London January 9th, 2010
This review first appeared on thewatchfulear.com
By Richard Pinnell
The evening began with the trio of Paul Abbott, (electronics) Seymour Wright, (sax) and Daichi Yoshikawa (electronics). I have seen all three of these musicians play multiple times over the past year or so, but not in this trio formation before. Abbott added a snare drum to his set-up, which he strummed with his fingers as well as attaching all kinds of contact mics to. Yoshikawa’s table again centred around a single speaker sat upturned under an angle poised lamp, from which swinging and static microphones hung. Wright played only by blowing normally through his saxophone on this occasion, leaving the more percussive, less traditional sounds to his colleagues. The music they made was surprisingly more linear than I might have imagined, with Abbott in particular still introducing sudden blasts of feedback every so often, but for much of the time the music centred around streams of overlaid sounds from each musician, Yoshikawa worked almost entirely with feedback tones, sometimes rhythmic, pulsing ones as live mics would rock back and forth over the speaker. Abbott mixed up stark, abrasive electronics with other vibrating and grainy sounds conjured somehow from cymbals and the drumhead. As these two intertwined their hums, wails and squeals, so Wright, who was suffering from a nasty cold, generally played simple tonal notes between them. Although the music was a million miles from anything ambient or restful there was a little less of a spike than usual, perhaps a reaction to the relaxed mood in the room, or the icy weather outside, but it was still a good listen, great to shut your eyes and fall into, taking a place inside the music and letting it move around you.
There followed a nice, intimate little performance from Ross Lambert. Though I have seen Lambert play many times down the years I never seen him solo before, so I was curious as to what he would do. He began with his acoustic guitar still in its case, working with an array of little items scattered about on the floor in front of him. He set a little machine running that created a ticking click track, (these things have a name but for some reason right now I can’t think of it!) and then used a series of tiny radios and walkmen to let a very quiet array of wisps of static and bits and pieces of spoken voices and assorted music come together in a simple improvised collage. He then began to use (or maybe rather abuse) one of the walkmen by half depressing various buttons so the tape inside would stretch and warp and play at the wrong speeds. After a while he picked up the guitar, initially just resting a motorised fan against the body, but then picking out an angular, bluesy refrain with it, as the other objects still purred away around him. He played for twenty minutes or so and I enjoyed it a lot, a mixture of delicate sensitivity, the uncertainty involved with using found sounds and a strong sense of direct musicality. In front of a bigger audience, with more distance between Lambert and those listening I suspect this wouldn’t have worked half as well, but the feeling of sharing in this intimate little discovery of events as it happened was a real joy.
There then followed the duo of Jean-Luc Guionnet, who had manfully struggled to make the journey down from the north of the country despite the bad weather and transport chaos, and Eddie Prevost, who selected his stripped down tam tam and percussion set-up for the performance. This set had been intended to be a trio with Sebastian Lexer at the piano, but it went ahead without a replacement third musician. It goes without saying that these are two wonderful musicians. Watching them as they set up after Lambert’s set was a great pleasure. Prevost merely moved his tam tam frame into position and set about tightening bolts and positioning items near to him, just as you might expect. There was an air of the workman about him, going through the daily motions before beginning work, something he had done a thousand times before, all part of the ritual, but somehow great to sit and watch. Guionnet waited a while, then took his sax and the pair shared a brief. amusing conversation about where he should stand before nodding to the audience and just beginning. I’m not certain, but I don’t think the pair had played together before, but when they began you would never have known. Guionnet began with wonderfully soft tones as Prevost scraped and rattled at a handheld cymbal, but within seconds their sounds were completely interconnected, and watching the faces of the musicians as they felt their way around each other’s contributions, their own responses flowing naturally from their hands, was wonderful. The music the duo made was simple, cast from the most basic of tools, just two fine, sensitive musicians working together to form music together in the moment. In places the pair took the sounds into little crescendoes, pushing each other, pulling each other along, the sounds meeting and embracing each other at one moment, pushing each other off of musical cliffs the next. There were no great surprises, just two musicians playing their instruments and listening intently to one another, shaping and folding their sounds into one uniform whole that twisted and writhed its way along. They apparently played for the best part of forty-five minutes, but it seemed much less, such was the absorbing nature of the music. This was improvised music at its best, and I enjoyed it immensely. A great start to a new decade of concert-going.
London December 7th, 2009
This review first appeared on thewatchfulear.com
By Richard Pinnell
The evening began with a short solo trumpet set by Jamie Coleman. I like Jamie’s playing, but have never seen him play solo before, and actually couldn’t quite picture in my head how he might go about it. He played in characteristically laid back fashion leaning back against the foot of the stage, legs crossed. He played notes, though each subtley underpinned by a frothy hiss. Beginning loosely, with each note lasting a few seconds and split apart by small silences, the improvisation developed so that little clusters of three notes appeared, gaining in volume and intensity as the set progressed. Its ages since I heard anyone let rip properly through a trumpet like this, and although the music didn’t veer anywhere near jazz I couldn’t get Miles Davis’ trumpet sound out of my head, probably as that is the only real reference point I have for this area of sound. The structure of the music actually was probably closer to Feldman than anything, as the irregular but vaguely repetitive patterns of sounds felt the same, though the rise in volume did not. The set probably only lasted about fifteen minutes but it was an enjoyable little addition to the bill, and very different to what came after it.
Taku Unami performed solo next, again scrabbling around in a far corner of the room, again with lights and cardboard boxes (massive ones this time, two or three of them, with one big enough for Taku to have climbed right into should he have chosen to. He didn’t though. Again he used clip on lights to create shadow images on the far wall, but much less so this time, possibly because the wall at Goldsmiths is a series of arches, painted blue and adorned with rather attractive radiators, making the shadow show a little less effective. The main difference between this performance and the duo with Angharad Davies the day before at Café Oto was Unami’s use of various small motor driven objects, that he placed inside the cardboard boxes, or on the hard wooden floor and let them rattle about, the echo spreading around the large very resonant hall. He would switch things off, crouch contemplatively for a while, move a light, step back, go and switch the sound off again, or introduces another, step away again, etc.. The tape measures appeared again, but this time he carefully lined them up across the hall, spreading away from his main working space, and this time seemingly having no other impact on anything, not lit by lights, and after the initial unravelling of the tape, making no further sounds. He did this time choose to hang one of the tapes from an ornamentally carved part of the wall, which sat within a beam of light, but otherwise the tapes seemed curiously detached from everything else happening. He also added claps this time, not many, just a few here and there, a couple in direct response to a particularly loud sneeze from the audience.
This performance, while a little less intimate, due to the much bigger performance space was as equally intriguing and engaging as the one the night before, highlighting to me that for now at least this is where Taku Unami’s improvisational interests lie. Coming before the immensely human music that followed it, it felt particularly abstracted and alien in these surroundings, which of course merely increased my interest in it.
The closing set came from the trio of Sebastian Lexer, (piano+) Eddie Prevost (stripped down percussion and tam tam) and Seymour Wright (sax). I have written before about my enjoyment of the Lexer/Wright duo this year, and in particular how I have felt the spirit of AMM in the way they play and interact, so adding Prevost to the group was always going to be an intriguing move for me. As he often does, Seymour Wright began making sounds before any announcements, while the lights were still on, and while Sebastian Lexer was still in the toilet (or off somewhere else anyway) he just let something I couldn’t quite identify rattle madly around on the floor at his feet, bumping into the sax every so often. Prevost joined him with a droning attack on the tam tam, partly by turning on the motor driven flail that creates a Unami-esque mechanical whirr, but also by coaxing a Wastell-esque wall of groaning sound from the tam tam. This consistent drone continued while the audience found their seats and Lexer returned, and switched off the lights before walking over to his instrument. (the photo above was captured while the lights were still on) Lexer then set about disrupting, and then halting the drone by intervening with a series of loud crashes and the ensuing decaying sounds.
There then followed a long set that went just about everywhere, and pulled me along with it as it went. There were loud, violent exchanges, the subtlest of electronic whispers wrapped around tiny metallic tinkles, complete halts disappearing into silence and deeply textured extended sections verging on drones again. The music overall was just too varied to describe its sound in a few lines here. This set defied every set of rules defining genre aesthetics and its only defining nature throughout was its thoroughly human feel, the result of three musicians pushing, testing, challenging and augmenting each other. Nothing was allowed to stay in place for long, every straight line ended in a sharp turn or disappeared into a tangled mess of other lines. There was poise, calm and whispered trembles as often as there was thunderous, crashing elation. Some parts didn’t work so well and fell apart, only for the pieces to be picked up, rolled into a ball and moulded into something new, but throughout the set the sensation of thoroughly joyful, inventive dialogue shone through. How much the musicians enjoyed the process was very clear, and albeit an old cliché I have no doubt they would have played if nobody at all had turned up. Their engagement in the music had nothing to do with the other people sat in the room with them. We were just privileged to be there. Improvised music, when it is this infectious, this satisfying to hear, feel unfold around you, can feel like the best thing in the world. I think this will be my last gig of 2009, and it was a thoroughly pleasing way for the year to go out.
London November 21st, 2009
This review first appeared on thewatchfulear.com
By Richard Pinnell
OK, so if you look at the bill of the INTERLACE gig I attended last night the cynics amongst you will probably already guess that I thought much of the music was really very good indeed. I can’t lie to you though, I enjoyed the music a lot, though two of the sets were really memorable. The good but not unforgettable set came first, a trio of piano, violin and electronics featutring Philip Somervell, Jennifer Allum and Daichi Yoshikawa respectively, three more youthful members of Eddie Prevost’s workshops. Of these three I was only previously familiar with Yoshikawa’s music, having seen him play a good few times now. His approach to his instrumentation, as with all of these musicians changes each time I see him however, and this time his small table was doninated by a huge angle poise lamp from which assorted contact mics on cables hung down, some above an upturned speaker, and so interacting with feedback every so often. As well as producing raw sounds from his mixer, and directly changing the sound by manipulating the cone of the speaker Yoshikawa rocked the lamp back and forth so that the assorted mics swung across the speaker like a pendulum, creating rhythmic pulses of shrieking sound. His input to this actually quite quiet and intimate set though was refined and delicate, despite the raw, abrasive quality of his sounds. The other two musicians were equally thoughtful in their playing, Somervell’s inside piano generally quite minimal, little attacks of chiming reosnance and extended sections of beautifully controlled droenes as he pulled threaded twine of some kind between the piano’s strings. Allum sat centre stage, violin perched between her knees for much of the set, her purely acoustic approach all about scurrying around the instruments with little scratchy sounds and earthy tones. Although it is hard to describe this set as anything more than a good sturdy half hour of improvised music the collaborative work between the three musicians was engaging, and the end result very pleasing indeed. Perhaps as I had not long walked in from the rain and was still finding my concert ears (don’t ask) I didn’t take as much from this set as the two performances that followed it, bu tthen the next two sets were actually extremely good indeed.
Next up was the piano+, cello, electronics trio of Sebastian Lexer, Ute Kanngiesser and Paul Abbott, a second set of piano/strings/electronics, as was the theme of the evening. I must admit that I was hoping for great things from this trio, as on paper it already struck me as a wonderful combination of sounds, styles and electric / acoustic balance. The set really was great, I don’t know what else to say. Kanngiesser sat between the two, both positionally as she took the midpoint on the stage, but also musically, as her beautiful, light, expressive playing flowed throughout the piece, dropping away into silence from time to time, switching from bowed flurries to sparsely spread out plucked notes at the right moments. Although it could have seemed like she was just playing alone and letting the other two duel it out over the top she actually picked the perfect sound for just about every moment in the music, playing with and through the overall improvisation rather than dictating pace or dynamic by herself. Sebastian Lexer played as he does, mixing the three elements of the trio AMM together into one sound, his piano sometimes appearing as a big buzzing box of electronics, elsewhere as ringing, chiming percussion and on occasion just as a piano, and at the moments when a processed sound might hum or crackle away suddenly only for a forlorn set of piano chords to trickle out underneath I was almost vocal in admiration. Often I thought of Tudor’s electronic treatments of the piano, other times Tilbury is unavoidably present in the music. I don’t think there can be better praise. Abbott was his usual edgy self, letting a blast of electronics out in one seemingly random place, the most delicate of metallic scrapes somewhere else and massive explosions of clattering cymbals and speaker feedback elsewhere. His playing has become steadily more visceral, unpredictable and thoroughly alive each time I see him play. Combined, the trio were just wonderful. There was grace, fragility, anger, aching sadness and sheer rupturing power all shown in this one forty minute collaboration. Thoroughly moving stuff.
Because I had to be up early today, and because I really felt that the middle performance couldn’t be matched I did consider making a move for the station before the final set of the evening began, but this thought did not last long. The last piano/strings/electronics trio was made up of visiting French pianist Marjolaine Charbin, bassist Guillaume Viltard and the electronics of Grundik Kasyansky, and althogh really very different again, it was another supremely moving and darkly humorous performance. Just recently Grundik Kasyansky seems to have turned into a magician. I say this because he sits behind a blank, grey box of tricks, occasionally throws his arms about in the air, and somehow, without seeming to do anything (and I’ve been watching carefully!) odd disembodied little second long grabs of pre-recorded material somehow jump out from the otherwise abstract electronic music. He also dresses in a top hat and a cloak.
One of the above statements isn’t true, but one thing Kasyansky does for certain is use a small clip -on microphone (I described it incorrectly as a spanner last time, I’m probably wrong here as well) as his main focus, dramatically rubbing it around the floor at one point, using it inside the end of Charbin’s piano at another. Even just waving it violently in the air seemed to create light crackles, and all of this resulted in a set of sounds used sparingly enough, and at just the right moments to bring bright colour to the music. then there are the little bursts of sound that come out of nowhere and seem completely unrelated. There are specks of classical music, some kind of odd singing in a foreign tongue, a passing car etc etc. These always appear at a low volume and literally for a fleeting moment, buried in the otherwise fluid exchanges of the music. When the first few appear you wonder if what you heard was something else, such is their nature, close enough to perhaps be mistaken, but oddly out of place enough to stand out.
Viltard played less than he did when I saw him perform with 9! on Tuesday, and his lighter, more spacious touch, much of it without a bow worked well when combined with the bold strokes of Charbin’s purely acoustic piano, a mixture of inside techniques and straight-up, sat-down playing. On occasions the two French nationals tipped things into jazzier areas, never quite falling into free jazz structures, but hinting at it, though never for long enough that Kasyansky’s interventions wouldn’t pull things right back. The trio played with suddenly contrasting dynamics, as had the group before them but not the same extremes, and instead sounded the most cohesive and musically assured group of the night, working as a unit to create shapes in the music that kept things bouncing about, but also ensured a strong sense of structure. The wild card moments from Kasyansky, whether they be sudden assaults on the stage floor with the clip/spanner mic or the rabbit from the hat additions of the prepared sounds were regularly humorous as well, not laugh your head off funny, but smile across face cheek. Too often the value of humour in improvised music is overlooked or underestimated. It worked really well on this occasion.
These last two performances really hit the spot for me. the opening set of the evening was good, but was quickly placed in the shadow of the two inspired performances that followed. I had such a great time with this music. It was a real shame however to only see maybe thirty people in the hall. That may be fifteen more than would have attended something like this a few years back but still its disappointing, given the quality of what was on offer. Sure it was very cold and wet, the tubes were half closed and Goldsmith’s isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to, but I personally would have caught twice as many trains and got twice as wet again to have made sure I heard this evening of music.
London June 1st, 2009
This review first appeared on thewatchfulear.com
By Richard Pinnell
So last night I rushed away from work and caught two overground and one underground train to be able to get to Goldsmiths College way down in New Cross, South London some two and a half hours later, but just in time to catch the start of the evening's INTERLACE event in the college's Great Hall. Although the place felt weirdly familiar and I may have been to a concert there some time ago I know I have never made it along to one of Sebastian Lexer's INTERLACE concerts before, despite there having been about forty of them over the last seven years. I'm not completely sure why this is because many of the musicians involved have been to my liking. The difficulty for me getting to the venue certainly hasn't helped, but somehow I always just seemed to find out about these concerts just after they had taken place. Never mind, I made it finally last night, and I also discovered that normally the performances manage to end by about 9.30PM, which makes my attendance very much more likely at future shows.
So last night's show included three duo performances for piano and saxophone. The first came from Lexer himself in his ongoing, exceptional duo with Seymour Wright. This was the third or maybe fourth time I had seen them play in the last few months, and previous occasions were great experiences. This time I had only just arrived in the room, got my coat off and sat down when the music began, and I found myself taking in the grandeur of the hall and my surroundings rather than really concentrating on the music, so it took a few minutes to really engage. They were great again though, just so in tune with one another, to the point that much of the real power of their performance comes when one or the other deliberately tries to push the music out of its stride, turning things on their head. The last time I saw them, at the Freedom of the City Festival it seemed to be Seymour that took the provocative role more, but last night it seemed to be Sebastian, as several times he dramatically attacked his piano with sudden bursts of aggression right after periods of calm in the music.
Despite these moments of relative violence the performance was more subdued than I have heard the duo play before though. Lexer used a lot of live digital processing of his sound, particularly in the early stages of the set to create a drifty, floaty sound to his playing, which he then regularly undermined with sudden shifts. Wright began as I have noticed he always has done of late, with the main body of the saxophone on the floor in front of him. Generally speaking as a performance progresses he will tend to gradually put the sax back together and towards the end play it as "normally" as he ever does in this kind of group. Last night he was more restrained than I have seen him recently, still making the right decisions, picking moments for his sudden intrusions, but there just seemed to be a few less of them in this performance, as if allowing the resonance of the massive concert hall space to find its own room in the music alongside them. Certainly there were a few moments when Wright played with the acoustics of the room. Putting his sax down at one point on the wooden floor caused a light thud to echo around the place, so he used this to his advantage, rocking the instrument on the floor at one point, dragging it from one foot to the other on another. There was also a great moment midway through the set when a brief two-note xylophone sound came from somewhere. Anyway great stuff again, thoroughly engaging and captivating, very much an another chapter in an ongoing musical relationship.
There then followed an acoustic performance by John Butcher and John Tilbury. I was really curious as to how this would turn out, because although the pair have played together before, in AMM settings and also when Tilbury guested with Polwechsel, I am pretty sure this was their first duo. They played for a long time, at least forty five minutes, and throughout they moved through sections as if recording tracks for an album, though the pieces flowed together seamlessly. I am very happy to report that John Tilbury appears completely recovered from his bout of ill health. He played around 50% of the set stood up, working inside the piano with both hands. I can also report that he was at his best, summoning all kinds of sounds, percussive and tonal from the piano using just a tiny bag of preparations. As ever though, the sounds Tilbury made were only half of the story. Their placement, so patient, so well chosen was perfection in itself. John Butcher has been playing stunningly well of late as well, and last night was no exception as he blew, clicked, popped and whistled his way through a beautiful performance. The music was spacious, considered, and slow, never really drifting into jazz territory, but occasionally hinting at tiny specks of melody, with Butcher often picking out a couple of notes from the beginning of a Tilbury arpeggio and playing them back, using them as a springboard to take the music elsewhere.
This duo was such a joy to sit and listen to. The musicianship shown was incredible, and the way two such identifiable musical voices were able to adapt to each other and so simply, so easily, find a common music was something special. All three of the performances tonight put the musicians in a place where there was nowhere to hide, stood or sat right there a few feet from the audience, but Butcher and Tilbury seemed to revel in this, sensing the occasion and pulling out all the stops. Butcher looked more focussed, more attentive to what was happening around him than I have seen him before at dozens of other gigs. There were quiet, gamelanesque moments of stunning beauty, busier, expressionistic vignettes placed here and there and moments of silence. Neither player tried to rewrite any rulebooks, both played just how we know them to play but they did so with unbelievable sensitivity towards one another. Watching this performance was just so good.
The evening ended with the French duo of Bertrand Gauguet (sax) and Frederic Blondy. (piano) I think in any other company, on any other occasion I would have been raving about this duo. Blondy was great at the piano, starting slowly but emphatically with big swoops of almost orchestral sound which he achieved by tucking the hair removed from a violin bow under the strings of the piano and then, holding each end of the hair pulling it back and forth, so each string touched rang out as if bowed with a very long bow. Later in the performance he became far more percussive, energetically pouncing in and out of his instrument and throwing streams of small sounds out in vaguely rhythmic patterns. I liked Gauguet's playing a lot also, leaning towards the drying, fluttery, whooshing sounds rather than hard notes. His playing reminded me a lot of another Bertrand, his compatriot Denzler, as each seem to find it easy to produce a wide range of sounds with only limited means as both pair down the palette of sounds they work with. Inevitably as Blondy''s piano pyrotechnics came thick and fast Gauguet took to placing lines of sound behind them, as if providing a bed of sound for the smaller, faster piano sounds.
So yes they were very good, and if they had not just followed the Tilbury / Butcher performance it wouldn't matter, but it was inevitable that their playing would be compared, if only in my head. For me then, there was just a little bit too much reliance on the same sounds for too long. The rhythmic circles of technically great piano gymnastics that Blondy used to end the set went on for just a bit too long and Gauguet's restrained response didn't change very much. As Butcher and Tilbury's performance was a beautifully timed conversation the Blondy/Gauguet was more of teeming rush of technique. It seemed to lack a little subtlety, which is probably very unfair, but perhaps inevitable when you follow musicians of the calibre we had heard. Still, another great night and three strong performances, at least one of them being superb. I imagine this won't be the last INTERLACE event I make it along to.
London March 9, 2002
This review first appeared in Coda No. 304.
By Tom Perchard
This was the first in a series of concerts of (mostly) improvised music at Goldsmiths College, an institution which is known in the UK for its commitment to experimental art of all kinds. The evening was organized by pianist and Goldsmiths graduate student Sebastian Lexer , and he brought together a group of performers with a number of shared associations: two thirds of AMM were here - pianist John Tilbury gave a realization of a John Cage piece, while drummer Eddie Prévost brought his trio - and most almost all of the other performers have been members of the informal improvisation workshops that Prévost has been running in South London for the last couple of years.
One workshop member is John Lely. On the night, he gave a solo set, sitting at a table that was piled high with instruments - little Casio keyboards, a reed-organ, turntable, and various other objects, including an electric toothbrush. While, in the end, the only role that the toothbrush played was to fall on the floor, it was easy to see how the sound of its motor might have fitted into the music: Lely built his performance by stacking up layers of microscopically detailed mechanical noise, and, showing minimal interest in "instrumental" gestures, he left the technology to run, and to sound like itself. As if in anticipation of the prepared piano sounds that would feature later in the evening, Lely provided a sort of low-culture alternative, ripping open and short-circuiting his keyboards so that they emitted uneven but static loops. These were joined by loops of static from a doctored turntable, whose needle Lely set skating over a 7-inch record. After assembling this quiet, texturally complex structure, the performer set about dismantling it, and the music ran itself down into silence.
Next was Lexer, whose piano and electronics were joined by Li Chuan Chong's laptop and Denis Dubovtsev's soprano saxophone. As a collection of improvisers, their formal strategies were inevitably less focussed than Lely's had been, but the push and pull of the trio was interesting in itself. Dubovtsev kept a low profile, largely limiting his soprano to percussive effects and high-wailing false tones, occasionally beginning and then shying away from more complex lines. He established a relationship with Lexer, whose approach was in direct contrast to Dubovtsev's: the pianist's playing was often flowing and melodic, eminently traditional, and he processed his sweeps and arpeggios into an electronic murmur that hid under the main body of sound. It was Chong, though, who defined the performance's emotional pitch. His laptop created complexes of glitches and faults that threatened to overpower the acoustic instruments. Musically, Chong's was a rather eccentric presence (and physically - he sat resplendent in what looked like some sort of national dress, but turned out to just be a dress), although the music was all the more stimulating for it. Chong and Lexer worried their electronics into a mass of paranoid noise, but the sound eventually dispersed into isolated radio hums and clicks.
Marianthi Papalexandri contributed a short, semi-improvised performance. Wearing a labcoat with contact microphones attached, she circled the room and audience in stylized movements, exploring sounds inherent to the performing space. Brushing her amplified hands over the room's features, and over various sound-producing contraptions that she scattered around, Papalexandri produced isolated sounds that were entirely of the context, yet seemed oddly decontextualized through amplification. She seemed to want to outline the acoustic presence of the space itself; however, acoustic presences of other spaces interjected, including the club next door and the practice rooms down the corridor. But that, I suppose, was part of the point.
John Tilbury performed Cage's Electronic Music for Piano , with the technology provided by Lexer. We watched and waited in silence while Tilbury prepared the piano. As he placed dampening objects under the instrument's strings, at the same time conferring with his technical assistant through muted and sometimes perplexed gestures, the operation took on something of the character of the Beckett plays that Tilbury has recently been performing. The piece itself was similarly ineloquent, centring as it did on the processed decay of solitary notes. If the music had a rather fragile character, that was rudely challenged by two ear-splitting screeches from the electronics, which may or may not have been entirely intentional, and by Tilbury's scraping a drumstick across the piano's lid. The resultant banshee wail helped the performance reach a surprising level of intensity, given the piece's economy of material.
Eddie Prévost came with his main working unit (outside of AMM), a trio that features soprano saxophonist Tom Chant and double bassist John Edwards. This date marked the trio's fifth anniversary, and they have grown into a remarkably powerful and intelligent force. The group's first performances tended to root themselves in a latter-day free jazz style, catching speed with nets of saxophone notes, cymbal figurations and running basslines. These days, though, the group rarely works itself up into the headlong rush of free jazz, and it now thrives on quickness of ears rather than fingers; the complexity of the musicians' interaction generates its own pace. This evening, the trio's sheer collective confidence was apparent from the first second, when Edwards dug in and was answered immediately by both saxophonist and drummer. The group's approach centres around this sort of quick-witted trialogue, but the players are rarely directly imitative of one another. Instead, they often seek to temporarily occupy the same sort of sonic space as one another, approximating each other's soundworlds on their own instruments. Prévost has long been a master of this sort of communication, and he adapts his regular jazz kit to converse with the high and low instruments, scraping his toms with a mallet, sometimes bowing bowls on his snare. While the drummer's identity is pretty much in place, the strategies employed by Tom Chant, a much younger player, seem to be changing very quickly. In the space of a year, he has abandoned his formerly sweet tone and Lacy-like tumbling, as exciting as they could be, for something much more nebulous and decentred. At times tonight, he seemed to be exploring the difference between the extremes of a full-bodied tone and pitchless air, investigating different enunciations of the same sound. Several octaves beneath Chant was John Edwards, whose playing was about as elemental as it possibly could have been. Characteristically, the bassist's bodily involvement with his instrument is total, and yet the impressive physicality of his music is matched by the mobility of his mind; Edwards never seems to repeat himself or resort to bass idiomatics, and communicates with the other musicians by striving to reinvent his instrument with every passing second. Like the trio in general, his instrumental command goes beyond the virtuosic, as the extreme complexity of his approach always remains subordinate to formal logic and shape. Nearly all of the evening's performers will be featured during the freedom of the city festival, London, 3-6 May 2002. Details can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/radio3.
Lely/Charaoui/Wright, 396 , Matchless Recordings MRCD42
John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew Piano Music 1959-70 , Matchless Recordings MRCD29; Morton Feldman - All Piano [END ITALICS], London Hall do 13
Eddie Prévost Trio, The Virtue in If , Matchless Recordings MRCD43; Touch, Matchless recordings MRCD34
© Tom Perchard, 2002