Lookout Farm ‘At Onkel Pö’s, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1975’ LP/CD (Jazzline) 3/5

This 1975 recording, at Hamburg’s Onkel Pö’s, came a year or so after Miles Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Richie Beirach’s Lookout Farm had released their first, highly acclaimed eponymous album on ECM. As per that album the rest of the band is made up of core characters: bassist Frank Tusa, drummer Jeff Williams and percussionist Badal Roy. Alas no John Abercrombie tonight.

We’ve got five tracks; three Liebman penned originals plus Coltrane’s “Your Lady” and Sinatra’s “I’m a Fool to Want You”. It’s roughly an hour’s worth of ferocious fusion/free jazz with its feet erratically dancing/moshing around that mid-70s post-Bitches Brew territory.

“The Iguana’s Ritual” happily tiptoes in with a playful Tusa pattern and Williams and Roy bouncing off each other before Roy tightens up the rhythm, allowing a delay-drenched Liebman to float and a Rhodes’d-up Beirach to squelch as Williams hits it hard and the band settle into a very punchy 14-minute funky fusion strut. Dirty.
Not sure you’d recognise Sinatra’s “I’m a Fool to Want You” until Liebman belts out his vision of the lines after six minutes or so, taking it to the end following a distinct but disconnected percussive part led by Roy and a slightly more connected cascading Beirach piano segue.

“Your Lady” is a handsome take on Trane’s tune. It effortlessly flows as Tusa confidently busies it along and Beirach dips in and out with brief stabbing lines. Tusa and Beirach drop out at roughly the eight-minute mark leaving Liebman and Williams to properly go at it; at the same pace but without the warmth, a battle ensues.

“Fireflies” is fast n funky. Tusa riffs, Williams flies and Beirach berates. Hostile n funky?! Liebman tries to take the heat out of it and the argument abates briefly but Tusa and Williams won’t let it lie for long and it all kicks off again leading to a spectacularly inflamed finale.

“Napanoch” is initiated by a sweet, lyrical Liebman solo before the fellas stumble in and within seconds the energy blazes white-hot. They come together and break apart, come together, break apart. Explosive. Merciless. Aggressively spiritual.

This album presents Liebman’s Lookout Farm at its fiercest. The quintet are really on it tonight. It’s relentless, kinda spacey and spiritual, high-energy, high-powered, high-quality, macho free-jazz rock. Not for the faint of heart, this one. It’s occasionally disjointed, a bit ‘harsh’ and messy maybe, but always exhilarating and driven.

Ian Ward