An overflow crowd packed the Martin Luther King Memorial Library for a free concert in tribute to King by 11 of the best avant-garde musicians in the country. The show was marred by the late arrival of coleader Archie Shepp, who didn't appear until halfway through the last number after missing his plane connection. Nonetheless, the concert featured two stirring compositions by violinist Malcolm Goldstein, who managed to combine the structure and harmonies of notated music with the freedom and personality of improvised music.
Goldstein's "Soweto Stomp," dedicated to the victims and resisters of apartheid, opened with a unison melodic theme from the anthem of the African National Congress. Joseph Celli's English horn picked up the theme and varied it over Denardo Coleman's jagged electric drum figure. The theme was passed around to Ray Anderson's sassy trombone, David Murray's stern bass clarinet and Vincent Chancey's sonorous French horn. Goldstein shaped the solos with his conducting gestures and his notated parameters so that the seemingly independent, discordant elements resolved into exciting harmonies.
Goldstein's ". . . that hung like fire on heaven," dedicated to King, worked even better as sustained harmonies built into a jaunty parade rhythm led by Fred Hopkins' upright bass. It concluded joyously with Shepp's thick-toned tenor sax solo and his shouts: "Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!" An arrangement of the traditional spiritual "Been in the Storm So Long" reflected the same approach with similar results. The one disappointment was an unaccompanied duet between Goldstein and Hopkins that seemed an unshaped jam.