I keep thinking about how this guy was once one of the more inventive musicians out there, how his very first album, Sound Sculptures, had been unanimously praised by nearly every critic and aficionado alike. What he was doing then was truly revolutionary. I guess all the accolades, being called a ‘young genius’ all the time went to his head. His follow up album, Abstract Symphony, showed promise but I thought it paled in comparison to his debut. One could tell that he was trying out new things but he kept it all within a traditional framework. He didn’t go into outer space, at least not yet. I could tell Coltrane had become a huge influence on him, wanting to do what Coltrane had done with his saxophone and translate it to trumpet. It sort of worked, sort of didn’t. At the time, I didn’t really know what to make of it but I gave it an overall positive review because he was trying, at least.
By ’64, he started going off the rails. It didn’t help that he started getting more into drugs, booze. It wasn’t uncommon to see him take the bandstand and be utterly out of his mind. He started to augment his band around that time too, taking in a sax player named Richie Henderson, who was a young, promising musician as well. Henderson ruined his career by trying to remain loyal to his mentor, who word has it, treated him like dog shit. He didn’t only ruin his career. Henderson started getting into heroin and other drugs. Poor kid wound up having a stroke before he was thirty years old and that was the end of that.
Then his third album came out, in the summer of ’66. By then everyone was starting to experiment with different sounds, different modes. Coltrane led the way, of course, but you had players like Yusef Lateef who also brought eastern sounds and modes into his music. Reardon did the same, taking a cue from some of the pop bands of the time, seeking out exotic instruments. Reardon wasn’t the first Jazz musician that I knew of who worked with a sitar player. Bud Shank had beat him too it by a good five years and he had the great Ravi Shankar working with him. Reardon, by the time he decided to experiment with it, found some dopey hippy kid he met out in San Francisco who merely made noise with the thing. It sort of worked within the context of Reardon’s strange compositions but it didn’t sit too well with a lot of critics that I knew who thought he was merely jumping on the bandwagon. But I’ll give Reardon credit for being one of the first to begin experimenting with different sounds. His contemporaries did it much better. That album, Black Caravan, did very poorly from what I remember, and it didn’t help that Reardon started taking another cue from pop musicians — acid.
Then the disastrous Concave came out in mid-1967. That’s when he lost me. That’s when he lost virtually everyone except for a few die hard fans. His performances, after that record, barely drew more than thirty people. It was clear to me that it was over.
His horn is literally splitting my ear drums. The guy at the door gives me a knowing look before I step out into the street. I feel as if I just got back from a war. I actually feel dizzy. I take a moment to stop, lean against a parked car, watch a few more people file through the door. How many actually remained behind? Masochists, all of them.