CAUGHT IN THE ACT
By Alan Heineman
(Reprinted from Down Beat magazine: October 16, 1969)
Tony Williams Lifetime
Jazz Workshop, Boston, Mass.
Personnel: Khalid Yaseen (Larry Young), organ; John McGlocklin, guitar;
Tony Williams, drums, vocals.
Khalid: imploding church. John: banshee in love. Tony: purposeful, angry
rattlesnake. Tranquility in the eye of an amorphous hurricane. Who is
crying? Someone sobs hysterically, but everyone is laughing. The city,
which forges hard minds; the country, which forges profound souls; the
blues, and thus both, and neither, an all: I am you as you are me.
I am sitting here, in the Jazz Workshop. I am listening to three people
play musical instruments. I am a critic. They make this sound by doing this
and that sound by doing that. Listen to hear if one misses a note or a
beat. Listen to hear internal logic. Listen to hear influences. Tony played
with Miles. Khalid has made a number of Very Interesting, nay Promising
Blue Note albums. I've never heard of John. Well, then; he'd best be good,
because I've heard a great many guitarists. I am a music critic. My head
has come loose from my shoulders. The table is melting. The church is
crystalizing, falling apart, restructuring itself. Stay in one avatar, damn
you. I am a rat. I will hide in the church. Rattlesnakes eat rats and that
rattlesnake is maddened. The church shifts shapes again (that commercial
for housepaint-the house breathes in and out).
A little boy is calling. "Take me home with you. Take me ho-o-ome with
you." That's Tony singing. Tony can't sing too good. I will go help the
little boy because he is lost. The little boy is the rattlesnake. How can
that be? How can a church be the ocean, warm and salty? How can a banshee
be a music box with little ivory figures carved on it? I am a music critic.
How many heads do I have? The rattlesnake has more.
Eee. Chingachingachingachinga. Eeedoodlyoodlyoodlyeeeee
How can the music be light and dark simultaneously? Listen to hear. A
woman is pouring medicine down my throat. I don't want the medicine. It
tastes wonderful. Why don't I want it? I do. I will either have orgasm or
suffocate. Breasts. I am naked in a meadow. Tall flowers. With thorns.
Hurts so good. Breasts.
Let me put it rationally, if I can: this is the most exciting group, new
or established, that I've heard in a long time. A long time. All three
players are of the first order, and they interact completely and
convincingly. The music is a little of everything-rock, chordally-based
jazz, free jazz and some other stuff. Vocals, such as they are, flow freely
into instrumental improvisation, moods flow freely into other moods.
Some small criticisms might be made: Yaseen (and Williams, too, but to a
far lesser degree) relies for climaxes of intensity on a relatively few
devices. And McGlocklin's guitar is an inferior instrument; the three lower
strings get horribly muddy response. If these faults were remedied, the
group would be perfect and the world would end. Go see them. Listen to