Frank Wright | Uhuru Na Umoja

Verve/Free America 5 Tracks Recorded 1970, Paris

Frank Wright died June 9, 1990, in Wuppertal, Germany, the city of his friend, tenor saxophonist Peter Brotzmann. Alongside Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, and Albert Ayler, Wright was a post-Coltrane generation player who, like Brotzmann, took an extremely vocal and explosive approach to the tenor saxophone. In Wright’s case, the clear, gutsy emotions of R&B and the blues wailers and shouters from his Southern roots (Wright was born in Memphis, Tennessee) are abundantly present in this music, a music which reveals the raw stresses and trials of living, but always aims for musical catharsis.

In this Swahili titled album, Uhuru Na Umoja (‘freedom and fraternity’), we hear pianist Bobby Few’s impressionistic statement in “Oriental Mood” and how it is twisted and stretched into eventual free group speech; we hear the players in “Being”, with its repeated drone and staccato theme, as they gather and produce a growing sound environment which eventually ends with the sound of a lingering piano chord; we hear in the peaceful ballad, “Aurora Borealis”, the swim of bells and sweet sound offerings much like the calm spiritualist playing in John Coltrane’s Crescent album.

Joining Wright are the underacclaimed and highly sensitive Noah Howard on alto and Art (Arthur) Taylor, principally known as a serious hard bop drummer, now hanging out with these free cats where he's enthusiastically and deftly spreading the rhythm out.

Uhuru Na Umoja contains compositions all written by Noah Howard. They're simple incantatory tunes (compare Albert Ayler’s tunes “Ghosts” and “Spirits”) that function as excellent spurs to creative group improvisation where melody and new melody combine and recombine into a progressively renewing albeit unfamiliar unity.

Named, Little Brother, by John Coltrane, Frank Wright was a man on a mission.

“I was put on this planet by the Creator to proclaim the message of the Universal Spirit, to shout it to the people.”

With this reissue, we hear Frank Wright’s urgent message loud and clear. He is the Sound Messenger.

Frank Wright — tenor sax
Noah Howard — alto sax
Bobby Few — piano
Art Taylor — drums
We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by David Fujino
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for The Live Music Report

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