NOAH HOWARD — The Black Ark (review)

NOAH HOWARD — The Black Ark album cover Album · 1972 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Rexorcist
Noah Howard is someone very few people actually know beyond maybe one album. Usually that album is The Black Ark, which some rank among the finest free jazz albums in the world. I'm a bit shaky on free jazz as it's proved more challenging to find releases that flat-out amaze me, and that much of it is based on general dicking around rather than forming a consistent whole with a strong vibe. Jazz is one of the pinnacle "vibe" musical genres, so if it doesn't have strong vibes.

The way I see Noah Howard's albums, including The Black Ark, is that if this is his absolute best as people and online ratings say, there's at least one certain thing here. Noah Howard has shown himself to be able to progress experimental jazz into shifting territories pretty well. I can appreciate how his songs are shifting into a new kind of rhythm ever couple minutes or so, maybe even every minute, whether slowly or quickly, and these pieces feel like they belong on the same song. Sometimes this is intriguing, but other times the album feels simple and generic. If you transitioned the post-bop of Art Blakey's albums, I think you'd get a similar composition but with more oomph.

This is especially true for the second half, in which the vast majority of tricks have either been done before, or are drawn out longer than their welcome. So this is a blatant sign of an obviously dominant side A. The album's pretty fine, but after having heard much of this not only from other free jazz albums but other jazz albums across the spectrum, I don't really feel the need to go back to this.
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