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Quelques souvenirs
Un message de mon ami musicien Clifford Thornton. C'est à ses côtés ainsi qu'avec Steve Lacy que j'ai pris mes premières leçons de free-jazz.
Ce message de Clifford Thornton a été punaisé sur ma porte lorsque j'habitais à Carouge près de Genève.
Clifford Thornton était un excellent pédagogue et il a apporté aux jeunes musiciens que nous étions une approche captivante du jazz.
C'est sous son influence que j'ai créé l'«Aerophonic Orchestra».

Clifford Thornton jouait de la trompette et du trombone et est l'un des pionniers du freejazz.

Né à Philadelphie le 6 septembre 1936 il a étudié avec le trompettiste Donald Byrd dans le milieu des années 1950 et a travaillé avec le joueur de tuba Ray Draper. Après un passage dans l'armée il s'est installé à New York et a joué avec de nombreux groupes de jazz avant-gardiste, apparaissant comme sideman avec des artistes remarquables tels que Sun Ra et Sam Rivers.

Son premier album date de 1967 «Freedom & Unity» et a été enregistrée un jour après les funérailles de John Coltrane. Cet enregistrement est aussi la première apparition enregistrée de Joe McPhee, un autre saxophoniste de cette période freejazz.

Militant du Black Panthers il a été interdit de séjour en France en 1970 à la suite d'un concert de soutien à ce mouvement.

Clifford Thornton a passé ses 15 dernières années en Europe. Il est décédé à Genève le 25 novembre 1983.






Plusieurs de ses albums ont été réédités sur CD.


En tant que leader:

  • Freedom & Unity (Unheard Music Series, 1967) avec Karl Berger, Jimmy Garrison, John McCortney, Joe McPhee, Don Moore
  • Ketchaoua (BYG Actuel, 1969) avec Dave Burrell, Claude Delcloo, Earl Freeman, Beb Guérin, Arthur Jones, Grachan Moncur III, Sunny Murray, Archie Shepp
  • The Panther and the Lash (America Records, 1970) avec Beb Guérin, Noel McGhie, François Tusques
  • Communications Network (Third World Records, 1972) avec Jerome Cooper, Jayne Cortez, Nathan Davis, Jerry Gonzalez, Jay Hoggard, L. Shankar, Sirone
  • The Gardens of Harlem (JCOA, 1974) avec Roland Alexander, Carla Bley, Pat Patrick, Marvin Peterson, Dewey Redman, Wadada Leo Smith, Bob Stewart, Carlos Ward

Comme sideman:

Avec Dave Burrell (pianiste):

  • Echo (1969)

Avec Archie Shepp (saxophoniste ténor):

  • Coral Rock
  • Black Gipsy
  • Attica Blues
  • Archie Shepp and the Full Moon Ensemble
  • Live au Pan-Africain Festival
  • Yasmina, a Black Woman
  • Pitchin Can

Avec Joe Mc Phee (saxophoniste ténor):

  • Survival Unit II, N.Y.N.Y 1971

Clifford Thornton

composer, arranger, cornet, valve trombone, shenai, cabasa, bell


The jazz Composer's Orchestra

Conducted by Jack Jeffers

ritmo africano


Kobena Adzenyah

nnawuronta, apentima, oprenten, ntrowa, conga, sogo, atsimevu

Jerry Gonzales

kónkolo bata, kaganu, quinto, tumba, bell, palos

Milton Cardona

itótele, bata, tumba

Gene Golden

iyá, bata, tumba, palos

Vincent Jorge

tumba, axatse, conga

Asante Darkwa

gankogui, nnaronta, bell

Laxmi G. Tewari

axatse, kidi, ntrowa

Art Lewis

trap set

Andy Gonzales




Carla Bley




Bob Stewart




Charles Stevens


Janice Robinson




John Thompson

french horn

Gregory Williams

french horn



George Barrow

baritone sax, flute

Pat Patrick

tenor, soprano sax

Roland Alexander

tenor sax

Carlos Ward

alto sax, flute

Dewey Redman

alto tenor, flute



Clifford Thornton


Michael Ridley


Marvin Peterson


Leo Smith


Ted Daniel

trumpet, flügelhorn

 Special appreciation and gratitude to my ancestors, especially my parents and grandparents.
For my son Kevin and all the harlems everywhere.

  O Desayo (8:02)

Soloists: Roland Alexander, Clifford Thornton

0 DESÃYO. A Jamaican interpretation of a hail and farewell song with variations, sung by children: a group of boys responding to a group of girls in the lead. The melody, is of Angolan origin.

  Ogún Bára (5:46)

Soloist: Janice Robinson

OGÚN BÁRA. An Afro-Cuban (Lucurni) interprétation of a chant from Recife, Brazil which originates among the Yoruba of Nigeria. It represents the type of religious incantation which precedes a performance of ritual dance for Ogún, Orisha of iron and fire; protector of hunters, warriors, blacksmiths... and spirit of their tools. Ogún holds dominion over hunting andbattle; oaths are sworn on his symbols (iron tools and weapons).

  Agbadzá (extrait de 4:30)

Soloists: Marvin Peterson, Michael Ridley, Clifford Thornton

AGBADZÁ. Originally from Dahomey a social dance derived from the traditional after-war dance called Atrikpui, among the Ewe of Ghana. Formerly, strong restrictions limited both the time and place for performance of the Atrikpui dance. It could only be danced after war, when the warriors were reaching home; and it had to be danced at the outskirts of the town or village where people would go out to meet the returning soldiers. Atrikpui is still danced, and the songs are repositories of military folklore.

Today, the occasions for Atrikpui are still ceremonial but no longer military, although male dancers must wear knives. In the absence of tribal war, Atrikpui has evolved as Agbadzá, which is now the popular dance for social recreation. As in other dances, Agbadzá songs are in two classes: Hatsyiatsya songs and the main dance songs. More than half are in the former group. Their characteristic feature is that they are free songs and are unaccompanied by rhythm. Some are semi- free: the first half is free and in the middle it becomes metrical and people begin clapping or beating time. We use such a song with free rhythm, as the preliminary song or introduction.

  Changó Obarí (4:33)

CHANGÓ OBARÍ. Soloist: Leo Smith. An Afro-Cuban (Lucumi) interpretation of a chant from Pernambuco. Brazil of Yoruba origin. The chant is a religions incantation to Changó Orisha of thunder, lightning and fire, who is called upon for protection against natural elements. The lyrics to this chant are in Nago (Dahomey) dialect; an adaption of those lyrics becane popular in the United States. Changó actually was king among the ancient Yoruba - a fierce warrior-king who personifies masculinity and virility. His symbol is the double-bladed ax.

  Gospel Ballade (4:44)

GOSPEL BALLADE. Soloist: Carla Bley, Charles Stevens. A somewhat traditional ballad of uncertain origin, inspired by Abyssinian Baptist Choir of New York City during service.

  Sweet Oranges (1:08)

SWEET ORANGES. A somewhat traditional street vendors 's cry, inspired by a fruit and vegetable seller heard in Columbia. South Carolina.

  Blues City (8:57)

BLUES CITY. Soloists: George Barrow, Ted Daniel, Dewey Redman . An extended (14 bar) blues constructed on a mode. Harlem on my mind.

In 1969, what had long been more than an interest for me in West african music became a formal and continuous study. This study was to involve both academic research and performance. I feel fortunate to have had the benefit of the wisdom, skills and experience of Professer Fela Sowande of Nigeria and Kobena Adzennyah of Ghana in these respective pursuits. It was in Algiers, also in 1969, at the First Pan-African Cultural Festival (sponsored by the Organization of African Unity), that I made first-hand contact with this music on the "mother earth".

In 1970 I briefly visited Ghana, Togo, Dahomey, Nigeria and Cameroon. Later that summer I performed in Tunisie. Growing up in New York, the easily accessible music of the Caribbean and South American countries becomes our live connector to this African heritage: particularly the music of Cuba, Haiti and Brazil.

A trip to the Caribbean in the summer of 1972 provided focus on the differences in the evolution of styles and interpretations of ancient West African origin.

Ideas which had begun to formulate as early as 1968, and which were fertilized beginning in 1969, had become a tentative score by May 1972 which was read through in a public JCOA works-in-progress workshop at that time. Ten of the orchestra musiciens, includinq five of the African rhythm section, have lived with this music from that beginning through the public workshops, private rehearsals and recording. A period of almost two years passed, during which I revised the score twice. The players are my personal choices and collectively bring wide expérience in this idiom. All are greatly admired by me, and most are friends and colleagues of long standing.

My objectives in this work have been authenticity (traditional, historic validity) and contemporaneity. The challenge of writing for and working with large, ensembles has always interested me. My first influences in this direction as a child were the big bands of Basie, Eckstine, Gillespie, Machito and Puente. Later, I had the good fortune of working with the orchestras of Sun Ra, Bill Dixon, Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp and the JCOA. This piece, conceived as a linkage of chronological and geographical themes, traces the continuum from West to North Africa, to the Caribbean, the Southeastern United States, to Harlem. Most of this music is based on indigenous source material, especially the rhythmic basic and, to some extent, melodic content as well. Essenticially, these are instrumental versions of vocal melodies, with the exceptions of Aïn Salah and Blues City. With harmony, an attempt was made to capture the essence of the varions vocal and choral styles, flavoring them with contemporary harmonic devices where this did not threaten idiomatic integrity.

The spiritual and psychological fulfillment resulting from re-establishing the relationship with the traditional ethos... aesthetic... is boundless. It continually re-energizes, re-inspires and re-affirms the sense of direction. At the same time, it serves chiefly as a balance between the inner-self and the environment. This is, in part, the role and function of music in traditional African societies and among peoples of primarily African derivation. In this connection, music is vital to both religious and secular life for the same reasons and is manifested in the same ways. It is the core and foundation, the language of both religious and philosophic thought. The spirit, which informs an object or living thing must be HEARD to be completely experienced, understood and felt. It cannot be merely described or otherwise shown... HEAR, then, the fruit of The Gardens of Harlem.

Clifford Thornton*

*Clifford Thornton is Assistant Professer of Music at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, where he founded and directs the Program in African American Music.

I am deeply grateful for the contributions of Michael Mantler, Jack Jeffers, Christine Jakobs, Manuel Amaez, Marilyn Harris, Ron Ancrum, Eddie Korvin and Fred Seibert to this undertaking. This project has been made possible with Assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Music ©1972, Third World Music, BMI.
Produced by Clifford Thornton and the Jazz Composer's Orchestra
Associate Producer: Fred Seibert
Recorded April 4, 1974: Blue Rock Studio, NYC.
Recording and Mix Engineer: Eddie Korvin
Mastering: Harry N. Fein, CBS.
Front cover painting: mural done by elementary school students at Public School 125 on a fence at 121st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Harlem, USA.
Photographe: Christine Jakobs (2,3), Rufus Nickens (1)
Back cover print: Momodou Ceesay
Cover design: Susan Rivoir
Printed in USA.
©1975, JCOA Records.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-750279

JCOA RECORDS is the record label of the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association, Inc., a non-profit organization.

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