a bit of memorable PRESS
“AkLaff's drumming could gracefully ascend from a chatter to a roar, as if he were merely rolling a volume knob on a stereo” - Chris Richards The Washington Post 11/22/2010
Re: In concert: Wadada Leo Smith at Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium
Pheeroan akLaff Solo in Toronto http://music.cbc.ca/blogs/2012/11/Percussionist-Pheeroan-akLaff-premieres-1979s-House-of-Spirit-Mirth-in-Toronto
Pheeroan with Cecil Taylor
2009 Bill Milkowski on
Cecil Taylor with Henry Grimes and Pheeroan akLaff at Rose Auditorium NYC
Cecil Taylor took the stage with his New AHA 3 trio consisting of drummer Pheeroan akLaff and bassist Henry Grimes,
who was reunited with the great pianist after a 40-year hiatus (Grimes played on Taylor's groundbreaking 1966 Blue Note album, Conquistador!).
The 78-year-old avant-garde icon entered to a standing ovation, then stood at his piano reciting cryptic poetry while accompanying himself on shaker.
akLaff engaged Cecil with a djembe drum and with fingers on the snare while Grimes picked up a violin, which he bowed with legit technique,
if poor intonation. akLaff switched to brushes against the tide of Taylor's piano playing and as the music built to a more turbulent peak,
Grimes discarded the violin, picked up Olive Oyl (his green upright bass, given to him by William Parker) and away they went. akLaff matched
Cecil's explosively percussive attack on the keyboard with some whirlwind intensity of his own on the kit, heavy on the toms with an overt African
influence in his playing. While most drummers over time--including Max Roach and Elvin Jones--have deferred to Cecil's power, Pheeroan rose
to the occasion with thunderous drumming, going toe-to-toe with the master. And while at times his muscular playing on the kit threatened to drown out the piano,
Taylor seemed to enjoy the fire that akLaff lit under him throughout this powerhouse high-octane set of music. For sheer bombast, decibel level and visceral appeal,
The Bad Plus can't touch this. Though akLaff does bring the energy and slamming authority of an explosive fusion drummer to bear on Cecil's music
(think Billy Cobham, Alphonse Mouzon or Tony Williams with Lifetime), he also is a great listener with a remarkable capacity to suit the surroundings.
Throughout this volatile set he shaped and enhanced the proceedings with his skillful use of dynamics and an intuitive sense of orchestrating from behind the kit.
At one point, he switched to playing strictly cymbals to allow Grimes' brilliant pizzicato playing to cut through in the mix. At other times, in the midst of particularly
rhapsodic passages by Cecil, Pheeroan would underscore the music with sparse mallet work or by playing the drum shells and rims or using sticks on his djembe drum.
A sensitive colorist, he leaves holes in the music for gems to shine through. And more so than other drummers who have worked with Cecil Taylor over the past 40 years,
akLaff brings the funk. Rather than being busy on top, his flurries come from the bass drum and work their way up. And he deals more forcefully and effectively with the
tom toms than most other Cecil drummers, putting some real meat in the music. A player of almost super human intensity, he's an athlete on the drums who also dances
behind his kit. And Cecil's signature two-fisted clusters and ferocious forearm smashes to the keys don't sound quite so jarring with this kind of bombast underneath it.
akLaff makes Cecil's turbulent music groove. I mean, when was the last time you saw heads bobbing in unison at a Cecil concert? "Aha" is an exclamation one makes.
It's the sound of discovery. It's also an apt name for this triumvirate of creative spirits and courageous explorers. Bill Milkowski
Pheeroan with Mal Waldron
A great underrated pianist, June 12, 2000
By Umberto (Washington, DC
My Dear Family
I discovered this disc by accident, casually listening to the radio. It is now one of my favorite CDs. It is a shame that Mal Waldron is such an underrated and underappreciated pianist, when he obviously has such great talent. I am at a loss at how he is not better known in the US. The CD is consistently good but the high point is Sakura Sakura, based on a Japanese folk song. The repetitive, hypnotic patterns are well translated to the jazz form and are a great pleasure to listen to. Mal's percussive use of the keyboard is trance-like. His interpretation of Miles Davis' Jean Pierre is also a superb rythmic treat. Although this CD is quite different from his earlier efforts (The Quest being his greatest), you can still recognize Mal's unique and wonderful style.
Great late-period Waldron; , June 11, 2003
By Jan P. Dennis
This review is from: My Dear Family (Audio CD)
Mal Waldron represents what's best about jazz. Never a superstar, he nevertheless labored in the jazz vineyards for many years, eventually developing a unique approach to the piano and his own very distinctive voice. His musical credits are simply astounding--he played with many of the all-time greatest jazz artists, including Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Steve Lacy, Ron Carter, Gigi Grice, Eric Dolphy, Barney Wilen, Booker Ervin, and, finally, Jim Pepper, for whom he seemed to have a special affinity and whose work together perhaps marks the crowning achievement of each man's lengthy career. There are more than three score records of Mal Waldron as leader listed under his name listed on Amazon.com alone. All told, there are probably well over 100 sessions featuring him as leader.
This particular record finds him in a mainly quartet setting with Reggie Workman on bass, Pheeroan akLaff on drums, and Eddie Henderson on trumpet. The surprise here is Grover Washington sitting in on three cuts (and acquitting himself brilliantly, I might add). But the heart and soul of this music is the interaction between piano, bass, and drums. Waldron, Workman, and akLaff seem to have a natural affinity for each other, most clearly on display, perhaps, in the middle section of the electric-period Miles Davis blues, "Jean Pierre," my favorite cut on the disc. Each man gets his day in the sun with a brief solo, but it's really more of a rhythm-section ensemble passage.
Waldron himself has many memorable moments, especially his mournful solo on the Japanese popular song, "Red Shoes," where he delves deep and masterfully uncovers its mournful heart. Another favorite bit is his remarkable accompaniment to Eddie Henderson muted solo on "My Dear Family," which magically segues into a marvelously poignant piano solo remarkable for its understated beauty.
February 11, 2010
By Nikolaus Arnold
My Dear Family
Everything one could love about JAZZ is here.
The good stuff. It is here. JAZZ.
JAZZ is the best and this is real JAZZ.
I love JAZZ music. I love it every day of my life and this
record makes me very happy.
Jazz makes this world a BETTER PLACE!
God, this is a very very very fine recording.
March 2012 Wall Street Journal on Don Byron's New Gospel Quuintet
Pheeroan makes The Wire on the "10 best grooves of all time"
Pheeroan in France's Jazz Hot magazine on the re-release of House of Spirit:Mirth
AkLaff, Pheeroan - House of Spirit: Mirth
SKU 05-US 036
I've long known the great drummer Pheeroan AkLaff for his work with Anthony Davis' mind-blowingly great Episteme group in the 80s,
as well as many other ensembles and projects of 30 years ago and more recent ones as well, and now with Wadada Leo Smith in the Golden Quartet
and Organic. This is his first album as a leader and it's one that I didn't even know existed until this reissue!
"Drummer and composer Pheeroan AkLaff's House of Spirit:Mirth featured in Soul Jazz Record's recent revolutionary jazz covers book compiled by
Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz Records). This album was originally released in 1979 on the composer Oliver Lake's bespoke private-press label
Passin Thru' Inc., a not for profit label 'dedicated to fostering, promoting and advancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the arts.'
Consequently House of Spirit remains one of the most elusive deep jazz releases of its time to collectors. Aklaff was an original of the Detroit jazz scene
of the early 70s alongside musicians of the Tribe (Wendell Harrison, Phil Ranelin, Doug Hammond) and Strata collective (Kenny Cox and Charles Moore)
and local luminaries such as Travis Biggs before moving to New York in the mid-1970s to work at the centre of the vibrant loft/radical jazz scene.
Here he worked and recorded with original greats such as Oliver Lake, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Davis (with numerous releases on India Navigation
and other radical NY avant-jazz labels). At this time Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali became mentor to AkLaff , with Aklaff practically living at Ali's legendary
club/live space 'Ali's Alley'. House of Spirit: Mirth is one of the most radical of deep jazz releases of its time. Avant-garde beyond a doubt but with an Afro-centric
rhythmical intensity hard to find in the myriad of independent free/loft jazz recorded in New York at the time. This bespoke perfect replica reissue comes in a
limited edition hardback box-case CD edition.