In Difficult woman, Geyer dismissed his colleagues – especially Shadwick and Norwell – as going beyond their abilities. It’s repetition, there are minor mistakes from all, but there’s also a unique tension in the music – music that tends to work best when it’s more atmospheric.
Shadwick plays an incendiary tenor, while his flute offers lovely swirls of early ’70s mysticism, and Norwell shows a knack for enunciating a fluid blend of jazz and rock.
Geyer may have sung with more accomplished musicians, and certainly with more skilled musicians, but I’m not sure she sang with many who had set their sights so high in the creative cosmos.
Shadwick’s tomorrow is gone is a gem of free-jazz, and his sound on Pharoah Sanders’ Hum-Allah-hum-Allah-hum-Allah could chip the paint off the walls. The rock side of the band (I thought I knew my mind), meanwhile, was strongly linked to the psychedelia of the time. Once you have skipped a questionable spoken word introduction, foolish persuasion also casts a spell and is among the pieces to include the Soft Machine-like fuzz bass played by Correy. Smaller offerings include Meanders When I reach out for your handand sea of tranquilitywho cannot escape his hippie haze.
Unlike many jazz-tinged progressive rock bands in England, Sun were never disappointed with their vocals. Smith sings with insane freedom in the days when the band was doing covers of Sanders, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Nat Adderley and Max Roach – hardly material that a conventional jazz band of the time would have played. Ford was less aware than Geyer of getting into improvisation, and its unlikely lineup is on full display on Lonely George.
With Geyer, you hear the tug of war between his R&B comfort zone and the freer, jazzier and more moody tracks. The two can, however, converge brilliantly, as in Sonnenberg’s haunting film The messagewith Geyer plunging into the depths of her range, and singing with such murderous power that she calls up a sudden blazing guitar solo.
She’s in her element mourning Nils Lofgren Try against the light, slamming funk, and on the blues 12/8 of 18 minutes, blue sunshe outlines a stellar career to follow, daringly improvising in dialogue with tenor and guitar, and eclipsing both.
The sound quality inevitably varies (with Sonnenberg’s guitar sometimes too dominant), but it’s never less than listenable, and sensational at times. The main difference from the only official album is that these rehearsal tapes better indicate the band’s sheer audacity in concert.
Sun, The Rehearsal Tapes 1971-1973, is now available through ETT Imprint; Renee Geyer plays Runaway Gardens, September 18.
A cultural guide to go out and love your city. Sign up for our Culture Fix newsletter here.