Levels and Degrees of Light album cover
Levels and Degrees of Light

Muhal Richard Abrams

Delmark Records

One of the earliest AACM recordings, Levels and Degrees of Light also marks Anthony Braxton’s studio debut. He’s part of an incredible band that includes Abrams on piano and clarinet, tenor saxophonist Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, violinist Leroy Jenkins, vibraphonist Gordon Emmanuel, bassists Charles Clark and Leonard Jones, percussionist Thurman Barker, and vocalists Penelope Taylor and David Moore, the latter of whom recites a poem on the 23-minute “The Bird Song.” That piece also includes recordings of birdsong as well as striking solos from Braxton and Jenkins. Abrams’ music on this date was highly orchestrated and thought-out; the saxophonists’ “free” eruptions came at strictly delineated points, part of a much larger picture that blurred the lines between jazz, modern composition, and even opera. This was a sign that even at the beginning, the members of the AACM were up to something major.

Phil Freeman

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