Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

Tony Oxley & Derek Bailey – The Advocate

Posted April 24, 2007

The Advocate record cover

Put out earlier this year on Tzadik, this is three studio-based duets, all recorded in 1975 and now receiving their first proper release. The three tracks clock up to around half an hour of improvised music, plus the disc is supplemented by a ten-minute Tony Oxley solo—The advocate, for Derek Bailey—recorded at last year’s John Zorn-curated Derek Bailey tribute concert. (That piece—and most of the rest of the concert—was in fact originally broadcast last summer by the BBC’s Jazz on 3 programme… Hmm… I must have a tape of that lying around somewhere!)

The duets were pretty much what I thought I’d expect; tight fractured playing from Bailey, with wide and varied percussion from Tony Oxley. (When he was playing with Cecil Taylor at the Royal Festival Hall a few years back, I remember his kit being pretty gigantic… Has it always been that big, or is it just something he’s built up slowly, over time?) Oxley also does some electronics I think, and it’s great just what a wide range of sounds he’s capable of producing… However, for the most part, this disc seems like something of a run-through; totally accomplished, totally swinging, great music but not really pushing it out… In fact, it’s the final Oxley solo piece that I find is the real stand-out track. He sculpts sound, producing something intense but with an engaging rhythmic drive (and something more directly rhythmic than the duo tracks). Not a bad disc at any rate (and it’s only the third-ish of Bailey’s that I own) it’s just that I’m sure that there’s probably a lot more out there on which they both have much more to say.

Bruise, at the Red Rose 19/4/07

Posted April 21, 2007

Tony Bevan and Orphy Robinson

I think this must rank as one of the best nights of free-music I’ve seen… A special CD-release performance by Bruise (Tony Bevan, saxes, Orphy Robinson, marimba?/steel drum/electronics, John Edwards, bass, Mark Sanders, drums, Ashley Wales, electronics), joined by guest Matthew Bourne (keyboards), at the Red Rose, Finsbury Park (and technically forming this month’s Back in Your Town).

The first set opened slowly, Mark Sanders beating out a call on block chimes, to be answered by Ashley Wales’ tactful electronic sound-scapes, and gentle vibes from Orphy Robinson. Tony Bevan came in with delicate tenor saxophone motifs, while Matthew Bourne laid out tight mathematical patterns on keys. After a while, John Edwards put out a grandiose rhythm on bass that pulled everyone up, and pushed the juggernaut forwards… Although crass, Bruise would be a pretty good metaphor for that first set; from then on, it was an assault that simmered away just under the obvious surface; a great momentum, but perhaps without a singularly identifyable drive; a purely collective contribution… However, individually: Tony Bevan is a great performer and presence, with articulate, powerful lines; Sanders’ loose, rootsy drumming maintaining the pulse… Wales deployed some background electronic effects that meshed nicely with the acoustic sound, his palette ranging from computerised glitch beats, to extended concrète big-band recordings and voice samples. Orphy Robinson played both marimba (electronic, plus effects pedals, and I think it was a marimba) and also steel drum, its uniquely bright sound adding an interesting and unusual texture to the mix. (Actually, it was a pretty impressive balance, all through, particularly—I think—for such a relatively complex instrumental base.) Alongside Tony Bevan, John Edwards was the star of the show; I think he might have been at the most inspired I’ve ever seen him… He played a short solo someway into the first set that was just fantastic, mesmerising… Overall, a great energy to everyone’s playing, continually avoiding the studious.

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Art Ensemble of Chicago – Live in Paris

Posted April 17, 2007

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Live in Paris, album cover

This is a two-CD Charly reissue of two long Parisian BYG/Actuel live recordings: Oh, Strange (with the Art Ensemble being Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Malachi Favors) and Bon Voyage (where they’re joined by Fontella Bass on vocals). Both date from 1969, although the liner notes don’t make it clear that there’s any particular relationship between the two pieces… Each is a continuous 45 minute(ish) jam thing, each artificially split into two sections as an artifact of the transfer from LP.

The first disc opens up with quite a straight forward free arrangement, where they seem to be trying to keep pretty abstract but, at the same time, fairly structured and conventionally melodic. Unlike their contemporary studio recordings (eg. A Jackson in your House, Message to our folks, Reese and the Smooth ones, Phase One), where they seem to be basically working their way round a room packed with every instrument/noise-making object they can find—and then playing just enough on each one to keep pace—Oh, Strange opens up as more of a conventional (free) sax/percussion ensemble… and it doesn’t quite come together; the broken non-melody, squeezed out the saxophone (and sounding a bit like Albert Ayler tuning up) never really manages to catch on. After about 20 minutes, someone discovers that they’ve got a vibraphone out the back, and they break off into some great minimalist Arkestra-esque space-jazz (for desperate want of a better term) that carries it out for the rest of the disc. Takes a while to get up to speed but, once it does, turns out into quite a nice chilling track. Not particularly captivating… just something nice to have on in the background while you’re going through your emails!…

Bon Voyage starts with a beautiful, delicate, brushes-and-bass thing, that is gradually joined by some grooving percussion… Similar in vein, but more satisfying than Disc 1; a more purely Sun Ra-like Astral free-jam… like listening to protons rain down from Saturn… Fontella Bass makes an appearance only after about half an hour, a human cry of emotional release, carrying it right out to the end…

Led Bib, at the Vortex 10/4/07

Posted April 11, 2007

Led Bib at the Vortex

A totally incendiary (two) sets from Led Bib at the Vortex, this Tuesday. Another of The Babel label’s great young progressive jazz acts… they were there promoting their new album Sizewell Tea (apparently released April 23rd, but available some places already).

Going in to see this was a fairly on-the-whim sort of thing, based pretty much on hearing their track on this month’s Jazzwise cover-mounted Babel sampler CD (pretty decent, plus you get a free magazine with it, too). I guess they’re a sort of punk-funk-jazz quintet; more ‘jazzy’ than Babel-mates Acoustic Ladyland or Polar Bear, but sharing that hot contemporary-London-jazz feel; a bunch of music-school graduates coming through from a background of growing up listening to rock music… What?

Led Bib is: Liran Donin (bass), Toby McLaren (keyboards), Chris Williams (alto sax, left in picture above), Pete Grogan (also alto sax), and Mark Holub, the group leader (on drums). The gig itself was a bit of a slow start; the band making it onto the Vortex stage almost an hour after the scheduled start, and with the first set seemingly thrown off-kilter by PA issues; the second set was a lot more cooking… The twin sax line up is cool; in a band like Polar Bear, for example, the saxes (Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart, in that case) tend to stick quite close together, weaving around a single line. With Led Bib, Grogan and Williams play the heads tight together in free swirls, but then separate with very much their own distinctive voices; Grogan plays a more considered, traditional line, with occasional Coltrane-tinges, while Williams is more stream-of-consciousness: every now and then moving into great bursts of bebop-Marshall-Allen. Liran Donin is a great bassist, contributing a couple of brilliantly melodic solos. Toby McLaren was laying the groove well-down with some tight Fender Rhodes, perfectly meshed with Holub’s restrained but inspired drumming. Holub is a New Jersey ex-pat, and you can hear a strong New York-downtown vibe in their music; free-jazz but with the awareness that “people are listening”. Really fantastic group; the nuclear-power reference from their Sizewell Tea is probably pretty apt, just a great fun uplifting band… Sample sounds are available on their myspace and Babel pages…

Boat-Ting 2/4/07: Ricardo Tejero / Javier Carmona / Ian Smith / Marcio Mattos, and others…

Posted April 3, 2007

Boat-Ting 2nd April 2007

Another foursome of great music at Boat-Ting, this Monday night. Opening were Alex Ward (clarinet) backing the poety of (the beautiful) Sibyl Madrigal. Alex Ward (website) is just perfect, really… Madrigal is the MC of the evening (and, presumably, Boat-Ting curator) so she tried to claim that they were just the warm-up act. Nonsense. It’s great seeing something fall together so effortlessly, almost ad-hoc… it’s why these evenings are so hot.

Second up were what was now safely described as the Boat-Ting house band: Steve Noble (drums), Lol Coxhill (sax) and John Edwards (bass). I think this is maybe the third Boat-Ting night I’ve written about on this fledgling blog, and I mentioned before that I’ve had difficulty really getting right into Lol Coxhill… Watching this “residency” fortnight-after-fortnight, I think it’s all come together; I’ve finally fallen, completely, under Coxhill’s manifest genius… Although I still haven’t bought any of his records…

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David Holland / Barre Phillips – Music from Two Basses

Posted April 2, 2007

David Holland, Barre Phillips - Music from two basses

I don’t really know anything about Barre Phillips, except that he played in Archie Shepp’s band on the Coltrane/Shepp “New Thing at Newport” record; similarly I don’t know a terrible amount about Dave Holland except that I quite like his bass playing with Miles Davis, and that he was the first proper jazz musician I saw live, in a slightly straight-ahead big-group setting (Prime Directive style) at Warwick Arts Centre (Coventry) in 2001-ish.

In fact, I’ve always had Holland as quite a straight ahead kind of guy, which was why I was intrigued to see him recording in this quite Free set-up of improvising double double-bass… This was recorded February 1971 (for ECM records), which seems to put it right at the point of Holland’s departure from Miles’ band (last recorded thing with him being “At Filmore” from June 1970, according to the PGTJOCD). (In fact, looking through the history books: spending the seventies recording with Anthony Braxton and recording solo albums for ECM probably isn’t the most fulfilling definition of “straight ahead” I’ve come across… Oh, and I forgot I also have “Conference of the Birds”, which is pretty cool, and pretty free.)

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