Baikida Carroll – ‘Orange Fish Tears’ (1974)

Uncategorized July 2, 2024

Baikida Carroll – ‘Orange Fish Tears’ (1974)

Parisian label Souffle Continu keeps on strolling through the history of the capital’s jazz undergrounds.

With its work on the PALM catalog, it is tackling one of the most interesting—even if widely overlooked—independent labels of the 1970s. Operated by pianist, composer, and engineer Jef Gilson, PALM’s identity was stepped in the distinctiveness of the featured musicians and in the subtle sonic identity of the records produced.

Orange Fish Tears, Baikida Carroll’s leader debut, is a case in point. Recorded in June 1974, the date presented the trumpeter and composer with close collaborator Oliver Lake on saxophones, Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, and Chilean pianist Manuel Villarroel. The date did away with the foundational layers usually provided by trap sets and basses, the musicians doubling on various “small” instruments in the tradition associated with Chicago’s avant-garde and St. Louis’ Black Artists’ Group, Carroll and Lake’s former collective.

The forms used across the album’s four tracks were equally open. They ranged from atmospheric soundscape to trumpet-saxophone duo, to a pointillistic group conversation populated by sparse sounds answering short runs and palpable interstitial silences. ‘Forest Scorpion,’ a denser piece combining powerful percussion with blistering free horn solos, is an obvious first favorite. But repeated listening can lead to reconsideration. Indeed, nothing here feels random, instead, this is detailed music that knows how to breathe and control its pulse, stretching where it intents to go with a firm grip.

PALM’s visual identity was part of the label’s appeal. The presence (exclusive to the vinyl version of this reissue) of an 8-page booklet of unseen Thierry Trombert photographs should be noted. When he released the album in late 1974, Gilson described it as his favorite PALM production. His rationale was not what could be expected: “Orange Fish Tears is the product of collective work between musicians and engineer that went far beyond the standard “recording session” of a jazz ensemble,” Gilson wrote, adding that Carroll used intricate overdubbing techniques. The only obvious thing about the album’s sonics is how good they are. As Gilson confirms, this is layered music that still deserves close examination 50 years on.

Pierre Crépon

Baikida Carroll – ‘Orange Fish Tears’ (Souffle Continu reissue)

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