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Free Jazz and Improvised Music

FM36  Illumination
The James Marshall Human Arts Trio
[The original 1980 version]
1. U City Blues 7:03
2. Untitled 7:54
3. Life Light 32:00

[Bonus track added for this release]
4. India 17:40

Total time 64:37

All compositions by James Marshall

Tracks 1,2 & 3 recorded March 1979
Track 4 recorded in the mid 1970's
Mastering 2016: Tazu Marshall &anp; Jay Zelenka
Cover art: James Marshal © 2016
Produced by JZ/Freedonia Music

In memory of James Marshall. Thanks for the music, amigo!

© (P) 2016 James Marshall/Freedonia Music All rights reserved.
Made in St. Louis USA.

James Marshall: alto, soprano, tenor sax & flute
Frank Micheaux: drums
Jay Zelenka: percussion, whistles
Michael Castro: nadaswarum, brass cymbals (track 4)
Alan Suits: nadaswarum, tavil, Tibetan trumpet, brass cymbals (track 4)
This remastered 1980 recording with its additional, never before released 18 minute bonus cut, is dedicated to the memory of James Marshall, co-founder and driving force of the Human Arts Ensemble. It showcases his unique voice and improvisational style on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones. With drum set and percussion accompaniment, Marshall's solos range from lyric to incendiary, are profound and passionate in feeling, intelligent and exacting in execution.
Musician Milo Fine, reviewing the original Illuminations release in Cadance (1985), says Marshall is "eloquently getting on with the business at a hand -- a sincere heartfelt music" with "Trane as a good reference as the spiritual feel". "Marshall... shows himself to be an expressive and indefatigable player".

About Autonomous Oblast, The James Marshall Human Arts Ensemble's release on the Freedonia label, music critic Stef Gijssels wrote:

I find great pleasure in listening to "big bands" playing free jazz, adding sound upon sound upon sound. Very often it does not work though. You need this lucky moment when all instruments are in sync and focused around a central vision. This is one of those albums. It does not have the ambition to create complex interaction, nor does it have the ambition to create clarity in melody and rhythm. It just flows in a quite organic or natural fashion, like waves, or the wind blowing through leaves, or it has something tribal, with a cacophony of pure sound just there to accompany moments of deep emotional value : rites of passage, weddings, funerals. The pleasure is in the spontaneous creation, the deeply felt unity of the musicians playing without boundaries and restrictions, yet fully respectful to each other and to the musical end result. You can describe this end result as twelve musicians soloing at the same time, over/under/through/against each other, but it's rather the opposite : there are no solos, it's just one gigantic spontaneous musical movement, a sound evolving following its own inherent dynamical logic and emotional dynamics, unsteered and unplanned, a wild tidal wave of sound alternated with slow and subdued moments and with musicians joining in to add shades and color, depth and emotional accents. You need great musicians to accomplish that, and that's what this band was, when it recorded this phenomenal piece of music in the mid-70s. The band was considered to be led by saxophonist James Marshall, but in reality it was a loose gathering of like-minded musicians with shifting line-ups depending on availabilities. The first two tracks are pure gold in their uncompromising spiritual adventurousness, the third is more rhythmic, with a more prominent piano and more distinctive soloing, but it remains powerful throughout. Kudos for Jay Zelenka of Freedonia Music for having re-released this gem. It falls in the same category of great free jazz re-issues as "Thing" on or Norman Howard's "Burn, Baby Burn" (I actually heard later that this is not a re-issue : it's a first issue of tapes which had never been used before, so even more appreciation for its release!). It is wild, fierce and yet controlled. Awesome.
-- Free Jazz Blog: Stef Gijssels, August 15, 2008
Jazz involves questioning and opposing the two lines of tradion and creation, and fiercely so, when they fail to complement each other. This disc, published by Freedonia Music, is an important document that illustrates wonderfully this parallel music, born from tradition as much as from creation.

In the 1970s, in St. Louis, Missouri, one could hear the Human Arts Ensemble and the voices of such musicians as Charles Bobo Shaw, Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, John Lindberg, Joseph and Lester Bowie ... Luther Thomas, too, which the sound of the saxophonist James Marshall echoes from the first seconds of this recording dated 1979. At that time, Marshall stayed in St. Louis [other musicians having moved to New York] and his band is the The Human Arts Trio with two percussionists Frank Micheaux and Jay Zelenka (who today runs the Freedonia Music label). In the saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor) of Marshall, of course, we hear Coltrane, Coleman, Redman, Lasha, and Thomas too ... which would make Marshall a minor master.

And so is listening to Illumination influenced by what is already in one's ear? The freedom of his phrasing illuminates (this is the word) the first two tracks of the disc. The next improvisation, Life Light, for saxophones and flute plays for half an hour with echo that fits sublime with percussion and is listened to with unfeigned pleasure. As a "bonus", a fourth track recorded earlier: the same trio increased by two wind players (on nâgasvaram): Michael Castro and Alan Suits. No free jazz here, this is another story of sound that mixes distant drums with insistent wind instruments. The hubbub astonishes, disarms even: enough to thank Jay Zelenka for having brought back to light these cassette recordings that were threatened with oblivion.
--Guillaume Belhomme, Le son du grisli, Summer 2017

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