12. Way out West

Sho’ Nuff Blues, Bobby Bradford and the Mo’ Tet. Lost in LA, 1984

Now here’s a man who doesn’t get enough attention. Bobby Bradford, the thumbnail biographies agree, began his musical life with Ornette Coleman, but mostly stayed in Los Angeles, teaching, after Coleman left. He played on Ornette’s Science Fiction sessions years later, but his discography apart from that is pretty sparse – a collection of hard to find performances with his musical soulmate clarinettist John Carter, a few appearances with David Murray, and a handful of sessions in clubs with pick-up bands.

Then there’s this, as far as I know the only recording by his own group, the Mo’ Tet, which nurtured generations of young players in LA. I don’t know if the album title is a reference to Bradford’s perceived obscurity as a West coaster – if so, it’s not reflected in the music.

This edition of the band has two bassists. Like two drummers this is nearly always a good idea, and Roberto Miguel Miranda and Mark Dresser drive things along merrily. James Kousakis, who I can find no info about at all at this remove, has a piercing tone on alto, and drummer-about-town Sherman Ferguson takes to this freebop session wonderfully well.

But it is Bradford who makes it, really. As James Newton writes here there’s something special about his trumpet sound. It has air in it, somehow, and a vocal quality that brings his near Ornette-level stream of melodic invention alive.

These are Bradford’s tunes, and Sho’ Nuff is a good example. A neat little riff that still has a hummable twist to it, dancing over the beat – rhythm and blues here. Bradford’s gorgeous solo is followed by Kousakis, who I’m guessing is raising his game in this company, a bit of fun from the two basses, then the two horns together. All simple enough, but satisfying with it.

It’s a sunny, outgoing record. All the tunes are somehow straightforward, but memorable, like this. Ever since this release, I’ve been on the lookout for more from him in this vein, but it’s never really shown up* so I dig this one out again instead. (Death of a Sideman – a session credited to Davis Murray as leader – comes close, as this later rendition of one of the tunes from that Bradford-penned suite indicates.)

Bradford is now 86, but was still producing new work a couple of years ago..

That seems to be the way it goes. A handsome commission, performed a few times (see the background here), posted on youtube but not much viewed but, once again, not otherwise recorded. So I’m grateful this particular band went into the studio at least that one time.

A final puzzle. At least one edition of Cook and Morton’s Guide gives this two stars, and calls it “curiously unsatisfactory”. I beg to differ.

Full album here.

Why the No 12? 

This is one of a series running (in no particular order) through 2021. I explain a bit what it’s doing here.

And I’m going to collect them all on this page.

*This is weird. A short version of these pieces is posted each week on LondonJazz news (thanks folks). This one has a link at the bottom, to this review, written in 2016 of a recording by Mr Bradford three years earlier. It even features Mark Dresser. I’d completely forgotten that – and, as I had no vinyl, just a listening link and if there’s a file it’s on a computer not currently charged, it might as well never have been in the house. Apparently I only remember things now that happened in the twentieth century…

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