|| Bob Ackerman Trio
Old & New Magic
Cat. No.: SHCD138
Bob Ackerman saxophones, clarinet, flutes
Wilber Morris bass
Dennis Charles drums
1. Mr. Knox (B. Ackerman) 7:13
2. Dennis Is Driving (B. Ackerman) 7:19
3. Tres X 4 (B. Ackerman) 7:03
4. Tranein' In (B. Ackerman) 10:20
5. Ode to Johny Hodges and Benny Carter (B. Ackerman) 8:30
6. Re: Béla Bartok (B. Ackerman) 16:03
7. Voices Beyond (B. Ackerman) 14:14
8. The March That Stopped the Band (B. Ackerman) 3:56
Total time: 74:48
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"Ackerman and cohorts play some hard driving jazz on Old And New Magic,
evoking aural images of the energy of the young Archie Shepp and the intensity
of Charles Gayle... Morris and Charles have the ability to drive and direct this
'energy' music. This is a very strong rhythmic duo and often threatens to overpower
Ackerman when he plays flute... As with most Silkheart releases, the sound quality
heard here is above average, with the presence of bass and drums very definite.
Old And New Magic will be enjoyed by all who appreciate creative improvised
Leonard J. Bukowski, Cadence, May 1995
When we got together at his home in Irvington, Bob Ackerman eventually asked me if I could suggest some suitable musicians for a group he'd like to put together. I thought for a while and told him I couldn't imagine anyone better to begin with than Wilber Morris, and he lived just a few blocks away. I called Wilber and he came over to visit us, with his bass. He was pretty weary after a day of rehearsals, but Wilber and Bob got along famously. They rapidly became firm friends and were soon musical buddies.
I came across Wilber Morris as one of the late Charles Tyler's friends and I recall him speaking well of Wilber on any number of occasions. Wilber hails originally from Los Angeles and came to New York in 1978 from San Francisco. The first time he turned up on a production of mine was as long ago as 1980, on Charles Tyler's "Folk and Mystery Stories" (UK Sonet SNTF-849). We were in touch with each other from time to time in the interim and I learned, among other things, to appreciate Wilber's leadership abilities. An example is one of my favorite recordings, by Wilber's own group Wilberforce with David Murray and Dennis Charles, on the DIW label (DIW-809). His musicianship is never in question and the number of calls he has from David Murray for work with his octet, for which Wilber is the original and continuing bassist, bears this out. Wilber is magic. In the groups that he plays with he makes all kinds of wonderful things happen. When it was proposed that Dennis Charles should lead a group of his own for a Silkheart recording ("Queen Mary", Silkheart 121), Wilber was the self-evident choice. When Wilber told interviewer Ed Hazell (Cadence, February 1988) "It's the bass player and the drummer who really move the band", he was tapping into a whole lot of experience.
It wasn't long before the need for a drummer was brought up, but that was a relatively easy matter because Wilber and Dennis Charles are a bass and drums team of long standing. I like Dennis's drumming enormously and love him as a person. Wilber felt fine about the idea and he also knew how to find Dennis. Bob booked a studio and asked me if I would produce the session. This was during a January 1993 recording tour that I was handling for Silkheart Records. Bob and I had known each other for quite some years and were both happy to have a chance to spend some time together during the period when I was recording in New Jersey. He showed me his instruments and told me what was special about each of them, playing some phrases to demonstrate. Playing instruments to show off their special characteristics for his customers is pretty much Bob's life nowadays, in his work as The Mouthpiece Doctor. As a result, Bob Ackerman spends a good four or five hours a day playing his horns. That's quite apart from the gigs he plays and the rehearsals he participates in. The significance of all this is that Bob has a superb technique and can apply it flexibly to just about any of his saxophones, clarinets, or flutes, and he's also a pretty handy pianist despite his claims to the contrary.
I came across Bob Ackerman and his wife, Pam Purvis, in connection with the activities of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez in Dallas, Texas. As one of a series of articles for Jazz Forum magazine, I wrote about Gonzalez shortly before Silkheart recorded his quartet in 1986 ("Stefan", Silkheart 101), so I knew a good deal about the Dallas improvised music scene of the period. In hindsight it seems inevitable that Bob, Pam and I should have met up together.
Woodwind specialist Bob Ackerman, alumnus of Columbia University, appeared on several Dennis Gonzalez albums (Daagnim 5, 11, and 13). Incidentally, Bob's teachers had been Joe Allard, woodwinds, Arthur Murphy for composition, and Tom Neifinger and Alan Winkleman for classical flute. He and singer Pam Purvis appeared together on several albums recorded in Dallas (Daagnim JS5-80107, and 7) and Bob also made a quartet album (Daagnim 6). Pam and Bob subsequently made a Blackhawk album (Blackhawk 51201) and very recently have joined Wilber Morris and Dennis Charles to form a group called Quartet, which has released a new compact disc on the Progressive Winds label (PW1001).
Playing jazz gigs is a tremendous joy for Bob because he can let rip with his own music and play it the way he likes to hear it. Playing for a prospective customer is pleasant enough and it does provide abundant practice, not to say income, but out on his own Bob is a real swinger who loves to improvise at length.
No Comment Studio is a basement set-up, some way along a suburban street in Belleville, New Jersey. It isn't very big, but it's well appointed and the acoustic is acceptable. The engineer is owner Tony Viscardo, a successful guitarist in his own right. Bob and I arrived at the studio and immediately stumbled on Dennis Charles who was in the process of waking himself. That's what he said anyway.
It transpired that he had worked two back-to-back gigs the previous evening and hadn't gone to bed until 8am, so he was well and truly sleepy when Wilber picked him up at ten that morning. Dennis is fairly remarkable though, and he came to life totally as soon as he sat behind his drums. When you get down to it, I guess that's what it means to be a professional jazz musician in the more ethereal echelons. Art Blakey has passed away and, incontrovertibly, it is Dennis Charles who is now the standard-bearer for that whole school of jazz drumming.
Wilber was very much together and very welcoming. As we came into the studio we met Marie, Charles Tyler's last wife, sitting in a corner of the control room. She'd been staying with Wilber and was in the States from France to participate in the remembrance service for her late husband, which was to be held the following Monday in St. Peter's Church at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street in Manhattan. She and I hadn't met before, although we'd spoken on the phone quite often when she was in France. She seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the people who knew Charles, which is pretty understandable I suppose. Charles was like that. He had endless close friends.
The trio set up quickly and a sound check was done. A few adjustments were made and we were rolling.
There were only four hours of studio time booked so I did my best to keep the music moving. I asked for some additional microphone coverage on the sax and took steps to ensure that the bass drum and the bass were separated, but both clearly audible through the monitors. This was pretty much what could be achieved from the studio and so we were free to concentrate on the music. The good takes were piling up fast with Bob shifting instruments for many of the songs. It was a busy four hours, highly concentrated. With musicians like these three it's not necessary to do much more than try to avoid arguments and merely work towards maintaining the music as the main consideration. It all worked beautifully, and the eventual studio tape bears witness to that fact.
Bob's wife Pam had arrived with Ingrid during the proceedings, and when it was all over the four of us left for Bob and Pam's gig at the Parasol Lounge of the Headquarters Plaza Hotel in Morristown, New Jersey.
PS: Anyone with an interest in old saxophones and flutes should make an effort to read "The Great Horns of America" by Bob Ackerman (Jazz Educators Journal, summer 1992).