Da Bang! was recorded in February 2011, just two months before the master violinist Billy Bang (1947-2011) succumbed to cancer. In this final session, the Billy Bang Group featured one extended composition by Bang, "Daydreams," as well as compositions by some of Bang´s favorite musicians, including Barry Altschul, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.
01 Da Bang Barry Altschul / 02 Guinea Don Cherry / 03 Daydreams Billy Bang / 04 Law Years Ornette Coleman / 05 All Blues Miles Davis / 06 St. Thomas Sonny Rollins
Dick Griffin trombone
Andrew Bemkey piano
Hilliard Greene double bass
Newman Taylor-Baker drums
August 12, 2013
The rehearsals for, and the two days of recording of, Da Bang! were followed by a performance by the Billy Bang Group at TUMfest11 in Helsinki, Finland, that Bang closed with his rendition of "St. Thomas," just like he does on this recording. He did so with his usual final flourish, which was caught in a photograph that can be seen in the beginning of the booklet for the album. Sadly, that was also the last note Billy ever played in public. Soon after returning to New York, Bang was re-admitted to the hospital where he was being treated for the cancer originally diagnosed in 2009 and there it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver. In April 2011, Bang passed away.
For Da Bang!, the Billy Bang Group featured legendary trombonist Dick Griffin as well as Bang´s regularaccompanists in his final period, pianist Andrew Bemkey, bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Newman Taylor-Baker. Griffin is a veteran of the groups of multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and inter-galactic band leader Sun Ra whereas Bemkey, Greene and Taylor-Baker have all been active on the New York scene for a number of years.
For Da Bang!, Bang chose music that was composed by some of the people he greatly admired and that he particularly enjoyed performing. During the sessions, Bang talked about the healing power of this music. He also talked about giving back through his music to some of the people who had inspired and supported him. As a result, Da Bang! can be seen as Bang´s final dedication to the music he loved.
Da Bang! is a follow-up to the Billy Bang Group´s first recording for TUM Records (Prayer for Peace, TUM CD 018, in 2005), which featured trumpeter James Zollar in place of Dick Griffin and bassist Todd Nicholson in place of Hilliard Greene. TUM Records has also released a critically acclaimed studio recording by the FAB Trio, Bang´s co-operative group with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul (History Of Jazz In Reverse, TUM CD 028, in 2005).
Billy Bang (1945-2011), who was born in Mobile, Alabama but raised in New York City, began his career during the peak years of New York City´s "loft jazz" era in the 1970s. In addition to his own Survival Ensemble, Bang collaborated with the likes of Denis Charles, Frank Lowe, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, William Parker and Sam Rivers, among others. He first became internationally known as a member of the String Trio of New York in the late 1970s and went on to lead a number of his own groups. Bang, a Vietnam veteran himself, was brought to the attention of a broader audience by his two Vietnam-themed recordings (Vietnam: The Aftermath in 2001 and Vietnam: Reflections in 2004). With almost 30 albums released under his own leadership and many more by various cooperative endeavors, including five highly acclaimed albums with the String Trio of New York, five with the FAB Trio and two with Tri-Factor, Billy Bang was one of the more prolific musicians of his generation. In addition to being a beautiful recording in its own right and a stellar addition to his discography, Da Bang! serves as an ample reminder of why Billy Bang was considered a true master of his chosen instrument and one of the undisputed leaders of his generation of improvising musicians.
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City Hall Records