FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Hans Falb


If you look in the 1988 edition of The "rororo Jazz Lexikon" (jazz encyclopaedia) you will search in vain for the name Raphe Malik. In John Litweiler's "The Freedom Principle" which appeared in 1984, he is only mentioned as "the radiant trumpeter Raphe Malik, ex-student of Taylor's at Antioch College". If you then wonder what this Goddamned and God-blessed trumpeter has done to prevent the attention of the jazz-world being drawn to him, to stop him taking his rightful peace in the history of free improvised music, of free jazz - he did the same as Cecil Taylor in his early years: No compromises, neither as far as the audience nor as far as the producer or Zeitgeist were concerned. Today, 20 years later, his music - which was strongly influenced by his encounters and work with Jimmy Lyons (from 1972 on) and Cecil Taylor (from 1975 on) - burns with an even greater intensity than in his early years, and there is still a strong bond between him and Lyons which goes beyond death. Maybe it is his choice of instruments, the trumpet - which over the past few decades was firmly under Miles Davis' spell. Miles Davis - who has, since the early seventies showed only the occasional flash of genius, who confined himself more and more to recording work. So much in the world of music has been almost completely overshadowed by that bird of paradise, Miles. Where are they now? The trumpeters Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan (who unfortunately died much too soon), or the brilliant Bobby Bradford who, together with John Carter, set milestones in "Black Music"? Now even such spectacular instrumentalists as Hannibal Marvin Peterson seldom cause a sensation. Since the bebop-era, saxophonists, guitarists, pianists and percussionists have developed styles and schools of music, and have created a new, positive definition of epigonism, but what has become of the trumpeters? The influence of Miles and Chet was so overwhelming, that promoters, producers and the media had no time to think about this.

Raphe Malik, who was born in Boston, started playing the trumpet at the age of three. In his youth he played Rhythm & Blues in clubs in Boston until he met Jimmy Lyons in 1972 and became a permanent member of his ensemble. From 1975 on he worked with Cecil Taylor who made him a permanent member of his group. Which at that time included Ramsey Ameen, Sirone and Shannon Jackson as well as Lyons and Malik. This period, which was probably Raphe's most fruitful, is recorded on the LPs "Dark To Themselves", "Live in the Black Forest", "Cecil Taylor", "3 Phasis" and "One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye". Another of Raphe's recordings is "We Sneezeawee" featuring the Jimmy Lyons Quintet. In the early 80's Raphe Malik was still touring Europe with Glenn Spearman. After this we lose his trail. Private problems, lack of recognition, drugs and alcohol - the fate of so many excellent musicians since the 40's - plunged Raphe into the anonymity of the urban jungle. In 1989 he emerged again, re-formed his quintet with his old partner, Glenn Spearman, on tenor - who had also gained experience in Taylor's group. Other members of the quintet are Brian King Nelson on C-melody sax., Larry Roland on bass (who has played in bands with Max Roach, Archie Shepp and others) and Dennis Warren - a scholar of Milford Graves - on percussion. Raphe Malik phoned me towards the end of 1990 and told me about his comeback. Although both sides showed great interest, it was still almost a year before it was possible to get a series of concerts in Europe together. The FMP in Germany and the "Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf" in Austria went to a lot of trouble and financial expense before they finally succeeded in organizing this tour and bringing the ensemble to Europe for a series of four concerts. The investment has paid off at least from a musical point of view. The band has become more mature, Raphe's attacks on trumpet are faster then in his early days with Cecil. The most striking feature of this quintet is its compactness - both saxophones spiral upwards, and, soaring above them: Raphe - crystal clear and precisely phrased. Contemporary jazz which follows in the great afro-american tradition ranging from Charlie Parker to Jimmy Lyons.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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