Live at Last is one of several discs recently released by the French label Rogue Art that document the contemporary work of various members of Chicago's magnificently maverick Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Sadly, AACM mainstay Malachi Favors Maghostut is no longer with us, but his powerful, extraordinarily deft bass playing is well represented on this snapshot of the trio that took his name. The bulk of the album was recorded on the UW Memorial Union Terrace, and Maghostut's two musical comrades, reed player Hanah Jon Taylor and drummer Vincent Davis, are both well known to local jazz audiences.
Maghostut could play with the steady predictability of a metronome if that was required, but he also swung in a pulsing, thoroughly human way that implied a grounding rhythm without being held captive by it. On Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," he dances around Taylor's peripatetic tenor as the latter suggests bop, then moves outward into the universe of free-improvising giants John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Roscoe Mitchell. On his own composition "Beware of the Wolf," Maghostut sets the tune's mood with precisely stippled walking lines, then stirs up stronger colors with bracing arco work that first undergirds and ultimately overwhelms Taylor's skittering bursts on electric keyboard. Throughout the proceedings, Davis is a sympathetic - albeit at times anxious - foil.
While Taylor's forceful, often bop-flavored free playing predominates on most tunes, his bluesy tenor intro to "My Babe" (the only cut recorded during the group's regular gig at Chicago's Velvet Lounge) sets in motion a series of yearning, church-flavored improvisations by himself and Maghostut that represent some of the disc's most striking musical moments. Here, what begins as a smoldering sermon ends in a kind of aural prayer that taps into something deeply spiritual and yet ultimately ineffable. It's the sort of playing at which Maghostut excelled and to which the most committed musicians aspire.
Folks who view jazz not as a museum piece but rather as a living, growing thing already miss Maghostut terribly. When they hear this performance, they will miss him even more. Kudos is due to both Taylor and Davis for tapping into his spirit while he was alive and drawing inspiration from him now that he's gone. They'll assure a place for more maverick music in this world just by keeping his memory close at hand.