Regular meeting of The London Improvisers Orchestra drawing on London's rich pool of improvising musicians. The LIO is part of a long and varied heritage that stretches back to the free-jazz big bands of Chris McGregor and Mike Westbrook, the intuitive ensembles of John Stevens and purely improvising groups such as the Continuous Music Ensemble.
History of The London Improvisers Orchestra
Improvising is normally a small group activity. However, there is often the temptation to explore the possibilities of larger ensemble improvisations. For instance, in London in the 1960s and 1970s, there were the free jazz-type big bands of Mike Westbrook and Chris McGregor, the contemporary composition-oriented ensembles of Barry Guy and Paul Rutherford, and the more intuitive experiments of John Stevens. There were also purely free improvising large groups such as the Continuous Music Ensemble (which became The People Band) and the Alternative Music Orchestra.
The London Improvisers Orchestra is thus part of a long and very varied heritage. An orchestra was put together for a Butch Morris 'London Skyscraper' tour of Britain in the autumn of 1997, which left the participants feeling exuberant with the experience of improvising in a large ensemble. However, some of them felt that there were other possibilities that had not been fully explored on the tour. A group (instigated by Steve Beresford, Evan Parker and Ian Smith, later joined by Caroline Kraabel and Pat Thomas) decided to keep the orchestra together, and see what could be achieved under the direction of some of the participating musicians.
Some of the musicians in the original Skyscraper project didn't continue with the exploration, while other musicians who weren't on the tour subsequently decided to join in. The number of personnel varies somewhat (between 12 and 40) depending on people's availability, but has always embraced a diverse mixture of ages and experience.
For nine years, up until quite recently, the LIO had a first-Sunday-in-the-month residency at the Red Rose in Seven Sisters Road. Meeting early on this Sunday, any LIO member could rehearse and try out new ideas for determining pieces of music that essentially are improvisation-based, and/or simply develop their conduction skills with signals and signs that have been added to over the years and are now well established. These pieces are then mixed in with freely improvised pieces and make up a performance. A recent visitor to one of these sessions was amazed at how the musicians listened to each other, pointing out that such sensitivity was unlikely to happen in any other city.
The members of the Orchestra are a small percentage of the remarkable pool of improvising musicians based in London, which Evan Parker rightly calls "the richest music scene in the world".
LIO band members can include:
Ian Smith, Roland Ramanam - trumpets, Alan Tomlinson, Robert Jarvis - trombones, Catherine Pluygers - oboe, Jacques Foschia - bass clarinet, John Rangecroft - clarinet, Neil Metcalfe - flute, Terry Day - wooden flutes, words and poetry, Adrian Northover - alto and soprano saxes, Lol Coxhill - soprano sax, Chefa Alonso - soprano sax and frame percussion, Caroline Kraabel - alto sax and voice, Evan Parker - tenor & soprano saxes,Barbara Meyer, Marcio Mattos, Hannah Marshall, Ute Kanngiesser - cellos, Christoph Irmer, Charlotte Hug, Phillip Wachsmann, Mardyah Tucker, Alison Blunt, Sylvia Hallett, Susanna Ferrar, Amanda Drummond, Ivor Kallin violins and/or violas, John Edwards, Dave Leahy - double basses, Rodrigo Montoya - shamisen, Roberto Sassi, Dave Tucker - electric guitars, John Bisset - guitar, B J Cole - pedal steel guitar, Tony Marsh - drum set, Javier Carmona - drums and percussion, Orphy Robinson - steel pan/ percussion, Adam Bohman - amplified percussion, Eugene Martynec - electronics, Steve Beresford, Veryan Weston - pianos, Ashley Wales - conduction.
"The LIO has in a short time become one of the most formidable large groups working in music. ... they have created a remarkable thing: a contemporary big band capable of free improvisation as well as compositions and conductions" (ROBERT IANNAPOLLO - CADENCE, 2001
"The kind of intensity, excitement, and invention that this ensemble creates via spontaneous means is unique in New Music circles." (ART LANGE - FANFARE, 2001)
".a powerful argument for the continuing appeal of large improvising ensembles and of free improvisation, here both thrilling and surprising in equal measures." (JOHN EYLES - ALL ABOUT JAZZ, 2008)