Album Review

Simmons, Sonny – “Chasing The Bird? (Dead Years Ago, Million Years Ahead)” – [Improvising Beings]

Thurston Hunger   11/12/2015   CD, Jazz

Not sure if Sonny’s in the same air as Charlie Parker, or
perhaps an heir to more distant atmosphere’s were Sun Ra flew?
This massive 4 CD monolith is cleaved from another 4 pack.
8 disks for 8 decades for a man who has been on the watch.
The leadoff disk here hold martial arts moves but feel like
14 cosmic improvs, ripples of electronics courtesy of Anton Mobin
and Nobodisoundz, while Simmons dials in sax telemetry. Dig
“Magnus Fact in Act”, instead of playing in a subway, its from
subspace. Astral guitar projections by Michel Kristof and Nicolas
Marmin (Aka_Bondage). It’s like the “Angel Heart” soundtrack on
another planet, great stuff.

CD2 Breath of Life in four tracks/chambers. Starts with Sonny
chanting/incanting giving way to synth woosh and warbles from
Julien Palomo. It feels like an old Fax label release at times
but Simmons twists in mystic notes (is it his English horn in
part 2, with tenor sax fogging below?) Part 3 is power prana
inspiration to start, Simmons with lungs and a little laughter
before a lot of beaming synth which subsides as Simmons sax
dancing solo rises. Part 4 definitely echoes Sun Ra’s old
clavioline, slow sounds while more Simmons flights of notes.
20 minutes or so in, guitar crunches some funk. Simmons then
takes the spaceship to a blues bar, “I was way down there…”

CD3 It’s all about that distorted hum from a rock guitar amp,
Kristof wahs and warps electic string spikes, and Palomo pumps
in eerie organ, at the nucleus of it, Simmons is exploring
on sax, or bellowing along vocally in the fury. Pretty raw
collaboration, far from fusion, and not as driven as the Last
Exit excursions. 25 minutes into “I Can’t Go No Farther Than That”
and Simmons sounds as fresh as ever. On that and “Going Through
the Storms” Simmons sings kinda like Lonnie Holley, rich and
deep. The “Storms” comes with a psych guitar freak-out by Kristof.

CD4 subtitled “Worlds of Worlds of Worlds of” further in the
tracks grow longer, CD2 had 4, CD3 had 3, and this last offering
has just two tracks. The first starts with shimmering keyboards
and maybe mellotron, it has the charged feeling of the start of
a prog saga, the shifting chords exercising gravity on Simmons
freewheeling sax. “Dead Years Ago, Million Years Ahead” launches
with a sort of Sonny scat, before UFO synth moves fill your ears
and the skies. A strange marriage of almost eclesiastic composition
and Simmons moves from more furious free sprawl to a peaceful
call home.
A rich and rewarding release for a rich and rewarding career!
-Thurston Hunger

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