Revisited and remastered, with additional takes, texts and photos, here is the very first ECM session, recorded in Ludwigsburg in November 1969, featuring the great American pianist Mal Waldron, whose resume included work with Coltrane, Mingus, Dolphy and Billie Holiday. In his original liner notes, Mal wrote: “This album represents my meeting with free jazz. Free jazz for me does not mean complete anarchy… You will hear me playing rhythmically instead of soloing on chord changes.” As Jazz Journal noted, “tough, two-handed modal blues” predominates, and the music sounds as fresh now as the day it was recorded. Indeed, the tersely-grooving “Boo” and “Rock My Soul” could be club hits half a century later. The Extended Anniversary Edition of Free At Last is issued as an audiophile vinyl double album.
"The title's no mistake, as the album was really one of Mal Waldron's first really outside sessions – a real embrace of the free jazz modes coming out of the European scene of the 60s, but in a way that's slightly different than most! As Waldron states in the liner notes, his vision here is free, but not total chaos – an approach to music that's much more unfettered than before, yet still somewhat rhythmically structured – so that the tunes themselves roll out with a great deal of drive and energy, almost modal at points, but a bit fuller overall. The rhythm section here is a great part of the success of the album – with Clarence Becton on drums and the amazing Isla Eckinger on bass – a player whose pulsating approach is a perfect foil for Waldron's bold work on piano. There's actually a surprising amount of groove-driven numbers here – hardly the free jazz of the FMP scene, and more in the mode of some of the most unfettered expressions going down at MPS at the time" Dustygroove