Frank Wright Trio, The Earth

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Earth

Frank Wright Trio

Tenor saxophonist Frank Wright, who passed away in 1990 at age 54, was a pure energy musician, the power of whose playing was undeniable. He had no technique to speak of, nor did he have the tonal range of contemporaries Albert Ayler and Pharaoh Sanders. Nevertheless, in his own limited way, he was an important saxophonist: Much like Charles Gayle today, Wright's playing was the embodiment of a kind of ecstatic catharsis — a long, uncompromising wail. His music was both anguished and celebratory.

The debut album of a pure energy tenor saxophonist

On The Earth, Wright's first album, his waywardness is counterbalanced by the more measured playing of bass legend Henry Grimes and veteran avant-garde drummer Tom Price, both of whom serve to ground him. Still, the session is exhortatory, loud and intense. Wright works either in short declamatory bursts of sound — honks and gut-wrenching tones from the tenor's lower register — or by constructing very simple melodic motifs.

John Coltrane's legacy for his followers seems to have become one of sophisticated technical and harmonic advances; but his late-period work, although still formidable in these respects, concentrated on a much more emotional outpouring, a music focused almost purely on non-linear concentrations of sound. This part of his playing has been less investigated by succeeding generations of saxophonists. Frank Wright was one of the few who took Coltrane's late period as the most significant message he had to offer. The Earth is a quintessential example of the kind of music Coltrane was pointing to, reduced to its most elemental form.