11th Street Fire Suite


First-ever reissue. 11th Street Fire Suite is a post-BAG (Black Artists Group) classic. An emotionally ranging set of blues-drenched duets by alto saxophonist Luther Thomas and flutist Luther C. Petty, it's one of the great documents of the St. Louis creative music diaspora, a wild ride through turbulent and beautiful terrain on a slab of vinyl that's as rare as hen's teeth in its original form. Relocated from their midwestern hometown to New York City, Thomas and Petty entered the studio in 1978 with a fellow musician, clarinetist Peter Kuhn, sympathetically recording and ultimately mixing their LP. The sound is extremely direct and penetrating, Thomas's keening, braying horn sending the proverbial needle popping, his brusque ballads captured in all their hoarse glory. Thomas was the loose cannon of the BAG gang. His debut record, Funky Donkey, which was released a year before 11th Street Fire Suite (1977), also on his own Creative Consciousness label, sewed together elements of free jazz, unbridled funk, and gutbucket blues in a garment with all its seams showing. In New York, his raw approach was somehow perfectly timely, a free jazz suited to no wave listeners. This was the pinnacle period for Thomas. His ongoing partnership with drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw resulted in the 1978 Black Saint LP, Junk Trap; Jef Gilson recorded a Thomas-led throwdown at PALM studios in Paris that was issued as I Can't Figure Out (Whatcha Doin' to Me) on the German Moers label in 1979, and Thomas formed his expressly funky band Dizazz in the early '80s, also recording for Moers. Back in NYC, Thomas was a regular at the Squat Theatre on West 23rd Street, working with James Chance and Defunkt, among others. Petty was hot, too, for a brief moment in these years, playing with Lester Bowie's Sho Nuff Orchestra and gigging actively around New York. A decade later, with a heroin addiction on his shoulder, Petty would make his living busking as "The Flute Man" outside Yankee Stadium. But here, midstride, in an intimate, often explosive woodwind suite, he and Thomas marshal all the forces of creative music, from the openness of the midwestern AACM-style space-play, replete with little instruments, to the ferocity and unforgivingness of the Big Apple and its competitive loft scene. Thomas spent his latter years living in Copenhagen. He died at the untimely age of 59 in 2009. 11th Street Fire Suite stands as one of Thomas's master strokes, a perfect encapsulation of the dark energy of its era and the brightness of its shooting star. Remastered from the original tapes. Features facsimile reproduction of the original cover.