Apparently David Wertman was an architect as well as being an outstanding bass player, composer and improviser. One can only imagine what he designed. Hopefully it had structure and strength but I would also expect something free-flowing with odd lines, the builders assumed to be able to translate what the blueprints really meant. On this first-time vinyl reissue (on BBE) of Wertman and his Sun Ensemble’s 1978 spiritual jazz workout ‘Earthly Delights’, there is a suspicion that the recording of this loose and emotional record contained similar guidelines.
Born and raised in Queens NY in 1952 , Wertman’s upright playing style was forged in “the college of da streets” as was his usual response. His obvious energy and studious nature gave him a place in the notorious New York Jazz loft jams, holding it down and vamping for hours with New York’s wildest and most progressive; Billy Bang, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Steve Reid, Dave Pike, William Parker, Brandon Ross and Charles Tyler.
With four tracks spread over four sides, ‘Earthly Delights’ is the first recording by the Sun Ensemble band featuring the original line-up of Greg Wall (Baritone Saxophone), Jay Conway (Drums), John Sprague Jr. (Flute and Percussion), David Swerdlove (Soprano/Alto Saxophone), and John Zieman (Synthesizer). John Sprague Jr. financed and produced the album, releasing it on his own label Sweet Earth Records, a label that only had five releases but they were and remain impressive, Sun Ra And His Arkestra’s 1979 album “The Other Side Of The Sun” and Amina Claudine Myers’ ‘Poems For Piano’ included.
As previously mentioned, this is an emotional record. Loose and free, expressionistic, with waves of sound and space, jazz as nature, chaotic but with sublime detail. Repeat listens unveil the feelings within each players playing, an articulation perhaps of their relationship with the ensemble and also with the outer. True spiritual music for those who can ride the intensity and virtuosity of the performances.
For me, the tribute to John Coltrane ‘Oh John Love Trane’ is my initial favourite. Wertman’s bass playing is centre stage, beginning with ruminative bow-saw playing that expands into a probing, darting finger technique of great intricacy and sentiment, joined by the band slowly and with (relative) restraint, splashes of percussion and crying saxophones.
Even though Wertman and the band had left NYC by this point to set up camp in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Big Apple remains in spirit on ‘Clear Air Dancer’ with it’s militant horns, enormous drum solo (sample-heads, grab those tom sounds!) and down low swinging bass lines. I’ve not even mentioned the other two compositions but trust me, they still sound fresh, testing (at points), vibrant, experimental and full of ‘Earthly Delights’.
SIDE A: Earthly Delights
SIDE B: Relations
SIDE C: Oh John Love Trane
SIDE D: Clear Air Dancer
BBE RELEASE DATE - 31st May 2019