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Three Unforgettable Solos from Jazz History

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Three Unforgettable Solos from Jazz History

22.07.2017

Text: Haluk Damar

Jazz, by nature, feeds on collective improvisation. Even though you don’t need to have a band, to move as a unit takes priority. It is important to watch out for the balance of the music that is being created. There are also musicians who take on the energy personally and carry the performance to a legendary level, even though they seem to get ahead of the collective dialogue. Let us remember three solos from jazz history that reached to unprecedented heights.

Steve Grossman - Black Beauty, Live At Fillmore West

It is appropriate to start this list with a name that may be the most genius musician of all time.  Miles Davis’ electric period -his most important period in my opinion- changed the jazz history forever. From this period, Bitches Brew and Live at Fillmore East albums changed the game and the latter was a show of defiance. It was a challenge to both the barren state of jazz music and the jazz listeners. The names in the band were undisputed. Having collaborated with names like John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter in recordings and live performances, Davis was feeling the 70’s spirit to the core.  And to attract the rock fans of the period, he planned a four day performance set at the Fillmore West venue, which was a politically and artistically important center in the 70’s San Francisco. The band was a collection of known names like Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Airto Moreira, but one individual was standing out. And that was Steve Grossman. Grossman replaced legendary Wayne Shorter after he left the band. Even though the comparison is inadmissible, he was measured against Shorter and this situation was creating some pressure on Grossman.

Even though the performances were revolving around improvisation, there was a certain sense of unity. Miles Davis was doing an impeccable job leading the band towards the creative path he has in his head. Yet in the records of Live at Fillmore West, Steve Grossman’s solos stand out as much as Davis’. Davis is heavily criticized at times, however this album proved his leading and uniting role, especially with the solos he allowed to happen. And Grossman, using this freedom and his creativity in his solos, made history on the stage he shared with Miles Davis as one of the rare musicians performing beyond limits.

Aquilla Sadalla - African Skies 

Legendary musician from Chicago and a member of Sun Ra Arkestra’s original formation, Phil Cohran’s contributions to jazz makes him one of the most important characters of this wonderful genre. Aside from being a respected musician of one of the two most important cities of jazz, his devotion to innovation and his unreserved approach to working with new musicians is what makes him so unique.

These qualities also drove him to bring together the band for the legendary 1993 African Skies album. And Aquilla Sadalla stands out as the secret hero of the recording with his solos and the amount of work he shoulders overall.

As Cohran opens up the space for her with his bass clarinet, Sadalla carries out her role as the oasis standing out from the looping harp rhythms and dominant strings. Even though conveying different feelings from the musical flow, Sadalla still manages to stay in the unity of the created music and proves that solos in jazz music doesn’t have to break the unity of the performance.

Pharoah Sanders - Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio feat Pharoah Sanders Africa N'da Blues

Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, Ari Brown and Kahil El’Zabar were already forming a very powerful jazz band when they decided to add one of the most important jazz saxophone players, Pharoah Sanders, into the mix and record an album.  While the all Chicago band was following a rich and innovative musical path with Kahil El’Zabar’s percussion variations and Ari Brown’s soft piano, Pharoah Sanders takes the album to new heights with his dominant solos throughout the recording. 

Sanders’ aggressive, noisy and long solos open up his own path in the album. While all of the musicians stand out with their own solos in the long tracks, Sanders accompanies the music with his own unique approach. This approach makes his existence in the album even more dominant and this dominance also pushes the other members further. His solos that spreads all over the album as a web make this recording an unforgettable and strong addition to the jazz history.

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