When I and the world were younger and the Jazz Composers Orchestra Association was distributing all kinds of interesting avant jazz and new music, sometime in the mid-seventies, I came across Heiner Stadler's first, then second volume of Brains on Fire. I was attracted by the impressive personnel line-up, people like Reggie Workman, Jimmy Owens, Tyrone Washington, Lenny White, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Joe Farrell.
Once I heard it a few times though I was most impressed with Mr. Stadler as a jazz composer. His charts had looseness, freedom and a thoroughly developed avant writing style that gelled and made the listening a very illuminating go. Here was an expanded tonality handled with a post-Russell aplomb and interepreted with verve and fire by some of the best jazz musicians around.
So when I was sent a copy of the new two-CD reissue, complete with a large amount of unrelased material (Labor 7069), I was happy. The original music still sounds terrific; the new pieces/performances give still more good reasons to have this set in one's collection.
Perhaps most intriguing of the new material is "Bea's Flat," a 24-minute rearrangement of an old Russ Freeman number, for the Big Band of the North German Radio Station (with Schoof, Dudek and Mangelsdorff). But it's all good.
Lovers of free-composed modern jazz need to check this one out.