Anders Gahnold Trio - Flowers for Johnny

Paul Donnelly, eJazzNews

The flowers of the title may allude to David Murray's composition for Albert Ayler but in this case they are offered to Johnny Dyani, the fiery, spirited musician who occupied the bass place in bands like The Blue Notes, Brotherhood of Breath and his own Witchdoctor's Son. He was one of those prodigiously talented South African exiles, along with Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo, Mongesi Feza and Chris MacGregor, who arrived in London in the 1970s to make an immediate and memorable impact on the scene.

That is one well documented chapter but Dyani went into a second exile. Having escaped the draconian fist of apartheid, he also left London for Sweden, which is where this wondrous double cd was recorded.
Ayler Records have taken two live sessions from 1983 and 1985 and preserved what Dyani, Gahnold and fellow South African, drummer Gilbert Matthews, offered to a justifiably responsive audience.
Gahnold is something of a discovery for me with his fluid, sometimes raspy alto style. His playing echoes the inventions of both Charlie Parker and Mike Osborne, flitting over the changes but equally at home with something more visceral. His voice may well become one of those which is as instantly recognisable as the other two.
But it is as a unit that these players make their impact. Take 'Sound Check' for example, from the 1983 session. Right from the start they are tight and cohesive, with Gahnold's alto mercurial and assured and Dyani's dancing, sliding bass lines in close tandem with Matthew's diverse percussion. This suggests these men have an unerring sense of communion, a spiritual unity, as Ayler said. Alongside the forward propulsion of much of the track there are moments of lyrical calm, especially when Gahnold steps out unaccompanied.
Similarly, 'Gilbert's Blues' is a high energy bop workout with Dyani walking, strumming and plucking while Gahnold unreels torrential streams, barely pausing for breath. Their take on the waltz, 'Waltz For Kai-Ola', is suitably stretched out and flexible too, displaying the trio's powerful unity as well as proving how spacious this music can be. Dyani's resonant tone is particularly well recorded here as he runs through his range of techniques. It made me wish he'd recorded some solo bass at some point in his all too short career.
From the second disc my personal highlight is their version of 'Summertime'. They start out cool and languorous, playing the theme straight, Gahnold's alto singing pure and clear. Gradually tension is built as they extend the bluesy, sometimes abrasive approach to Gershwin's perennially popular tune. Again, Dyani's playing, both as part of the trio and solo, is like a heartbeat, vital and affirming. Sadly, just a year after this magnificent session he was dead.

I'm just grateful that Ayler Records have preserved this material and made such flawlessly recorded improvisations available. I can't recommend it highly enough.