Franklin Kiermyer’s Ecstatic Devotion


Pharoah Sanders (left) and Franklin Kiermyer

(Photo: Mobility Music)

More than two decades separate a pair of releases on Dot Time Records, each helmed by veteran drummer Franklin Kiermyer. But listening to both recordings, a very specific and sacred understanding of the music is revealed.

Originally issued in 1994 by the Evidence Music label and long out of print, Solomon’s Daughter (Dot Time 7103; 72:20 ****) is a scorched-earth touchstone in the avant-garde jazz canon whose reissue is long overdue. Cut from the spiritually informed jazz cloth of John Coltrane, the album, which features the monolithic presence and brute force of tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, is again seeing the light of day at a very specific moment.

This year marks the recording’s 25th anniversary, but as Kiermyer tells it, it’s purely coincidence—a “wonderful” one. In fact, trying to get the album reissued wasn’t even on his agenda when the drummer was attending the 2018 jazzahead! Festival in Bremen, Germany. At the suggestion of his co-producer, longtime friend and mentor Michael Cuscuna, Kiermyer met with Jerry Roche, a jazz historian who works with Dot Time and was a fan of Kiermyer’s 2016 set, Closer To The Sun.

Scouting potential label homes for his current quartet, Scatter The Atoms That Remain, and its debut recording, Exultation, was actually the priority for the drummer. But Solomon’s Daughter came up in conversation.

“Jerry mentioned how much he appreciated that album and that he had known about it for a long time,” Kiermyer said.

With the rights having reverted back to the drummer, Roche expressed excitement at the prospect of reissuing the album. Kiermyer? Not so much: “Well, that’s cool, but all I’m really interested in is my band, Scattered The Atoms That Remain,” he said.

Ultimately, Kiermyer, 62, warmed to the idea of Solomon’s Daughter undergoing the reissue treatment. The addition of three unreleased bonus tracks from the original sessions—including “I Pray My Soul To Take,” a duo number with Sanders that the bandleader’s particularly fond of—was key, he said.

“From the get-go, what excited Dot Time was that the focus would be Scattered The Atoms That Remain and what would hopefully create an opening for that to percolate to the surface would be the reissue of Solomon’s Daughter,” Kiermyer said.

Whether one thinks of the album with Sanders as a companion piece to Exultation, or vice versa, the two programs are a testament to Kiermyer’s transcendental and volcanic approach to his role as leader and composer.

On Solomon’s Daughter, the drummer—under the soul-searching influence of Coltrane’s classic quartet—proves a relentless polyrhythmic force of nature, directing the traffic for Sanders, pianist John Esposito and bassist Drew Gress. Kiermyer even coined a fitting name for his part-structured, mostly improvised aesthetic: “Ecstatic American Music.”

And ecstatic it is, primarily due to the devastating screams, emotionally wrought lyricism and sensitive passages that Sanders wrangles from his tenor. From start to finish, he seemingly was on a mission, and the seismic opening track, “If I Die Before I Awake,” and the following “Three Jewels” achieved stunning—and earsplitting—results. His playing here hearkens back to the saxophonist’s time with Coltrane, as well as his own peak material as leader. Even publications outside the jazz mainstream, like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly, published reviews of the album at the time of its initial release.

“I knew that in terms of the heart and the spiritual focus of ‘transcension,’ let’s call it, and the power and the sanctified faith of his playing, there was no doubt that he would be the best choice,” said Kiermyer of Sanders’ inclusion on the set.

Kiermyer’s nature is to look forward, but he does see a link between the monumental Solomon’s Daughter and the just-as-bold Exultation (Dot Time 9085; 60:44 ****), manifested by a spiritually focused vision that has remained a constant throughout his career.

“I think the intention is the same, and from my point of view, more fulfilled,” he said, lionizing Exultation. “Well, I don’t want to say that, but that’s how I feel.” DB

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