Noah Howard - Live at the Village Vanguard Recorded 1972

Back A'Town Blues - 13.30
Conversation - 8.35
Dedication (To Albert Ayler) - 14.24

New Orleans native Noah Howard was born in 1943 and had early exposure to Dixieland and gospel, initially playing trumpet in church as a child and playing the instrument while in military service. After switching to alto saxophone, he focused on the emerging avant garde jazz scene, with his major influence being its unofficial leader, Ornette Coleman. Before moving to New York City, he studied with both Dewey Redman and Sonny Simmons. Howard served as a sideman with Archie Shepp, Sun Rad, Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders before starting his own band, which frequently included tenor saxophonist Frank Wright. By the 1970s, Howard had moved to Europe, feeling that his contributions were not appreciated in his homeland. Although he continued to return to the United States sporadically, his home base remained in Europe, where he died in 2010

This brief set, which includes tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe, pianist Robert Bruno, bassist Earl Freeman, drummer Rashied Ali and Latin percussionist Juman Sutan, was taped at the Village Vanguard in 1972. It opens with Howard describing how his New Orleans residents describe different parts of the Crescent City, hence the song title “Back A’town Blues.” Howard’s powerful, insistent alto sax, backed by the occasional vamp and squeals of Lowe’s tenor sax, is fueled by li’s polyrhythms and Bruno’s adventurous piano. “Conversation” is an unaccompanied solo by the leader, a more conventional work that suggests a man singing by himself as various musical fragments appear in his head, several of them suggesting familiar ballads and pop songs, before he moves further into free territory. The full band returns for “Dedication (to Albert Ayler),” a turbulent piece in the style of Ayler, dominated by its wailing saxes and buzzing electric bass. In spite of the song’s explosive free jazz nature, it is easy to hear the a bit of gospel influence in Bruno’s piano. This a compelling live recording by Noah Howard.

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