A distinction between a real release and a re-release sometimes is necessary, but not in the case of VISITATION, originally coming from Sackville Records (Bill Smith’s own label) in Canada in 1985 and brought back to its listeners by Boxholder in Vermont in 2003.
VISITATION breathes as if it were music that was recorded yesterday. Joe McPhee and the Bill Smith Ensemble play music that has no history assigned to it that is evident in the listening. It is the underground vein of music that has came up to visit its public. It is the kind of music that cooked in Europe in the 60’s and 70’s where innovation kept its face and in the 80’s was still to be in the undercurrents, but nevertheless existing.
This music is not easy listening, electronic or fusion. The music is wide-open, sometimes dark, but is exploratory on the simplest of planes, especially the scale. The violin and brass combinations serve to pry open the door to expression and keep the door open. The drones & unisons impact and drive home a solid statement of indivisibility of the group as it works as a whole . The Americanisms of fanfare salute a seeming abandonment of the expectations that the music is supposed to produce for the listener. The celebratory nature of the music embraces newness and yet yields to history and its imperative of influence. The violin and brass combinations also address a slant that is very academic, not in the sense of rarefied, but in the sense of studious, serious, experimental. The drums and bass put themselves into the main lines of the discovery process of the improvisations in a manner that creates them as independent, of the utmost integrity and indispensable.
More power to those record companies that speed up the cultural lag and remind the listening audience that creative improvised music has an inherent universality that allows it to be heard in any place at any time and make as much sense in one place and time as in another.