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The Ascension Name Game


Late
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Freddie Hubbard: trumpet
Dewey Johnson: trumpet
Marion Brown: alto saxophone
John Tchicai: alto saxophone
Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone
Pharaoh Sanders: tenor saxophone
John Coltrane: tenor saxohpone
McCoy Tyner: piano
Jimmy Garrison: bass
Art Davis: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

This is just for a bit of fun. Let's say you're a cryptodiscographer, and you've heard of, but never actually seen, an alternate, never-before-heard version of Ascension. Same instrumentation, but different personnel. Who would be on it? Feel free to retain certain original personnel—all per one's fancy. Who would you want to hear? Off the top of my head, I'd be interested in hearing this version of Ascension:

Barbara Donald: trumpet
Don Cherry: trumpet
Sonny Simmons: alto saxophone
Prince Lasha: alto saxophone
John Gilmore: tenor saxophone
Gato Barbieri: tenor saxophone
John Coltrane: tenor saxophone
Don Pullen: piano
Gary Peacock: bass
Henry Grimes: bass
Milford Graves: drums

 

Edited by Late
Johnson, not Dixon
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It's an interesting one. Part of what makes Ascension what it is for me is just how wonky the cast list is.

On the original, neither trumpeter is right at all, the rhythm section is one step away from downing tools (except for when Hubbard plays, when suddenly they're all nicey nicey), and some of the saxophone players were really just randoms at the time, like Marion Brown. There are gaping holes like no Don Cherry and no Gato Barbieri. 

I would like to discover that the new CryptoAscension had Hannibal Marvin Peterson and Alan Shorter on trumpet, or at least Ted Curson or Barbara Donald. I think that the failure to include stronger free trumpet is probably for me the weakest part of the original Ascension, both in terms of music and legacy - given what a star making record it was for the saxophone players, the lack of decent free trumpet effectively buries the instrument in the free context, leaving Don Cherry as the only high profile avant trumpet player until Lester Bowie. Cryptoscension is our chance to fix that, and get names like Alan Shorter stuffing the "spiritual jazz" sections of thousands of RSD sale bins.

For piano and drums, it would just be players who could keep up and were willing to be noisey (e.g. Burrell and Murray?) but perhaps Bobby Few on keys, if you were willing to make the new CryptoAscension into something quite different. I really like Few in a free blowing context.

For saxophone, Frank Wright would be a contender, to represent the Ayler crowd, and then Sam Rivers, doing something very different. 

Edited by Rabshakeh
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Al Shorter and Frank Wright are good calls. Were there a trombone section, Roswell Rudd would have added considerably to the session. In my list above, Lasha perhaps should be replaced. Marshall Allen? I also thought about Bill Dixon on trumpet.

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2 hours ago, mjazzg said:

Alternatively there's the European Son/Daughter Of CryptoAscension.  Like many children a bit noisier and wilder :D

Primary

Aha. The CryptoMachine Gun. What would have happened if Van Hove had been subbed out for for the delicate harpsichord of Odile Bailleux? We shall never know.

In all seriousness, it is strange that I can easily think of more subs for Machine Gun than I can for Ascension. Probably it reflects the fact that the stakes are lower. Ascension means free jazz celebrity, so I guess we all take it more seriously.

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It's Dewey Johnson, not Dewey Dixon on the original.

Frank Wright was invited to be on Ascension but demurred. I kind of wish he was there. Marion Brown wasn't all that random, as he knew Coltrane and was already making a name for himself on the scene at the time. Dixon would have been interesting -- he knew Coltrane of course -- but was already on another trajectory. Hubbard's presence has always struck me as weird even if he plays well in that situation. Coltrane as we know was conflicted about going "too far out" and having a horn player from his camp probably made it feel easier, not to mention helping sell records. Lasha and Simmons could've been a good fit (Lasha was in England then I believe) but of course it also would've been a very different record, and probably more reined in. 

Machine Gun is great as it is; there is a live version with Gerd Dudek added on tenor saxophone. 

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1 hour ago, clifford_thornton said:

It's Dewey Johnson, not Dewey Dixon on the original.

You are so right. I must have been conflating Dewey Johnson with Bill Dixon!

I didn't know that Frank Wright was invited to be on Ascension. Imagine four tenors on that album! I've also thought that Gary Windo might fit the bill, but he was in the UK (I think) and still in his early 20's.

6 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

I feel Dixon might get submerged. Marshall Allen could definitely hold his own in the context. It is hard to think of replacement altos from the younger 60s vanguard crop. Perhaps even Jackie McLean?

True on Dixon. Marshall Allen and John Gilmore together on Ascension would have made it a ... Sun Ra record? (Maybe, kind of.) I think Jackie would've been great on that album. And then maybe sub in Tony Williams. And, why not, get James Spaulding (but forbid him to fall back on his favorite licks).

I still think that Barbara Donald would have been an excellent choice for the trumpet line. Would Ornette have agreed to appear on trumpet?

Now I need to play Ascension back-to-back with Machine Gun and see what happens.

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If it were recorded properly, I doubt Dixon would have been submerged. His tone definitely cuts through, even if it is dusky. But given the actual history of the time I cannot really imagine him being on that record. Steve Lacy would've been fun, but he was in Europe at that time.

I also don't think of Allen and Dixon as among the younger 60s crop; they were born in 1924 and 1925, respectively.

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2 minutes ago, clifford_thornton said:

Steve Lacy would've been fun, but he was in Europe at that time.

I've never thought about how a soprano would fit on top of that record. Could/would work.

Cecil Taylor seems like he actually might fit the bill, but then it would become a Cecil Taylor record. I wonder how he and Coltrane got on for that 1958 United Artists recording.

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30 minutes ago, mjazzg said:

Really, that's interesting, where can that be found? 

it's on the Complete Machine Gun Sessions CD on Atavistic/UMS. Good stuff.

I assume Pharoah was signed in '66 leading up to Tauhid. Not sure what Marion Brown's contract looked like; there was at least one other album recorded for Impulse in the 1960s that did not make it to print, and he decamped for Europe not too long after Three For Shepp was released. Of course, that contract was picked back up (or another one written) in the '70s.

 

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12 hours ago, clifford_thornton said:

It's Dewey Johnson, not Dewey Dixon on the original.

Frank Wright was invited to be on Ascension but demurred. I kind of wish he was there. Marion Brown wasn't all that random, as he knew Coltrane and was already making a name for himself on the scene at the time. Dixon would have been interesting -- he knew Coltrane of course -- but was already on another trajectory. Hubbard's presence has always struck me as weird even if he plays well in that situation. Coltrane as we know was conflicted about going "too far out" and having a horn player from his camp probably made it feel easier, not to mention helping sell records. Lasha and Simmons could've been a good fit (Lasha was in England then I believe) but of course it also would've been a very different record, and probably more reined in. 

Machine Gun is great as it is; there is a live version with Gerd Dudek added on tenor saxophone. 

Why did Frank Wright decline?

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12 hours ago, mjazzg said:

Of course, should have thought that. I've never heard that expanded release

It's also on the UMS CD Fuck De Boere, which is also an essential purchase imo. 

And in fact, the UMS Complete Machine Gun Sessions 2xCD is just the standard FMP CD release with the live version added. So if by chance you have that already, you could just get Boere.

 

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