|| Charles Brackeen Quartet
Worshippers Come Nigh
Cat. No.: SHCD111
Charles Brackeen tenor saxophone
Olu Dara cornet
Fred Hopkins bass
Andrew Cyrille drums, congas
Dennis Gonzalez pao de chuva
1. Worshippers Come Nigh (Brackeen) 7:51
2. Bannar (Brackeen) 8:06
3. Tiny Town (Brackeen) 9:00
4. Ible (Brackeen) 10:51
5. Cing Kong (Brackeen) 10:28
6. Newsstand (Take 1) (Brackeen) 9:16
Total time: 55:32
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"Worshippers Come Nigh is one of this year's finest releases, with
yeasty solos by Brackeen and Dara and hard-charging accompaniment by Hopkins and
Cyrille on five varied Brackeen originals that boast some of the spunk and rhythmic
abandon of the early compositions of Ornette Coleman. The title track a
dour hymn is especially appealing."
Francis Davis, Philadelphia Enquirer, May 18, 1989
When Keith Knox, the executive producer of Silkheart Records, helped found the
label in 1986 one of his major ambitions was to bring the music of Charles Brackeen
back into the wide popular circulation it so richly deserves. Knox wasn't alone
in his quest, however, he was just more successful than the multitude of other
sharp-eared producers who wondered what had become of Brackeen's distinctive aural
Through diligent efforts by Knox and Dallas-based producer/composer/musician
Dennis Gonzales, who tracked down Brackeen and supervised the recording sessions,
the success of the Silkheart musical mission is now a documented fact. Brackeen
is back and the world of jazz has regained a voice of unusual clarity, coherence
Brackeen, more by the nature of his personality than by his music, has often
seemed to be one of the more mysterious of modern jazzmen. He's studiously avoided
the limelight of publicity, preferring to search for an inner light by which to
guide his music. As a result Brackeen's music is wonderfully unaffected by passing
trends and commercial, or even critical, concerns. His music springs whole from
an internalized universe where passion and precision meld to produce a marvelous
melodic logic that carries his music to a higher plane and communicates a message
that rises even above the exalted heights of the music.
The recording sessions which produced this album and its equally intriguing companion
piece Attainment (Silkbeart SHCD-110) were not the sort of quick trips
to the studio that have unfortunately become all too common in the contemporary
record business. This was no "in by 9, out by 5" session where musicians
met each other for the first time in the studio and dashed through the tunes before
waving good-bye and heading for the airport. Instead producer Gonzalez brought
the musicians together for a week long meeting of musical minds where Brackeen's
original ideas were explored, expanded and embellished by his fellow players.
The songs were worked out in Gonzalez' front room amidst an atmosphere of familial
togetherness, marked by the occasional comic relief provided by the producer's
children, Aaron and Stefan. While Gonzalez' wife Carol took care of the nutritional
needs of the musicians, consistently turning out minor dining masterpieces that
were the only competition for the intense musical concentration of the rehearsals,
Gonzalez himself was busy with the delicate ongoing evolution of Brackeen's compositions.
The lengthy rehearsals had their moments of levity but for the most part they
remained intense and involved on everyones' part, assuring Brackeen's music of
the proper serious respect its depth and diversity commands. Cornetist Olu Dara,
a player with no shortage of finely honed instrumental chops, remarked during
one of the marathon rehearsal session I haven't rehearsed this much since I was
in high school. But Dara said it with a resigned smile, knowing that all the physical
exertion was paying obvious musical dividends which would be reflected in fine
form once the recording tapes were rolling.
The success of the approach is readily evident in the strong and supple ensemble
playing that gives the group the unified sound of a unit which has spent years
together. The finely tuned and well knit ensemble passages are the most conspicuous
evidence but equally important is the heightened sense of anticipation during
the solos, times when spontaneous flights of fancy by one player trigger perfectly
supportive creative responses by the others without a note being lost in the shuffle.
The fact that the rehearsals and sessions took place during Thanksgiving was
more of a chronological coincidence than an actual plan but the distinctive American
occasion given to the sharing of blessings and the pooling of abilities could
not have been better chosen. Brackeen's music is based in just such concerns and
the timing seemed to act as a catalyst to focus the other musicians on the same
Brackeen's playing, at once both mercurial and concise, clearly dominates the
vinyl document of the time but, once again, he's not lust a leader blowing for
ego's sake while his supporting
players are reduced to a purely subordinate role. That's not Brackeen's style,
either musically or personally, and the strength of the musicians on the date
would almost preclude it if such was attempted. Olu Dara, usually heard with his
free-wheeling Okra Orchestra, is a contemporary musical voice that has the bulk
of jazz history engrained into his sound. There is no "outside" or "inside"
to his playing. All aspects of the music mingle on egalitarian terms and each
can be drawn upon when the occasion arises, providing a rich and resilient brass
counterpoint to Brackeen's playing.
The rhythm section of bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Andrew Cyrille needs little
intr-duction, so pervasive is its participation in the finest efforts of modern
jazz. Cyrille, whose extraordinary endeavors in behalf of the music of Cecil Taylor
and Rahsaan Roland Kirk would cap most drummers' careers, continues to find fascinating
contexts (and this record surely qualifies) in which to display his talents. Hopkins,
a dynamo of enthusiasm on and off stage, has provided the bottom line propulsion
for high flying jazz units like Air, as well as involving himself in countless
projects with the likes of David Murray and Henry Threadgill.
Much, if not all, of Brackeen's music is infused with a gentle spirituality whose
calming qualities are evident during even the most intense passages. The album's
opening track and title tune perfectly encapsulates both the method and message
of Brackeen's musical creations. With Hopkins' bouncing bass and Cyrille's customary
cunning rhythmic attack providing excellent underpinning, Brackeen's tenor sax
issues an insistent, yet celebratory, clarion call. Dara darts in to add cornet
colorations and the full quartet, sounding somewhat more massive than four musicians
have a right to, exudes an air of expansive spirituality.
The other tunes, all from the mind of Brackeen, work equal wonders and most of
the fun of this album will come from the listeners discovering them on their own
without critical guidance from notes like these. Of particular interest is "Bannar",
the tune that served as the title of Brackeen's excellent 1987 Silkheart Records
release (SHCD-105) but somehow found its way onto this album instead. A sort of
subdued parade feel, with Mardi Gras and Caribbean flavorings dancing around the
periphery, adds to the tune's inherent attractions. Brackeen says he pictured
"a little civilization" when he first played "Tiny Town" and
if such exists it will be hard pressed to come up with a better anthem for the
small folks than what he and his fellows produced. Some extra shades of color
are inserted via Cyrille's congas and Gonzalez' pao de chuva work and the first
side marches off in fine fashion.
Two extended pieces make up the album's second side and both are gems. "Ible",
sporting a typically cryptic Brackeen title, is somewhat atypical in compositonal
terms but undeniably engaging in listening terms. Superb ensemble work, a brilliant
bowed solo by Hopkins and Brackeen's clear questing sax work are highlights of
the piece, but its overall unity and emotional impact are its most distinguishing
characteristics. "Cing Kong", only vaguely related to its namesake,
is a monumental piece that brings out the best in each of the participating players.
Its manifold delights are easier to appreciate than describe and, after all, you're
buying the record to listen to, not to read.
If his previous Silkheart Records releases haven't convinced you of the triumphant
return of Charles Brackeen it's possible you may have some sort of hearing impairment.
There's ample aural evidence of Brackeen's brilliance on each but as a matter
of purely personal choice I'm convinced his flame burns brightest on the one you
are holding. In summoning the musical community to his side with Worshippers
Come Nigh Brackeen serves notice that his voice will be heard again. The persuasive
power of the music itself holds out the promise that the worship service, however
brilliantly realized on this album, is only beginning.