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Luther Thomas

11th Street Fire Suite


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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, mid-stride, in an intimate, often explosive woodwind suite, he and Thomas marshall 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.

This first-ever reissue of 11th Street Fire Suite is remastered from the original tapes and features facsimile reproduction of the original cover in its 1970s splendor


1. Since I Lost My Baby (I Almost Lost My Mind) (traditional/4:08)
2. 11th Street Fire (Thomas/9:45)
3. Charge and Discharge (Ajule/5:59)
4. Dormin (Methapyrilene Hydrochloride) (Thomas/3:01)
5. The Fire Just Kept On Burning (traditional/12:28)

Luther Thomas, alto saxophone, small instruments, recitation Luther C. Petty, flute, small instruments

Recorded by Peter Kuhn on September 2, 1978, at Studio K, New York. Edited and mixed by Peter Kuhn. Tape transfer from original reel-to-reel masters by Ken Christianson. Mastered for re-release by Alex Inglizian, Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago. Original LP released on Creative Consciousness Records (CC1002T, 1978). Poetry from “Ajule Of-The-Shadows,” by Ajule (1971). LP designed by Luther Thomas. Cover art by Clement Cann. Photography by Gary Haipern and Roscoe Crenshaw. LP produced by Luther Thomas. Assistant producer Luther C. Petty. Dedicated to “Tip” Petty, Martin Luther King Jr. Thomas, Muhammed Ali, and the “Bomb Squad” of 11th Street, New York City.