Boomkat Product Review:
A major highlight of Treader’s vinyl revival, ‘John Tchicai With Strings’ is a shocking slab of contemporary jazz from onetime sparring partner for Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and John Coltrane, among many others, here delivering electro-acoustic magick in-the-mix, released in 2005 and finally available on vinyl. It's a wholly unpretentious but quietly inventive classic of our time.
Danish-Afro-American saxophonist John Tchicai brings decades of experience playing with everyone from John Coltrane to Han Bennink and Derek Bailey to the table in a constantly surprising album that may well reconfigure what you knew about jazz. Here flanked by Treader’s John Coxon and Ashley Wales of Spring Heel Jack fame on piano, harpsichord, electric guitar and percussion, plus Mark Sanders (Jah Wobble) on drums for a trio of cuts, Tchicai’s sax is the connective tissue that fuses its play of themes and mood, from avian freeness to romantically dusky chamber styles, to heart-breaking tristesse and stately introspection.
Approached with open ears and heart, it’s an album that may well upend prejudices about free jazz. That’s mostly attributable to the emotive clarity of Tchicai’s performance, which floats with an enviable, gravity-defying, figurative freeness that comes with a virtuoso’s ability to project and transcend themselves instrumentally. But he’s not playing solo, and the supporting cast all play crucial roles in establishing the conditions for noumenal flight, from the way Coxon’s swooping string and percussion samples buoy and egg Tchicai to unfurl his wings in ‘Lied’, to the haunting, red velvet Lynchian backdrops painted in piano behind ‘Test Piece 1’, and the beautiful play of fading light conjured by sallow strings and bowed cymbal on ‘Formalism’, while the remarkable closing couplet of ‘Lullaby’ and ‘These Pink Roses’, with its poem narrated by Steve Dalachinsky, surely seal the album’s absorbingly lyrical or cinematic nature.