HOWARD RILEY — Flight (review)

HOWARD RILEY — Flight album cover Album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
Sean Trane
Amongst the better-rated albums of Riley is Flight, where Howard performs (as usual) in a piano-dominated trio, this time with Barry Guy (contrabass) and Tony Oxley (drums), and it seems the logical continuation of the previous album. The non-descript artwork describes fairly well the music held on the slice of wax, and it was recorded in one session in the early spring of 71. Flight is definitely another experimental foray into dissonant sonic framework that can almost qualify as musique concrete, if it wasn’t played with “normal” instruments. The opening sidelong Motion is certainly a very challenging piece, but the dissonance and improvisation remains accessible for the patient and adventurous jazzhead. As opposed to Angle, Riley lets his acolytes some “songwriting” space, but it doesn’t make the musical propos easier on the listener.

As for the flipside, it forays a tad more in the dissonant region, with Oxley’s Cirrus track, completely disjointed and even atonal, followed by the Guy-penned Forgotten Game, where Riley’s piano seems to wonder aimlessly on any scale it happens to find itself. Difficult stuff, really!!. And just as you might think that Two Ballads might be a return to normalcy, one can only wonder how Lesley and Sue actually appreciated the dissonant and disjointed “songs” written for them, but my guess is that the later (more likely Barry Guy’s wife/girlfriend) was a tad luckier. The title track closes the aural hostilities directed at your sanity and a daring last stand, Riley almost abusing the piano, while Guy’s g-string on his contrabass gets stretched beyond reasonable. Definitely not the kind of album that you’d want to play to your latest conquest and get cosy with her. It’s always a bit of a wonder how such an album got a CD reissue, but FMR Records certainly has merits for doing so. Prefer the previous Angle album, as it makes much more sense to a nearly-sane jazzhead.

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