This double CD fills in a long lost missing link in Northwest jazz history. Recorded live in 1973 and 1974 at various small venues in Portland and Seattle, the music is played by a quartet led by the late, legendary - but seldom-recorded - Seattle pianist (and bassist) Jerry Heldman, who from 1965-68 presided over the Llanghaelhyn, a coffee house on Eastlake located in the turreted, fairy-tale building by the University bridge.
Heldman, who died last year, was a self-taught, highly intuitive musician who bootstrapped himself into the complex styles of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner. But Heldman's larger importance was that his club, which had an open-door policy for novices, served as a bridge between the old guard mainstream and the expressive abstractions of the avant-garde. This album marks the first time that music has come to light.
Bassist David Friesen, who retrieved these tapes, first met Heldman in 1964 and was immediately attracted to him because they both had been inspired by the breathing, guitar-like work of Evans bassist Scot LaFaro. The music here reflects not only that openness and interplay, but the blissful serenity - and, sometimes, obsession - of the times. Though there's some drum-and-flute "hippie music," and Heldman doesn't always hit the ambitious heights he's shooting for, more often than not, he does, creating moments when the sound swells to bountiful climaxes, particularly on "Sickle," "44 Bar Tune" and "Three Directions," a waltz translation of "All Blues."
Despite crowd noise and inevitable live-recording imbalances, this is rich, rumbling, wonderful stuff. Guitarist Sam LiPuma - who apparently still works in Chicago - is a lovely revelation, and drummer Allan Pimentel drives the proceedings with authority.
Thank you, David Friesen.