Baikida E.J. Carroll - Orange Fish Tears LP
Label: Souffle Continu
In 1972, trumpeter Baikida Carroll and some of his colleagues from the Black Artists Group (more precisely saxophonist/flutist Oliver Lake, trombonist Joseph Bowie, drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw and trumpeter Floyd LeFlore) took the advice of their friends in the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and left their native Missouri to come and discover the bright lights of Paris for themselves. The following year they would even get the chance to record their only album which would rapidly attain mythical status and a collector's item: In Paris, Aries 1973.
Therefore, it was not surprising that they crossed paths with Jef Gilson in the capital. He was always on the lookout for new artists for his recently formed Palm label and had been active on many fronts in jazz since the end of the 50s. The French bandleader / pianist / composer / sound engineer had already recorded, in the preceding months other American musicians who would go on to have great careers: Byard Lancaster, Keno Speller, Clint Jackson III, Khan Jamal... Gilson therefore offered Baikida Carroll the chance to record his first album under his own name, which would be the 13th release on the label. Carroll logically asked Oliver Lake to join him. He also recruited Manuel Villaroel, a young Franco-Chilien pianist from the group Matchi-Oul, who had already released an album on Futura in 1971 and would release another on Palm in 1976. The group was completed with the addition of Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, who had just released a well-received album on the Saravah label. They were ready to enter the studio for the 3rd, 4th and 5th June 1974.
The first side of the album is divided into two long tracks which send free jazz back to its long-lost African roots. The opener "Orange Fish Tears" indeed rolls out a jungle of percussion of all sorts and sizes -the whole group is involved- which weave and mix together reaching a point where all bearings are lost, lending a sense of wonder to the majestic entry of the brass and woodwinds, flying suddenly out from the undergrowth. "Forest Scorpion" (sic) is a real voodoo ceremony where a venomous percussive groove backs the fiery solos from keyboards and saxophone in a furious trance. A warning; after these two tracks listeners are physically and emotionally wiped out!
The other side is more introspective. Deliberately using dissonance and repetition, "Rue Roger" -the only composition by Oliver Lake- in a long dialogue between trumpet and saxophone, could almost remind us of Terry Riley in his favourite ballpark. "Porte D'Orléans", the fourth and final track on the album, has the group back to their old tricks in a long hallucinatory jam which owes as much to the contemporary music of György Ligeti as to the most angst-ridden Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack music (remember the heavy chords which beat through "Planet of the Apes»).
With these two sides, and in under 45m, Baikida Carroll and his musicians show just what they can do, from cerebral to charnel without ever simplifying things. This is an essential album if you are a fan of free-wheeling avant-garde music from the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Sonic Youth and including Shabaka Hutchings and Rob Mazurek. For those with good taste, in other words.