, violin, viola; Sirone, bass; Jerome Cooper, drums, percussion, flute, bugle, metal hoops, tape recorder.
“Feel the wrath of my bombast!” said Mark E. Smith in the mid-’80s. And it can stand as an unfortunate motto for just about every public figure — politician, artist, soldier, spy — since. We live in an age of bombast; the internet itself thrives on it. Bombast is the primary currency of political discourse. It can sometimes seem as though it’s the very reasonableness of the current American president that is his main shortcoming, if also one of his more rare and remarkable qualities.
In contrast — and opposition — to the wide spread of bombasticity, we present the second half of one of the earliest records by the wonderful Revolutionary Ensemble. Recorded on New Year’s Eve, 1972/73, there was doubtless plenty to be bombastic about at that time. But what we get instead is as un-bombastic as it gets. This is perhaps the most revolutionary aspect: no foreground, no background, a cooperative enterprise that enlists every technique at the artists’ disposal. And that includes pre-recorded sound — Billie Holiday makes an appearance on side one, and check the bebop tune just before the runout groove (“Now’s the Time”?) at the end of side two.
The entire performance is a model of interplay, but the piece above is notable for the room allotted to Sirone, who died last year at 69. A major loss, though we were at the time unable to put together an adequate memorial post. Thankfully, David Grundy at Streams of Expression more than made up for it with a superlative and deep tribute to the late bassist. We heartily encourage those of you moved by the track above to hit it, hard, forthwith. It goes to show that those with the most bomb(a)s(t) need not carry the day.