8 Bold Souls - Eight Bold Souls (1987), 5/10

This is a superbly unique and brave free jazz record, more akin to the 'fire music' roots of the genre than many later more cerebral releases from the group and creative music, yet displaying continued qualities of big band experimentation. There is some of the group's identifying structure throughout, but the chaos is intoxicating and overwhelmingly characteristic in the strong moments of the record. The dissonance is balanced perfectly against pleasing sonics and extraordinary, raw production, along with the aforementioned play with time and improv styles. The large sound is engaging right off the bat, launching into Richard Jess Brown Jr.'s unique bass tone and Dushun Mosley's equally unique drumming tone and style of playing. "The Hunt" has a droning yet enthralling sense of rhythm and melody followed by the simply beautiful "Shining Waters", letting Naomi Millender shine on cello as the lead. The group then launches into the beautifully chaotic "Dervish", a masterclass in melodic but also wonderfully free improvisation. Then "Favorite Son" closes things with standard 8 Bold Souls style big band swing. The release itself is accentuated by unique instrumental tones, individual performances, holistic band interplay and outstanding composition on the more structured tracks. While it clearly does not reach the heights of earlier free jazz it is stellar among eighties efforts in the genre. In moments of reprieve there is still exceptional detail coming from horns and percussion, exemplifying one of the great tropes of outstanding fire music. It is consistently excellent, but too uniform in tone to be as moving as the greater, spiritually charged free jazz of the past. Even considering its uniformity on the A side, "Chapel Hill" and "Through the Drapes" are so considerably underwhelming that the record fizzles out substantially on the B side. Still worth a listen for any jazz head or enthusiast of sonic chaos.