One of the rarest Flying Dutchman releases is this album by Los Angeles-based improvisation masters John Carter and Bobby Bradford. The West Coast had an under-developed free jazz scene, but when label-owner Bob Thiele touched down in L.A. he had top tips to check out two groups. The first was pianist Horace Tapscott’s outfit, recommended to him by Leon Thomas, and the second was the New Art Jazz Ensemble led by trumpeter Bobby Bradford and reed player John Carter.
Carter and Bradford both originated fromTexas, where Carter was a schoolmate of Ornette Coleman. Bradford moved to Los Angeles in the early 50s and joined Coleman’s group. It was Coleman who suggested he hook up with Carter, who had also settled on the West Coast. The two men found they had sympathetic musical ideas and began to put a group together, adding veteran drummer Bruz Freeman and bassist Tom Williamson. They released their debut album, “Seeking”, on the Revelation label.
Thiele liked what he heard and signed the group. For their “Flight For Four” album, he felt it would make the group easier to sell if their name was changed to the John Carter & Bobby Bradford Quartet. Although not a big seller, the album was an artistically satisfying recording that showed Carter to be a rapidly emerging composer. Thiele soon had them back in the studio recording “Self Determination Music”, a thrilling album with the group’s sound boosted by second bass player Henry Franklin. The music is never easy but the compositions – three by Carter and one by Bradford – and the musical interplay between the musicians reward the listener. This is grown-up experimental music. Carter and Bradford would continue to thrive in various formats, but “Self Determination Music” is one of their finest works.