Roughly twenty years ago, Thurston Moore’s iconic Top Ten From The Free Jazz Underground appeared in Grand Royal Magazine. Though already well down the rabbit hole of my lifelong love affair with Free Jazz, the list was back to front revelations – largely sculpting what would come to be my subsequent tastes. There were only two problems with it. Thurston is a serious a record collector – particularly of Free-Jazz. What the list failed to imply, was that these records were already extremely hard to find by 1996 – many being private press, and issued in slim editions. As lists tend to do, it didn’t help matters – sending fans scrabbling through the crates, pushing the prices high. For all these years, I’ve been ticking them off one by one. I’m nearly there, but a few still elude my grasp. I have my favorites, and figure the rest will come as they may.
Of course my own Top Ten wouldn’t be exactly the same. I’d trade out the Burrell, Colbeck, Brown, Taylor and Iinkai LPs for Noah Howard’s The Black Ark, Clifford Thornton’s Communications Network, Maurice McIntyre’s Humility In The Light Of Creator, Mtume Umoja Ensemble’s Alkebu-Lan – Land Of The Blacks and Bill Dixon’s Son Of Sisyphus. The Murray I have and adore, but I might drop it in the ring with one of Charles Tyler or John Carter’s many triumphs – and I’ve failed mention the entire AACM (accept for McIntyre). I mean shit.. how can you ever choose?! What I can say for sure, is that the Doyle, Graves, Ali/ Lowe, Watts, BAG, Wright, and the Brotzmann are unlikely to ever fall off my own Top Ten list. They are among the most astounding musical triumphs I have ever encountered, and I have Thurston to thank for most. Of all the seething wild energy his list brought into my life, one was particularity surprising – towering in my esteem above all the rest – John Tchicai And Cadentia Nova Danica’s Afrodisiaca, issued by MPS in 1969.
John Tchicai And Cadentia Nova Danica – Afrodisiaca (1969)
John Tchicai was probably the first European born player I discovered. By the time Thurston’s Top Ten appeared, I had fallen in love with his playing in the New York Contemporary Five, The New York Art Quartet, with Coltrane and Shepp, and within the incredible New York Eye And Ear Control LP where he shares billing with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Gary Peacock, and Sonny Murray – one of the greatest line ups there ever was.
Tchicai was born in Denmark and appeared in New York sometime during the early 60’s. His immediate soaring credentials, speak to his astounding skill as a player. By the end of the 60’s, as most of the brightest and boldest players of his generation began to migrate to Europe, Tchicai did the same. Unlike the rest, who largely went to Paris – the legacy of which is documented on the iconic BYG Actuel series and within the America catalog (among others), Tchicai returned to Denmark, got involved with the Instant Composers Pool, and then ventured out on his own with a project called Cadentia Nova Danica.
John Tchicai – Cadentia Nova Danica (1970)
Afrodisiaca, the project’s first outing, isn’t easy to find. I lost more than a few years to the hunt, but it is one of the cheaper LPs on Thurston’s list – generally hovering around the $50 mark. It’s worth every penny – an intricate, delicate, piece of sonic intellectualism. It has few equivalents (as you can hear above). For roughly a decade, I sank into its depths – thinking it was the only document of this remarkable project. Then a few years back, while picking through the WFMU record fair, I pulled out another from the stack. Issued by Polydor UK in 1970, I mistook it for a different pressing of the first. The track listing didn’t line up. Much to my surprise, there were two. The band’s second LP, though largely the same ensemble as the first, appeared under Tchicai’s name alone – using Cadentia Nova Danica as the title. It’s as good as the first. I wish you luck in the hunt.
Again thinking that was all there was, I was shocked to recently come across a film from Norwegian Television, documenting the group’s performance at the Molde International Jazz Festival in 1967 – two years before their first LP. It falls between the New York Eye And Ear Control LP, and his first outing with Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg (who I sadly just learned passed away today) in the Instant Composers Pool – carving history in it’s midst. It may well be one of the project’s earliest performances, and finds them at their top their game. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
John Tchicai and Cadentia Nova Danica Live at the Molde International Jazz Festival (1967)