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Anglo American by Gary Windo

Anglo American (AA) is an extremely wide-ranging retrospective of tenor saxophonist Gary Windo, made up of rare and previously unreleased music. Windo had an uncanny, chameleon-like ability to add to virtually any wildly varying musical situation in the realm of pop or jazz. After studying with Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano in 1960, his performing career included associations with the John Butterfield Blues Band, Suzi Quatro, The Psychedelic Furs, Carla Bley Band, and NRBQ, and many of his own groups to name just a few. His aesthetic seemed to be akin to that of the Beat poets: accepting of virtually everything but intolerance, and outwardly very easy-going. Yet inside was an artist who wanted to break down barriers and push limits to their breaking point.

In fact, he was something of a poet himself. The first track on AA, "Round Ginkie", opens with Windo reciting verse over an eastern flavored, meditative ostinato:

"Found it a little hard in the first three rounds but he dropped his guard, ya know, he got tired and I was able to get through. I got a couple o’ shots on his jaw, and I knew after the cut Under the left eye, and the right eye That the trombone was dyin’, and the trumpet player split his lip. I was in, ya know, w/ a chance at a solo. I swiftly hooked out the cymbals from under the drummers legs. I gave the alto player a quick smack in the mouth And I was able to get a solo"

Gary Windo: Jazz Pugilist! Miles would’ve gotten a kick out of this for sure. This first track is the only piece Windo plays completely on his own: Bass Clarinets, small bells, voice, and other hand percussion instruments (either tabla or conga). The ostinato is a very relaxed, contemplative 9/8 with wide open harmonies and rubato-ish, flowing percussion. It’s also the shortest piece on the CD at 1:52. I wish it was longer. For the material here that could be called jazz, this opening piece is easily the most accessible, or straight-ahead.

The other jazz found on AA is more in Windo’s avant-garde mode, which seemed to be his main modus operandi, and possibly the style closest to his heart. He played this style with ferocious conviction and energy. But since Windo was also very interested in rock music, and most of the material on AA is from the mid 70s to early 80s, there’s a strong leaning toward rock jams and psychedelia here as well as free jazz. The frame of reference in most of the music goes from Ayler, Coleman, and Brotzmann, to Cream, Captain Beefheart, and The Grateful Dead. Tunes like "Standfast", "Carmus", and "Spiderman", have large sections that could aptly be termed ‘psychedelic freak-outs’. Occasionally employing electric bass, guitar, and keyboards in favor of acoustic instruments, these Windo configurations would’ve fit perfectly on a bill with Miles and The Dead at the Fillmore. And, not coincidentally, these pieces were recorded during the same time period as those Fillmore shows. It was in the air, and Windo was doing some heavy breathing.

Alongside of the avant-garde rock and jazz on AA is the occasional relatively straight rock or R&B tune. Windo’s playing can at turns be gruff, strident, heady, or down-home. Whatever style or tone he employs, his playing always has a sense of immediacy, and more often than not a touch of whimsy. The closing tune, "Red River Valley", is particularly impressive. Toward the end of the tune, the band fades out, leaving Windo to play some blues ‘a cappella’. While staying true to the feeling of the tune, he weaves deep blues phrases in and around ‘free style’ squalling without missing a step or breaking the flow. This also seemed to be how the man lived his life and it’s a pleasure to hear.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Gary Windo
  • CD Title: Anglo American
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Cuneiform Records
  • Tracks: Round Ginkie, Standfast, Carmus, Spiderman, Take off, Anglo American, Is this the Time?, Quick Steps, Free to Go, The Sun and the Moon, Radio Improved, Baxter, Lassie Breaks Out, Red River Valley
  • Rating: Three Stars
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