Friendship Next Of Kin

by Selwyn Lissak

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    [upc 808713070224] The Second Release on Downtown Music Gallery's newly formed DMG ARC label is considered by many fans to be one of the rarest late '60s Euro/Brit avant jazz recordings
    Originally released on the BYG associated 'Goody' label in France [in fact the only one of seven Goody releases that was an original release, and not a questionable reissue], the LP has commanded high prices ranging to $100 to $300 from collector's shops and auction websites including eBay.
    "To most historians of the "new music", creative improvisation took a somewhat different turn in Europe during the late '60s than it did in the United States, concentrating less on African roots (understandably) and building on both European folk forms and innovations in academic art music and other time arts. Yet in England there was a greater confluence of African musical forms and influence, which is crucial in distinguishing vanguard British improvisation from its brethren in other parts of Europe. Chris McGregor, a white classically-trained pianist from Cape Town, brought the Blue Notes with him to Germany in 1966, finally settling in London. This was the ensemble that, ostensibly "led" by a white South African (though clearly drawing more from kwela and township music as well as jazz), introduced drummer Louis Moholo, bassist Johnny Dyani, trumpeter Mongezi Feza and reedmen Dudu Pukwana and Ronnie Beer to the European jazz community. In addition to the South African scene, expatriate improvisers from Jamaica (reedmen Joe Harriott and Ken Terroade) and Barbados (trumpeter Harry Beckett) were also at the forefront of London's new music community.
    Drummer Selwyn Lissack, though often not mentioned in the same breath as the above, is nevertheless an interesting piece of the British-South African puzzle. Born and raised in Cape Town, Lissack emigrated to England in 1967 (independently of the Blue Notes) on his way to New York - visa problems kept him in Europe until the end of 1969. Lissack was active on the Cape Town scene in the early 60s, despite anti-integration laws that often broke up musical associations (he's white), but the pull of more fruitful work opportunities elsewhere was undeniable. Upon joining the London community, the young drummer began organizing sessions in his apartment with John McLaughlin, Mike Osborne and other luminaries of the scene, while also studying with Philly Joe Jones (at the time living in Kensington). Lissack's style merges the tidal waves of Elvin and Sunny Murray with the fleetness and occasional bombast of Roy Haynes and Philly Joe, and is more rooted in bop than Louis Moholo.
    The result of two years of weekly rehearsals with the British and South African avant-garde, Facets of the Universe, released in a limited edition by the BYG subsidiary Goody in 1969, features Lissack in a sextet with Feza, Osborne (alto and clarinet), Terroade (tenor and flute), South African expat bassist Harry Miller and American bassist and multi-instrumentalist Earl Freeman, a stalwart on many BYG-Actuel recordings, heard here also on piano, flute and reciting his poetry. Produced by Aynsley Dunbar vocalist Victor Brox, Facets of the Universe consists of two sidelong pieces: Terroade's Love Rejoice, retitled Friendship Next of Kin for this LP; and a lengthy collective improvisation inspired by Freeman's poetry entitled Facets of the Universe (though confusingly the poem also includes the line Friendship Next of Kin). Yet this music has little in common with strains of British or South African jazz of the time; rather, the approach is somewhere between Sunny's Swing Unit, the Art Ensemble (of Chicago) and fiercer Brotherhood of Breath dates.
    For this reissue on New York avant record store Downtown Music Gallery's own ARC label, Friendship Next of Kin is presented in two versions: an edited version which includes a drum solo excised from the original take (replayed here), and the album version without the solo. With masters apparently long-gone, the original vinyl in all its French-pressed glory was used, and it is a credit to the engineer that the muddy mix has been brought up to clear, crisp levels that do well in separating the musicians and the music. Friendship (under its alternate title) appeared in somewhat more frantic form on Terroade's BYG session (Love Rejoice, Actuel 22, recorded a few months prior to this date), with reedmen Ronnie Beer and Evan Chandley (Cohelmec Ensemble), pianist Francois Tusques, drummer Claude Delcloo, and Freeman and Beb Guerin on basses. The tune is a weighty, churchy dirge much like those penned by Sunny Murray and Frank Wright that the leader directs into a fast tempo to gird a brittle, smeared Feza contribution, the composer's paint-peeling tenor pyrotechnics (under which Freeman switches to piano), followed by a collective lead-in to Osborne's thoughtfully searing contribution (of the three horn players only Osborne maintains the tempo and character of the original theme, however distorted the notes get) and, finally, Lissack's restored drum solo, a dense thematic exposition recalling his opening salvo on trumpeter Ric Colbeck's Aphrodite. After a brief collective improvisation, the joyous processional through the back streets of Cape Town and Kingston returns to close the piece.
    Facets of the Universe is something altogether different from the post-Ayler material on side one, and echoes Ra and the AACM in its wide-open spaces, with Freeman reading a highly disparate imagist poem over a stew of tympani, finger cymbals, organ, marimba (courtesy Brian Gascoigne), piccolo and clarinet that recalls Joseph Jarman's reading on Song For or David Moore's with Muhal Richard Abrams and Anthony Braxton on Levels and Degrees of Light. Following this otherworldly declamation, Feza, Terroade and Osborne take off into a maelstrom of brass and reed smears over surging bass and percussion, an ecstatic tidal wave of activity brought on by the tension of words and poetic ideation. Such a setting necessarily focuses the attention on Freeman, who went on to lead the Sound Craft Orchestra in the early 1980s, which featured leading lights of the New York underground, and recorded a hideously rare LP with clarinetist Henry Warner and percussionist Phillip Spigner, The Freestyle Band. His poetry and arpeggiated piano on Facets of the Universe add to the mystery of the uniform of aviator goggles and union work suit. Facets closes just as sparsely as it began, with the last gasps of tenor and pocket trumpet encircled by castanets, celeste, wooden flute (Freeman again) and gongs as it comes full circle. In a way, this is not surprising, as the session was taped on the night of a lunar eclipse.
    The record sank upon its release, even by BYG offshoot standards. Goody was a bootleg label that released unauthorized versions of records on Delmark, Metronome and Clifford Thornton's Third World imprint, and Selwyn Lissack's one and only LP as a leader was the closest thing to a "legitimate" release in the series. Unfortunately, Claude Delcloo butchered both the English liner notes and the track listing, leaving some to wonder who the poet was on side two, which along with poor mastering and shoddy pressing and even the omission of a major solo by the leader (!) resulted in nothing less than a shameless mishandling of one of the heaviest slabs of improvised music of the late 60s. Lissack made one more startling appearance as a sideman with Osborne and bassist Jean-Francois Jenny-Clarke on trumpeter Ric Colbeck's lone LP for Fontana (The Sun is Coming Up, 1970) before finally heading to New York to become involved with holographic sculpture and design (he taught and assisted Salvador Dali in holographics), still practicing music but concentrating his research on three-dimensional forms.
    Despite its inconsistencies at the hands of its label, Facets of the Universe is truly a fascinating document of the Pan-African avant-garde captured at a place where European, African, American and West Indian roots merged to create two universal improvisations. What more could one have asked of a single opportunity to record as a leader?" - Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic
    "Recorded September 1969: London, England. The career of white South African Selwyn Lissack is a mysterious one. It is unclear when he left, but he was in England in the late '60's. He played in a group with Lol Coxhill; recorded Facets, his only album as a leader; and played on The Sun is Coming Up by Ric Colbeck (whatever happened to him?). He then gave up music and is now a well known sculptor, working mainly on holographic sculpture. This album has a stellar lineup, including alto flamethrower Mike Osborne and fellow South African Harry Miller. It also borrows two participants and the side-long track format of Kenneth Terroade's Love Rejoice (BYG/Actuel, 1969).
    Free Jazz is best categorized geographically. Groups like the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Iskra 1903 cast the mold that will forever be equated with improvisational music from the UK-sparse, understated and often quite tedious.
    However, this is definitely NOT what Facets of the Univers or its players are about. Players like the always-intense Mike Osborne, like Harry Miller, who could and did play just about everything with everybody, like Kenneth Terroade, who participated in the American expatriate free jazz scene in Paris that was well documented on the BYG Actuel series. The approach to extemporization is in fact closer to the Actuel model than one might expect. The brief march-like melody of the title track is merely a jumping off point for various solos, both unaccompanied, and in tandem with others. Lissack plays with an appealing sense of urgency, each line always rolling out towards the next phrase, keeping the music mobile. The piece ebbs and flows as three horns simultaneously ascend to frenzied peaks, then descend into near silence. The second piece "Friendship Next Of Kin" is more influenced by contemporary classical music in its sparseness. It does not disappoint in energy as the intensity rises steadily for the second half. It is perhaps only marred by some bizarre spoken word that is unfortunately common to this kind of music. The liner notes [did not originally] identify the piano player or speaker but it can be safely assumed that it is Earl Freeman." - Andrey Henkin, AMG
    "Thanks to the NYC store Downtown Music Gallery for unearthing this 1969 treasure, originally out on the French BYG Goody imprint and never on disc until now. Like the South African free jazzers that carved out the path to Europe before him (Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Harry Miller), drummer Selwyn Lissack was trying to make his personal connection with the music that barely filtered into his homeland, and made a three year detour to the UK in hopes of continuing onto America landed him with connections to the likes of Lol Coxhill and Mike Osbourne before he took on the reins as a leader for Friendship Next of Kin. Unfortunately the notorious label producer Claude Delcloo butted heads with Lissack, provided and unsatisfactory mix which kept the album in short run despite the stellar lineup on it. Besides fellow ex-pats Feza and Miller, there was another South African, Louis Moholo, plus Osbourne and others joining in for this amazing slab of music; and thankfully Lissack (now a laser artist and sculptor) retained the rights to fix up the sound and reissue it here. "Facets of the Universe" (Real Audio) is a complete blowout of unbelievable proportions; American/Euro/African universal soundmeld that spirals into vicious, relentless attack up there with Brotzmann's Machine Gun or Pharoah's Izipho Zam for sheer gut-bludgeon potential. I would love to hear Lissack's only other session, on the Ric Colbeck Quartet's "The Sun Is Coming Up", and also bummed that I missed his first appearance in 30 years at the Stone this past December (also lined up by DMG)." Brian Turner, WFMU

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credits

released March 10, 2014

Selwyn Lissack - drums
Mongezi Feza -pocket trumpet
Mike Osborne - alto sax
Kenneth terroade - tenor sax, flute
Harry Miller - bass
Earl Freeman - bass, piano, voice

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