ALAN SILVA — Luna Surface (with Celestrial Communication Orchestra) (review)

ALAN SILVA — Luna Surface (with Celestrial Communication Orchestra) album cover Album · 1969 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
In one of his interviews, Alan Silva said this about this album: ""Luna Surface" is my idea of landing on the moon". This probably sounded a bit different in 1969, when this album was recorded, but it does give some idea of what one can expect.

Bermuda-born (to a local father and Azorean/Portuguese mother) Alan moved with his mother to New York when he was 5 and grew up in Harlem. During the 50s and 60s he played with many leading jazz musicians, including Sun Ra, Charles Mingus and Albert Ayler among others. "Luna Surface" is Silva's debut as a leader, and one of the most extreme albums of its time (even if that time was full of extreme music).

First of all, this is the first release from Silva's led Celestrial Communication Orchestra - a loose collective which will later play better structured and organized progressive big band music, and often written and conducted by Silva (he wouldn't perform himself on some later albums). The initial line-up contained the high adventure jazz stars of all times, including Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Kenny Burrell, Graham Moncur III, Malachi Favors, and Leroy Jenkins among others.

This album's concept was extreme freedom - everyone plays whatever he wants with no relation to what others do. In other words, each musician was a soloist, and all were soloists at the same time.

As a result, we got a noisy dissonant music which starts nowhere, and being high energy and dynamic, goes nowhere as well. One long piece (28+ minute) without even imitation of structure, development or any scenario. Peter Brotzmann's "Machine Gun" sounds like a well developed and organized work compared with "Luna Surface" (both albums were released at the same time).

But open eared listeners (with some experience in 60s free jazz or just brutal improv fans) will probably find its own beauty in this chaotic sound. To be honest, the main attraction comes from the two violins (Silva himself and Leroy Jenkins), soloing at the same time all album long (Silva plays the violin as a vertical bass, using a lot of the highest frequencies). The rest of the orchestra, most of the time, just produces over-orchestrated musical noise, where it is almost impossible to investigate who plays what. Still, at moments multiple sound layers demonstrate how better this recording could be by reducing the number of members and by using more progressive sound recording technologies.

In all cases, not the album for everyone, "Luna Surface" has been re-released many times and has historical value for sure. It's always interesting to know how some artists more than half a century ago imagined what landing on the moon would sound like.
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