Saturday, June 29, 2013

Billy Bang Da Bang! Tum 2013

A stellar release finished just two short months before his passing finds Billy Bang at the top of his game, an improvisational master just slightly ahead of his time.

Billy Bang was a innovator, a improvisational trend setter for over three decades and the Tum release Da Bang! was finished two months before Bang lost his long fought battle with cancer which had spread to his liver. For the uninitiated, Tum Records is a Finnish label that has been in existence for a little over a decade. Think of Tum as the Finnish answer to ECM accept with a more western avaunt garde flair and panache that encompasses a far wider range of talent and Billy Bang was certainly no exception.

Da Bang! could easily pass as the best of jazz from the 60's and 70's with such tunes as the Miles Davis tune "All Blues" and perhaps the most iconic number from Sonny Rollins in "St. Thomas." Joining violinist Bang to make up a rock solid quintet we have the great trombonist Dick Griffin along with A list talent including Andrew Bemkey on piano, Hillard Greene on double bass and Newman Taylor-Baker on drums. Da Bang! has a rather unique if not incredibly moving conceptual nature. Bang was apparently well aware his time on this earth was limited and remarks made around the time of the recording included the importance of giving back to those that inspired him as well as the significant healing powers that music can posses. As a critic fighting a rare form of liver disease the thought process behind this music was especially moving if not inspirational considering Bang has never really received the acclaim due as a pioneer of what was later known as the loft style of sound that is now synonymous with the vibe of the Big Apple jazz scene today.

Reviewing true greatness is at times an exercise in redundancy. Billy Bang was a master of his weapon of choice, the violin. While his career began in the 70's, real notoriety did not come till early 2001. No matter, Bang quietly went about the business of letting his talent speak for itself while inspiring the next generation of improvisational disciples with the intensity of his passion and his humility as a true and timeless artist.

Tracks: Da Bang; Guinea; Daydreams; Law Years; All Blues; St. Thomas.

Personnel: Billy Bang: violin; Dick Griffin: trombone; Andrew Bemkey; piano; Hilliard Greene: double bass; Newman Taylor-Baker: drums.

Billy Bang via You Tube from 2008