Byron & Gerald - Unity LP


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Label: Eremite

Our Review:

To put it simply, Unity is a monster of a record. The first album recorded under Byron Morris and Gerald Wise's leadership, this legendary blast of liberated fury was originally privately released in 1972 on the artists' own E.P.I. Records. Unavailable in any format since, Eremite has finally brought us the gorgeous reissue this album deserves.

Recorded over two days at Howard University in 1969, Morris and Wise play with frenetic and inspired abandon. Unity also features incendiary playing from percussionist Keno Speller and his regular sparring partner Byard Lancaster, fresh from making his Vortex debut and a rejected session for ESP, along with an assortment of rarely-recorded local players from DC. Eric Gravatt rounds the group out on the drum kit, but whereas his playing in the 1970s with Wayne Shorter and various icons of the Japanese jazz scene blurred the line between bop and fusion, the pummeling he lays down here is decidedly avant garde.

The first of two side-long tracks, "JWM+53" opens with lyrical playing that recalls "Lonely Woman," but Ornette's ballad is all about longing and his playing of it plaintive and tender, whereas this piece seizes all that possibility and liberates its passion in the name of an anarchic new order. "Black Awareness" is even more powerful: amplified and tuned percussion reminiscent of Marzette Watts "Backdrop for Urban Revolution" sets the scene before crashing tidal swells of drums wash it out to sea, carried away by a righteous storm of trumpet and saxophones.

This reissue is limited to 550 copies. Pressed on heavyweight vinyl by RTI, with an insert featuring Byron Morris' newly penned liner notes screenprinted by Alan Sherry of SIWA.