Phillip Wilson Trio – Fruits – Circle Records – RK 14778/10 – 1978
I’ll keep this tread of late ‘70s percussionist led sessions going for a minute. I originally read about this recording in a very complete book about South African ex-pat bassist Johnny Dyani, Mbizo by Lars Rasmussen. The book is a great collection of interviews, testimonials and remembrances of this tremendous musician. Anyhow… A number of interviewees mention Dyani’s incredible playing on Fruits, so the record was in the crosshairs. I managed to track Fruits down on a random browse at A1 Records in NYC. Not typically the best spot to find specific items but it happened to be in the Ws for $15. Home it went.
Percussionist Phillip Wilson was born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 8, 1941. His first foray into the world of professional music was alongside St. Louis based organist Sam Lazar on his album Playback from 1962. Upon moving to Chicago in the mid ‘60s, Wilson helped found the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and was enlisted in the initial lineup of the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet (which would soon become the Art Ensemble of Chicago).
In 1967, Wilson joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and went on to record three albums with the band for Elektra (The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream and Keep On Moving). He was involved in the band’s performance at Woodstock where his and saxophonist Gene Dinwiddie’s “Love March” got its first performance. Shortly thereafter, Wilson and Dinwiddie started the group Full Moon alongside former Butterfield member Buzz Felton. The group released a self-titled recording on Douglas in 1972.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s involvement with the AACM and the related St. Louis based Black Artists’ Group (BAG) scenes continued. He was featured on saxophonists Julius Hemphill’s classic Dogon A.D. (Mbari, 1972), Anthony Braxton’s Town Hall 1972 (Trio Records, 1972) and Hamiet Bluiett’s Endangered Species (India Navigation, 1976). Wilson’s collaborations with Lester Bowie began in Roscoe Mitchell’s group and continued throughout the rest of Wilson’s career.
It was Wilson’s involvement with Braxton and saxophonists David Murray and Frank Lowe that helped generate the trio featured on Fruits.
Wilson had known trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith since the inception of the AACM in 1967. The two began playing together regularly as members of the Anthony Braxton Quartet (the group also featured Dave Holland on bass) in 1976. Their first recording together was a major work by the composer/reed master, Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (Arista – AL 4080). Wilson and Smith would record the following year on a session led by Frank Lowe, Doctor Too Much (Kharma - PK-2).
David Murray had enlisted Wilson to play with his ensemble in June 1976. The two records that followed that year were recorded performances at two different loft spaces and in studio, Flowers for Albert (India Navigation – IN 1026) at Joe Lee Wilson’s Ladies’ Fort on the June 26th and Low Class Conspiracy (Adelphi – AD 5002) at Sam River’s Studio Rivbea on May 14 then June 29 at Blue Rock Studio.
In January of 1978, Murray toured Europe with an ensemble that included cornet player Butch Morris, drummer George Brown and the South African ex-pat bassist Johnny Dyani. Dyani had been living in Europe since the mid-1960s when he and the rest of the Blue Notes jazz quintet went into self-exile. Since that time, Dyani had had many fruitful collaborations with former Blue Notes (drummer Louis Moholo, trumpeter Mongezi Feza and Chris McGregor and his Brotherhood of Breath), Turkish percussionist Okey Temiz and pianist Dollar Brand. Three different LPs were made of the Murray group while on tour. Last of the Hipman (Red Records – VPA 129) and Let the Music Take You (Marge – 04) were both recorded on the same night of Jan. 30th in Rouen, France. Interboogieology (Black Saint – BSR 0018) was recorded in early February in Milan, Italy with the addition of Marta Contreras on vocals.
Mr. Murray would have to weigh in on whether he recommended Dyani to Wilson. I haven’t been able to find out. I decided to let the degrees of separation do the talkin’.
Regardless… Wilson assembled the trio featuring Smith and Dyani for a performance at the Northsea Jazz Festival in Den Haag. The performance was on July 14, 1978. The record was produced by Rudolf Kreis for Circle Records, a small German label that recorded mostly progressive jazz from 1977 to the mid 1980s.
Fun fact – Dyani had just recorded with Louis Moholo on his Spirits Rejoice album for Ogun only a week previous. A track from that session was played at BYOV #2.
“Electricity” starts the set off at a clip, the drummer setting the pace. Dyani’s fast pizzicato plucks go up and down the fret board as Wilson’s light hi-hats keep the momentum. Smith’s strong vibrato-less tone fills the melodic role as the piece pushes on. The bass is high in the mix and Dyani takes advantage as he really wrestles tones out. The dialog between Smith and Dyani is intriguing. The call and response sections are of interest as the two develop an interesting dialog.
This is pure energy music with a free pulse allowing the musicians to really invest in their own sound. Smith keeps the energy up and texture dense with thick swathes of sound. The communication is good. Wilson plays the accompanist role until the middle where he commands a solo that starts at mid intensity and builds, rollicking along. Dyani returns with a solo letting the harmonics ring from his instrument with runs through the registers. It isn’t about intonation and melodicism as much as it is about sound creation, rhythm and texture.