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Hear Alan Braufman's Valley Of Search

June 2018

An exclusive stream of the newly remastered version of the US saxophonist's 1975 free jazz LP

Brooklyn born Berklee graduate Alan Braufman recorded Valley Of Search with Cecil McBee, Cooper-Moore, Ralph Williams and David Lee in his New York City loft on Canal Street in 1975. The LP was released by Bob Cummins's India Navigation imprint at the time. On 29 June, it will be reissued for the first time by Braufman's nephew's imprint, also named Valley Of Search.

“What we know of Downtown New York comes from the countercultural and creative flowering that emerged in lower Manhattan in the 1960s,” writes Clifford Allen in the reissue's sleevenotes, “attributable to cheap live-work spaces called lofts. These were often abandoned and disused small manufacturing spaces and they became a nexus for artistic practice and life. From a jazz perspective, lofts were alternatives to the club scene, and they gained notoriety in the 1970s. Places like Studio We, Studio Rivbea, The Ladies’ Fort, Ali’s Alley and Environ became central in the development of the new music. But even the underground had an underground, and the happenings at 501 Canal Street on the West Side were a point of activity in which a small but dedicated number of people took part.

“In 1973 a cadre of free improvising musicians relocated from Boston to lower Manhattan: pianist Gene Ashton (now known as Cooper-Moore), bassist Chris Amberger, and saxophonists David S. Ware and Alan Braufman. All had studied at Berklee College of Music, though they stood apart from most collegiate musicians. Ashton secured the building at 501, and the rent for the each of the four usable floors was $140 a month. The first floor became a performance space, while Ware and Braufman took the front and back of the second floor, respectively. Ashton was on the third floor with his young family, and Amberger was on the fourth. Later, drummer Tom Bruno and his partner vocalist Ellen Christi would take Amberger’s spot. Along with bassist David Saphra and drummer Ralph Williams, the Braufman-Ashton unit became the house band, rehearsing regularly and performing in the storefront.

Valley Of Search is a document of the music at 501 Canal, but it’s also a document of relationships – people who lived or worked together and were humanly close. Braufman met Bob Cummins, the founder of India Navigation Company, at a party at McBee’s apartment in Harlem. The label had just been conceived, and Braufman would be its second artist. McBee, Lee and Williams were obvious foils for their place in the saxophonist’s work and life, the latter providing a bevy of instruments that he would later apply to work with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. In late 1974, Cummins set up microphones in the building’s storefront, documenting two short sets by the band with no alternate takes or additional cuts.

Valley Of Search has enjoyed a cult status among followers of this music, and it captures a unique and very alive historical slice of New York’s creative improvised underground.”

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