By Daniel Margolis | Published July 2021
The Little Bird is an album with a lot of history, and a lot of freedom, behind it. Coming together as students at Cleveland State in 2001, Lawrence Caswell (bass, vocals), Chris Kulcsar (drums, guitar) and R.A. Washington (trumpet, percussion) first looked to heady, if predictable, reference points like local hero Albert Ayler and the 1973 experimental horror film Ganja & Hess. This is immediately apparent in their music. “The Blood,” which begins The Little Bird, starts with Caswell laughing to someone off-mic, then singing a harrowing melody, “I know it was the blood for me, and I’ll tell you that one day when I was lost, don’t you know that he died upon that cross.” After a minute and 47 seconds of grasping with heaviness of such biblical proportions, a piercing trumpet, droning bass and crashing percussion ease in and build to a cacophony.
The three practiced constantly, feeling untethered by their technical abilities and rather set free by the desire to play. Their first gig was at a party at a member’s apartment, but they soon moved on to small venues and then upward to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.
When it came time to make and The Little Bird in 2004, the production was, by all accounts, casual and inexpensive, and only released on CD-R. Seventeen years later, the time has come for this bird to fly — at least as a digital release and cassette. This is a good thing, as more people need to hear the voodoo turn the tables on jazz, and the trio does just that on “The Voodoo Runs Rafeeq Down.” Elsewhere, Vernacular rages on “Memphis (First Song)” and terrifies on “The Wretched Of The Earth.” This is not for the faint of heart, but also not to be missed. It sat on someone’s hard drive for way too long.