|Billy Bang's early relationship with the violin was a sporadic affair as he was also drawn to percussion and flute; taking up the instrument again in the late '60's. After playing with Sun Ra and studies with the great Leroy Jenkins, he formed the String Trio of New York which he led until 1986, then played with Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. Through the 90's, Bang continued to work with various proponents of the new or free scenes, including Henry Threadgill. Yet, for many observers, Billy Bang's solo violin concerts and recordings are perhaps representative of his best work.
Big Bang Theory is a more sonorous example of the output of this Alabama born player. Listeners will easily note two distinctive elements in Bang's style on this recording: a distinctive, slow vibrato and what might be described as a penchant for pitchiness. This is no accident, but rather a practice evolved over years, designed to capture one's imagination and to give voice to Bang's quirky individualism.
Bang starts off swinging on Khalil El'Zabar's clever "Contrary Motion," which in its feel recalls the rough-hewn exuberance of one of his influences, Stuff Smith. "At Play In The Fields Of The Lord," one of five tunes that Bang penned on the disc, shows equal respect for form and melody, hallmarks of his approach. The title track, propelled by Curtis Lundy's ostinato bass, features a powerful solo from drummer Codaryl Moffett and a taste of Bang's pizzicato playing. "Theme For Tar Baby," with its expansive piano solo and a moodily beautiful violin solo, is a tune that shifts from the funky to tightly-scripted unison playing. "Silent Observation" is an intense piece, with perhaps Bang's best solo work on the recording. On "One For Jazz," the voice/drum intro segues neatly into this folksy ballad, which gives us more of Bang's pizzicato. "Sweet Irene" is a medium-tempo straight-ahead tune, while the violinist and company go back to church for a rousing version of the traditional "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Pianist Alexis Pope, a graduate of The Royal Academy of Music in his native London, contributes "Saved By The Bell," a likeably jaunty piece that showcases his own playing as well as the leader. Freddie Hubbard's late '60's composition "Little Sunflower" is the perfect vehicle to finish the proceedings, giving each player a chance to stretch out.