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Tony Williams Lifetime - Emergency CD (album) cover

EMERGENCY

Tony Williams Lifetime

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.65 | 18 ratings

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Atavachron
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When we are witness to a new kind of art, it should be noted. And though the first glimpses of an unproven form are sometimes raw, the impact is usually undeniable. This is the case with 'Emergency!'. Sometimes ugly but always real, this little record is very likely the first true and fully blended mix of modern jazz with electric rock in all its manic glory. There had been hints at it, experiments and false starts that often lacked total vision, like Cannonball Adderly's use of pop stylings in jazz. As well, Miles Davis is most often credited with being the 'father' of jazz-rock but on closer inspection, Davis is, at best, its grandfather whose 'In a Silent Way' (1969) was more a flirtation between styles than an infusion of musics. There were superior and better-realized fusion projects to come, such as John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu and the later symphonic aspirations of Chick Corea and Al Di Meola. But in hindsight, this rough, tainted and trance-induced set, deeply intuitive on a level not before heard, is the first recording of jazz artists doing what the heavy blues and psych scenes had been doing for years. And while there had been those who progressed jazz itself, such as Jimmy Giuffre, Dave Brubeck or Gunther Schuller, no one had brought together the hot bop of Coltrane with the howling rock spirit of Jimi Hendrix in the same room at the same time. Finally... Fusion with a capital 'F' had arrived, kicking and screaming but alive and well.

This session, not to be confused with Williams' first album as leader in 1964 titled 'Lifetime', had all the makings for explosive creativity and boundary- wrecking; John McLaughlin's guitar sounding more urgent and other-worldly than ever, Larry Young's irrepressible organ, and Williams' ridiculously confident charge on drums. If one didn't know better, the nine-minute title cut could just be the sound of another crazy jazz band bopping their way into the 1970's with drug-induced abandon. But the unmistakable sounds of riff rock can be heard fighting to break on through, Larry Young's insistent organ- grind, McLaughlin's lead, and the whole thing coming alive with Williams' crashes and acrobatic backbeat. Some acid mud follows, as well as passages of sheer spontaneity. 'Beyond Games' is hideous and nervous freeform featuring Williams' bizarre vocals and the 12-minute 'Where' is a troubled dervish of a jam, dizzying and sweaty with odd rhythms, sudden changes of mood and semi-classical lines running between guitar and organ. But it's the fourth, 'Vashkar', where we begin to hear the first clearly-cut form of jazz rock with all of its facets, finally gelling in the way we would become familiar with in later years showing intelligent melodics, tight dynamics, and plenty of fire. 'Via the Spectrum Road' is the requisite weird pop-psych tune, but luckily the firecracking jam 'Spectrum' wakes things up again with pure hot jazz and wild soloing from everyone. It would be the highlight of the set if not for the 13- minute 'Sangria For Three', a beautifully messy explosion of jazz rock at its most pure. 'Something Special' finishes with unsettled dissonance and closes out a musical statement so bold and irreverent that it was, in the truest sense, revolutionary. A mad experiment gone out of control and one of the most important records you will ever hear.

Atavachron | 4/5 |

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