Has there been such a spate of notable music deaths in the past three decades? I can't recall such a bad spell.
Some deaths, like those of the great, underrated George Russell and earth-shaker Les Paul, were inevitable, but still memorable as they signaled the passing of talents the likes of which we won't see again.
Rashied Ali was a shock, all the more so because I was in the middle of reviewing his latest recording, a live set by his quintet from Finland's Tampere Music Happening. Like fellow drummers Chico Hamilton, Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb, Ali seemed to defy age. Unlike those peers, though, Ali could still rumble and roar for more than an hour without a break. That's just what he did the last time I saw him play live with Sonny Fortune, when they went at it non-stop for more than 80 minutes. Ali had a terrific sense of what to play, too, as displayed on this new disc, where his band extrapolates two compositions by James Blood Ulmer. Most people who went to see Ali might be expecting something by 'Trane, but Ali was too much his own man—too much in the moment—for that.