Black Editions presents “Historic Music Past Tense Future,” the first ever album to feature the meeting of Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves and William Parker. Three of the towering figures in the history of Free Jazz forge an incredibly vital free music born from lifetimes of uncompromising, ceaseless artistry. “Historic Music Past Tense Future” is the inaugural release by Black Editions Archive and the first in a series of records that will present previously unreleased works featuring Milford Graves.
“In the end, the music expresses what it means to be alive, to act on behalf of life. It struts and rails, sings and screams. It confronts fear and anger and transcends them through beauty, sound, and honesty. It ́s not about false comfort, it ́s about truth—a knotty, complicated thing that calls for a knotty, complicated, and sometimes comfortless art..” —Ed Hazell, liner notes
“It ́s not easy, it ́s not a little Sunday ride. It ́s heavy.” —Peter Brötzmann
2002-03-29, in the front room of CBGBs, fourteen years after their last performance together, three of the defining musicians in Free Jazz history convened for a third & final time. Peter Brötzmann had once again successfully talked his way into the U.S. without a visa to play this concert (organized by Arts for Art) & concerts with a historic drummer of a different era, Walter Perkins (organized by eremite). On March 31 & April 1, Brötzmann & Perkins recorded their duo album -The Ink Is Gone-.
William Parker had just returned from concerts in Italy with the David S. Ware Quartet. On April 2 & 3 he debuted his “Curtis Mayfield Inside Songs” project in Boston & Amherst. & he still found time to sit-in for the entire March 30 Brötzmann/Perkins Amherst Meetinghouse gig.
Scarcely to be found on bandstands & an even rarer presence on record, Milford Graves was a different story, a state of affairs that in 1995 prompted Thurston Moore to proclaim Graves “a living myth.” Between 1999 & 2015, Graves appears on just six recordings, two of those solo; Brötzmann & Parker combined made half as many records the same week as this gig. It would be another sixteen years before Jake Meginsky’s documentary -Full Mantis- introduced the world outside to the Graves’ multiverse of music, natural science, herbal medicine & acupuncture, martial arts, & visionary cardiology.
The eremite Mobile Unit happened to be in the house March 29. The trio performed on a small riser facing the front door of CBGBs, with Graves’ hand-painted, Orisha-adorned double bass drum kit, captured in its full thunderous glory on this recording, occupying most of the available space.
Peter Brötzmann was steamrolling in the early 2000s. Decades into having earned his soldier-of-the-road title, he was indomitable everywhere with nearly everybody, yet the full expression of his musicality reached even higher planes in the company of equals. While his famous Mount Olympus power is in no way absent here, Brötzmann’s sensitivity & lyricism, attributes that appear throughout his work as a visual artist, were on this special occasion beautifully alive.
The case is just beginning to be sufficiently made for the magnitude of William Parker’s role in Free Jazz at the turn of the century. In 2002 he was already the prime mover of his New York community; as a bandleader & composer he was taking his music in newly expansive directions. As an instrumentalist & improvisor Parker had been playing in the Big Leagues since the 1970s. From the mid-sixties on Graves very rarely played with bassists, he had the low-end covered. From the time the two connected in the mid-1980s Parker was a near constant presence in Graves’ —albeit rather infrequent— ensemble concert appearances. That he found expressive spaces for himself in Graves’ avalanche of rhythm & sound is extraordinary testimony to Parker’s wide-open ears & skills. For this rather hastily set-up recording, Parker’s small amp was placed on a barstool behind Graves’ kit, yet you still clearly feel & hear Parker’s vivid contributions.
By 2002 Milford Graves was four decades into developing & refining his radical approach to drumming. Graves’ unique & unbounded creativity across multiple mediums is only recently entering the early stages of wider discovery & appreciation. -Historic Music Past Tense Future- is the first in a series of records on Black Editions Archive that will feature Milford Graves. Through previously unheard recordings & freshly engaged scholarship, Black Editions Archive aims to significantly enlarge Graves’ body of available recorded work & create new opportunities & contexts to experience his maverick genius.
The music here comes from a moment of relative high visibility for the Free Jazz continuum. Brötzmann & Parker, among others, were taking it to the people through relentless touring. DIY presenters & labels were endeavoring heroically to stand-in for the lack of support from more established entities. The post-CD era that would decimate this little environment was still some years away. Cheaper production methods & more accessible recording technology meant some musicians & bands of this time were rather heavily “documented”, as we used to say. This is no such band. This is a stand-alone recording of three of the greatest to ever do it, seen & heard together for the last time, until the end of time, on this night. —Michael Ehlers