ARCANA

ARC OF THE TESTIMONY

  1/  Black Money                                (Williams,Laswell,Apfelbaum)  4.17
  1/  Gone Tomorrow                              (Williams,Laswell)            9.38
  2/  Illuminator                                (Williams,Laswell)            6.06
  3/  Into the Circle                            (Williams,Laswell)            9.26
  4/  Returning                                  (Williams,Laswell)            4.29
  5/  Calling Out the Blue Light                 (Williams,Laswell)            6.38
  6/  Circles of Hell                            (Williams,Laswell)            7.15
  7/  Wheeless On a Dark River                   (Williams,Laswell)            4.28
  8/  The Earth Below                            (Williams,Laswell)            5.29

          Recorded at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York
          Additional recording on track 1 at Orange Music, West Orange, NJ
          Engineered by Robert Musso
          Additional engineering by Oz Fritz
          Engineer at Orange by James Dellatacoma
          Produced by Bill Laswell
          Axiom: Bill Murphy
          Material, Inc.: John Brown
          M.O.D. Reloaded: Dave Brunelle, Yoko Yamabe
          Mastered and remastered at Turtle Tone Studio by Michael Fossenkemper
Tony Williams: drums; Bill Laswell: 4 and 6 string basses, fretless bass, SFX; Pharoah Sanders (2,7): tenor saxophone; Byard Lancaster (4,6): alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Graham Haynes (2,5): cornet; Nicky Skopelitis (2-8): 6 and 12 string guitars; Buckethead (3,5,7,9): guitar; Peter Apfelbaum (1): tenor sax.

          1997 - Axiom/Island (USA), 314-524 431-2 (CD)
          2018 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital)
          2021 - M.O.D. Reloaded (USA), MODRL00107 (CD)
          2021 - M.O.D. Reloaded (USA), MODRL00107 (digital)
          2021 - M.O.D. Reloaded (USA), MODRL00107 (24 bit digital)
          2021 - M.O.D. Reloaded (USA), MODRL00701LP (vinyl planned second 1/2 of 2021)
Note: Track one does not appear on the CD issues.


REVIEWS :

Given the volume of his projects, it's not surprising that his Salvador Dali- like precision of vision isn't seen in everything he touches. He's often a bit more like Max Ernst, acting quickly on a notion and caputuring it in rough form, pasting together collages from his collection of farflung objects rather than honing each edge, rather than fully developing each implication.

Such is often the case with the recordings under consideration here. It can befuddle at times, a once coming up incomplete and yet stirring the imagination with those implications. There's always something interesting going on, but often it is in subtle textures and shifts, not in the forefront of the sound. And what you hear is unlikely what your next-door neighbor hears. Take "Arc of Testimony" -- it made several critics' top ten list for 1997, and ranked 18th in the recent Downbeat critics' poll of best CDs for the past year. Yet in my last trip to Moby Disc, there were two copies in the used bin. Like Tom Waits said of one form of conception, commenting on a bullet that had pierced a Civil War soldier's testicle before proceeding to strike and impregnate a virgin: It's not for everybody.

"Arc of the Testimony" is drummer Tony Williams' last studio session. The eight tracks were laid down by Williams and Laswell, the latter on bass. Pharoah Sanders was brought in later to supply tenor sax lines for two cuts, Buckethead recruited to add to the fury of three cuts, guitarist and longtime associate Nicky Skopelitis invited to round out the textures on seven cuts, and reedman Byard Lancaster and cornetist Graham Haynes called along to further build the score up from a drum/bass bash fest.

The highlight is "Circles of Hell", a seven-minute romp in which Pharoah matches Williams' passionate architecture with such fiery immediacy and understanding that it seems as though the drummer is responding to him. Indeed, this is where so much of Williams' magic lay -- in adding a fourth dimension to the music, in his telepathic knowledge of what the soloist would do next, in spurring the soloist to a point beyond where he was going. One critic has spoken of Miles' '60s quintet as having been a drum symphony, with the other players decorating Williams' lines -- a hyberbolic tribute to the drummer's sense of what to play when confronted with comparable genius.

Unfortunately, Tony is not interacting with anybody here but Laswell, who provides appropriate deep metal bass lines. It's not give and take. Everybody but Laswell had to come in later and make it sound like a spontaneous affair. This might work with pop songs and commercial jingles, it might work with Jamaican dub and funk masterpieces and ambient constructions. But the nature of the music here is cooperative spontaneity, and it falls short. Certainly, Williams is inspired and technically awesome. Certainly, Buckethead only needs someone to say, "Play!" and he explodes with dizzying abandon. But Williams is not laying down a simple groove for others to show off their chops on top of - - he is building a spontaneous heavy metal vibe with Laswell. And the others, for the most part, can only imagine what it was like to have been in the same recording studio at the same time. (slightly edited - visit The American Reporterís website for the full text - SW)

Martin Wiskol (courtesy of the American Reporter )

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Wow! This was Tony Williams' last recorded album. He's drumming straight-8th fusion style all over this recording. The supporting cast(actually everyone contributes equally), Bill Laswell, Pharoah Sanders, Byard Lancaster, Graham Haynes, Nicky Skopelitis, and Buckethead, are all incredible musicians in their own right.

But, just because you assemble some great, respective and creative musical artists together, doesn't mean they're going to deliver. This time, however, you can only wonder, "what would've been"?Tony WIlliams died before this was released, so any fan of his would be proud to own this as a final "swansong" recording.

I am proud to have it because it is an interesting creative fusion recording. It used to be that Jazz-Rock was a genre full of promise--until the moneyhounds and Record companies got a hold of it and turned it into generic Fuzac. I was wary of purchasing what could very well be a regurgitated carbon-copy of funky-sounding sleepy Elevator music. If you're wanting something interesting and creative, and respect only ONE of the names on this disc, I would suggest that purchasing this might be a sure-thing for ya. Buckethead's guitar is incredible, so is Tony's drumming, and Laswell, well, his name on anything as producer and bassists insured a rubber-stamp of quality and creativity unlike anyone else for the past 25 years!

I was really into Tony Williams music during the Miles years and some of his fusion is pretty good. But as a drummer he has had to rely on the supporting cast to step up and meet the quality of his drumming. These guys did it in a fresh way. Plus this is a gateway into Buckethead, Laswell, Pharoah Sanders, and the others. I plan on going through that door, with eager anticipation.

Earsby (review courtesy of the Amazon.com website)

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Arc of Testimony is one of the last recordings to feature legendary drummer Tony Williams, and its bold, experimental textures are a fitting epitaph to his career. Arcana was formed by bassist/producer Bill Laswell with the intention of exploring the outer reaches of fusion, ambient and free jazz. Like the group's debut, Last Wave (released only in Japan), Arc of the Testimony is a freewheeling, unpredictable blend of electronic and acoustic sounds. However, this record is even more adventurous, since it finds a common ground between improvisation and post-production studio trickery. All of the musicians -- Williams, Laswell, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, saxophonist Byard Lancaster, cornetist Graham Haynes, guitarist Nicky Skopelitis and guitarist Buckethead -- are open-minded and help push the music forward, resulting in a thoroughly involving, challenging listen.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine (review courtesy of the All Music Guide website)