It's only been a couple of months since Philly-based saxophonist Byard Lancaster left this earth. We will not forget him. He walked tall when he was with us, a continuinly innovative force for the new jazz, with deep roots.
And that's the Byard you hear to good advantage on his 2005 outing Ancestral Link Hotel (CIMP 340). It's a date that sports a lineup especially conducive for showcasing Byard the improvisor and multi-reed man. In addition to an Afro-flute and some "small instruments" he holds forth on soprano, alto and tenor sax. He is the sole horn on the date. Joining him are two acoustic bassists, Ed Crockett and Bert Harris, and the drum support of Harold E. Smith.
Byard seems intent on covering the roots that came together to help form his musical identity. And he does so with grace, fire and Lancastrian style.
So we get a nicely Afro-tribal hommage on "Ancestral Link Hotel", an Ayleresque gospel revival that gets him speaking in tongues on "Holy Buddy," the down and gritty "Slow Blues in G," some hard bop and beyond classics in "Milestones" and "Killer Joe", a free scorcher in "Searching" and lastly, a beautifully wrought unaccompanied soprano sax closer with "You Decide."
It's a portrait of a fine jazz artist on a fine session with a fine band. There is truly no timely way to leave this earth, ultimately, but there are surely timely things to leave behind for those who remain. Ancestral Link Hotel is an appropriate testament to Byard Lancaster, the beautiful soul, the expressive master of music. RIP.