Wednesday 18 January 2023, 8pm

Photo by Sean Kelly


No Longer Available

Tonight, we pay homage to one of the UK’s most important free improvising musicians and curators - John Russell (19/12/1954- 19/01/2021).

This concert will showcase some of John’s long-term collaborations, including his own QuaQua group and one of the regular projects, where he was a sideman - namely ‘Ensemble’ a group formed by Chris Burn. We will also celebrate his most important curating legacy – Mopomoso.

Between 8.00-8.30 the audience can watch a 30 minute compilations of live footage featuring John Russell put together by artist/film-maker Helen Petts.

After the videos, the structure of the gig will be based on QuaQua festivals where concerts started and ended with a tutti and in between there were several small groups.

John Russell (guitar), Maggie Nicols (voice) and Phil Minton (voice) at Mopomoso free improvisation concert, at the Vortex London, on 15 March 2020.

Helen Petts / John Russell video compilation
John Butcher / soprano & tenor saxophone
Phil Durrant / electric mandolin
Matt Hutchinson / piano
Paul Jolly / reeds
Charlotte Keeffe / trumpet & flugelhorn
Marcio Mattos / cello & double bass
Pascal Marzan / 10 string microtonal guitar
Phil Minton / voice
Rachel Musson / tenor saxophone
Maggie Nicols / voice
Dave Tucker / electric guitar
Roger Turner / drums
Mark Browne / saxophones
Lee Boyd Allatson / drums
Ståle Liavik Solberg / drums

Other musicians / tbc

John Russell

“for Russell the fingerboard is apparently multiple. He finds new tones in the same place, new relationships in the same gesture. A second trip across the fingerboard is always a different excursion. The harmonic is a transparent sound: silence and ambient sound pass through it. It accounts for Russell’s unhurried pace and his sense of order, even when he’s playing fast: there’s simply so much going on.” - Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure 

John Russell got his first guitar in 1965 while living in Kent and began to play in and around London from 1971 onwards. An early involvement with the emerging free improvisation scene (from 1972) followed, seeing him play in such places as The Little Theatre Club, Ronnie Scott’s, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Musicians’ Co-Op and the London Musicians’ Collective. 

From 1974 his work extended into teaching, broadcasts (radio and television) and touring in the United Kingdom and, ever extensively, in other countries around the world . He has played with many of the world’s leading improvisers and his work can be heard on over 50 CDs. In 1981, he founded QUAQUA, a large bank of improvisers put together in different combinations for specific projects and, in 1991, he started MOPOMOSO which has become the UK’s longest running concert series featuring mainly improvised music. 

John Butcher

Butcher is well known as a saxophonist who attempts to engage with the uniqueness of time and place. His music ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked pieces and explorations with feedback and unusual acoustics. Since the early 80s he has collaborated with hundreds of musicians – including Derek Bailey, Rhodri Davies, Andy Moor (EX), Phil Minton, Christian Marclay, Eddie Prevost, John Stevens’ SME, Gino Robair, Polwechsel, Mark Sanders, John Tilbury, and Okkyung Lee.

Alongside long term projects he values occasional encounters; from large groups such as the EX Orkestra & Butch Morris’ “London Skyscraper”, to duo concerts with Fred Frith, Akio Suzuki, Paal Nilssen-Love, Keiji Haino, David Toop, Otomo Yoshihide, Sophie Agnel and Matthew Shipp.

Recent compositions include “Penny Wands” for Futurist Intonarumori, two HCMF commissions for his own groups, “Good Liquor Caused my Heart for to Sing” for the London Sinfonietta and “Tarab Cuts”, a response to recordings of early Arabic classical music which was shortlisted for a 2014 British Composer’s Award.

“English saxophonist John Butcher may be among the world’s most influential musicians, operating at the cutting-edge of improvisatory practice since the ‘80s. Whenever an acoustic musician starts to sound like a bank of oscillators, a tropical forest, a brook or an insect factory, Butcher’s influence is likely nearby.” – New York City Jazz Record.

Phil Durrant

Born near London in 1957, Phil Durrant is a multi-instrumentalist improviser/composer/sound artist who currently performs solo and group concerts.

As a violinist (and member of the Butcher/Russell/Durrant trio), he was one of the key exponents of the "group voice approach" style of improvised music. In the late 90s, his trio with Radu Malfatti and Thomas Lehn represented a shift to a more “reductionist” approach.

Recently, he has been performing solo and duo concerts with Bill Thompson, Mark Wastell, using a modular synthesizer system. As a mandolinist, he has been performing and recording with guitarist Martin Vishnick, mandolinist Richard Scott and drummer Emil Karlsen.

Durrant still performs regularly with the acoustic/electronic group Trio Sowari (with Bertrand Denzler and Burkhard Beins) and Mark Wastell’s The SEEN.

Charlotte Keeffe

Keeffe’s debut album ‘Right Here, Right Now’ is where you’ll find her exhibiting a passion for vibrant soundscapes rendered in live spaces. Released in 2021, also on Discus Music, she earned critical acclaim carving out a niche on the imprint. She also composes and performs for a number of the roster’s artists, including; Hi Res Heart, Carla Diratz and Julie Tippetts. She also co-leads Anthropology Band with the head of Discus Music, Martin Archer.

To date, her music has been featured significantly on BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM and BBC Radio 6, where she's been described as a 'prolific', 'dynamic' and 'excellent improviser!', by the likes of Corey Mwamba, Stuart Maconie and Jez Nelson. Keeffe is a Serious Artist and part of Serious’ Take Five 2022 cohort. She performed a duet with the mighty City of London as part of world-renowned trumpeter Dave Douglas' Festival of New Trumpet Music 2022.

Harnessing the power of art for social change is a crucial part of Keeffe’s musical identity: she has served as Assistant Musical Director of the London Gay Big Band, champions gender and diversity equality, as part of the Parliamentary award-winning Women in Jazz Media team, and played in Marin Alsop's Taki Concordia Orchestra at the World Economic Forum 2019, in front of world leaders and celebrities including Sir David Attenborough.

From stepping on Glastonbury and Wilderness stages alongside Charlotte Church, Laura Mvula and Kate Nash, to broadcasting to an international audience live from her bathroom during the pandemic, Keeffe understands that embracing individuality and letting go of inhibitions is the surest way to grasp the transformative power of music.

“Keeffe shows notable strength of character as she runs the sonic and emotional gamut..." - Kevin Le Gendre, JAZZWISE

Marcio Mattos

Since coming to London in the early 70’s he has performed, recorded and broadcast both in Britain and abroad with most exponents of the Improvised Music world: Evan Parker, John Stevens, John Surman, Roswell Rudd, Dewey Redman, Roscoe Mitchell and Marylin Crispell amongst many others.

Has also worked with dance companies such as Ballet Rambert and The Extemporary Dance Theatre Company, and in electro-acoustic music groups such as the West Square Electronic Music Ensemble, where he developed his own electronic treatment of the double bass and cello both in recording and live performance.

A long-standing member of various Eddie Prevost and Elton Dean formations. International projects working in Europe have included the "Bardo State Orchestra"- a project with Tibetan monks and Jim Dvorak, various projects with Georg Graewe, Tony Oxley's Celebration Orchestra,"AXON" with Phil Minton/ Fred van Hove and Martin Blume, "LINES" with Phil Wachsmann/ Jim Denley/ Martin Blume and Axel Dorner. Current international projects include a duo with shakuhachi player Shiku Yano, the string quartet “Gocce Stellari” with Charlotte Hug, John Edwards and Phil Wachsmann and ‘ABAETETUBA’ with Panda Gianfratti, Thomas Rohrer and Rodrigo Montoya.
Former member of ‘LIO’, the London Improviser’s Orchestra.
His presence can be heard in very many released CD’s and especially in his latest solo recordings, “SOL[os]’ (EMANEM 5035)

“Mattos is a creative genius…his invention is unparalleled, as is his musicianship.” Marc Medwin, review in ‘The Squid’s Ear”

Phil Minton

For a long time now Phil Minton has been working as a improvising singer, solo and in groups and situations at various locations all over the place, deserts, quarries, concert halls, pubs, holes, dodgy clubs, containers, up trees, in prisons, on mountains, in churches, under bridges and cafe oto etc.

Phil Minton comes from Torquay. He played trumpet and sang with the Mike Westbrook Band in the early 60s - Then in dance and rock bands in Europe for the later of part of the decade. He returned to England in 1971, rejoining Westbrook and was involved in many of his projects until the mid 1980′s.

For most of the last forty years, Minton has been working as an improvising singer in lots of groups, orchestras, and situations. Numerous composers have written music especially for his extended vocal techniques. He has a quartet with Veryan Weston, Roger Turner and John Butcher, and ongoing duos, trios and quartets with above and many other musicians, including tours with American singer Audrey Chen - with whom he has sang far and wide in the last ten years.

Since the eighties, His Feral Choir, where he voice-conducts workshops and concerts for anyone who wants to sing, has performed in over twenty countries.

Rachel Musson

Rachel Musson is a saxophonist, improviser and composer living in London, UK. She is involved with a variety of improvisation projects, and works regularly with Mark Sanders, Pat Thomas, Hannah Marshall, Julie Kjaer, Corey Mwamba, Olie Brice, Alex Ward, Alex Hawkins amongst others. She features on several releases, including a nonet featuring her composition 'I Went This Way' (577 Records), two with Shifa, feat. Pat Thomas and Mark Sanders, (577 Records), one with Mark Sanders and John Edwards (Two Rivers Records), trio with Liam Noble and Mark Sanders (Babel), and Corey Mwamba (Takuroku).

"A free-improviser sensitive to melody-like narrative and dramatic pacing" – John Fordham, The Guardian

Maggie Nicols

Maggie Nicols joined London's legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Dave Tucker

Dave Tucker is originally performed in the late 70's Manchester Punk scene with Mellatron who released a record in 1978. between 1980-81, performed and recorded the legendary "Slates" with The Fall. Since the mid 80's, has been resident in London and has performed and recorded with amongst others, Evan Parker, John Stevens, Johnny Dyani, Mick Beck, Phillip Wachsmann, Barre Phillips, Otomo Yoshide. Also a long time menber of Alan Tomlinson Trio, Scatter with Pat Thomas, Phil Minton and Roger Turner as well as being a long time guitarist and conductor with London Improvisers Orchestra. He has written and performed music for film and TV, including BBC and channel 4 which won the rory peck ward.

Roger Turner

Born 1946, ROGER TURNER grew up amongst the Canterbury musical life of the 1960s with a  strong foundation in jazz. Since 1974 his work has been focused on exploring a more  personal percussion language through the processes of improvisation. Solo performances, connections with experimental rock music & open-form song, extensive collaborations with  dance, film and visual art, and involvements in numerous jazz-based ensembles and workshop residencies have all formed part of that development. 

Helen Petts

Helen Petts is an artist film-maker who explores rhythm, texture, sound and chance events, both in the landscape and in her long standing relationship with the free improvisation music community. A former television director of arts programmes, she now regularly shows her own art work at film and music festivals and in gallery installations, in the UK and internationally. She studied Fine Art at Goldsmith's College and Middlesex University and Film at Westminster University.
Passionate about music, she has collaborated with many leading free improvisation musicians including Phil Minton, Steve Beresford, Lol Coxhill, Roger Turner, Adam Bohman, Sylvia Hallett, Ute Wassermann, Okkyung Lee, John Russell. During the 5 years she was co-promoter of the Mopomoso series of concerts, with guitarist John Russell, her Youtube channel helentonix, devoted to the creative filming of free improvisation, developed a cult following and approaches 1m viewers.

Pascal Marzan

Currently living in London, Pascal Marzan performs on a 10 string microtonal guitar.
After studying classical guitar – mainly devoted to the twentieth century repertoire – and teaching guitar in several music schools in Budapest, Hungary and France, Pascal has dedicated himself to free improvisation and the exploration of microtonal tunings of his instrument. His playing has been influenced by his interest in the folk musics of Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa…
He has recorded guitar duets with John Russell, Roger Smith (Emanem records) and a trio with Sabu Toyozumi and Dan Warburton (Improvising Beings records)…

Paul Jolly

Paul Jolly was born in 1946. After meeting the pianist and composer Mel Davis, who was at supply teacher at his school in 1962, Paul seriously began to explore jazz and improvised music.

In 1969 he joined for the People Band an improvising group formed by Davis and the percussionist Terry Day. This association still lasts and it has impacted on all of his approach to creativity.

Alongside his performing roles in 1991 he took on executive & artistic production for "33" Records, including all A&R, product design and international distribution development. To date "33" have released over 350 albums of contemporary jazz & related music and is one of the leading independent jazz labels in the U.K.

Latest projects include a duo with the poet Paula Rae Gibson, a duo with pianist Mike Adcock, a duo with percussionist Steve Seal and with Ben Higham’s ‘The Brass Monkeys’. His love of work with dancers is now continuing with performing with the award winning contemporary dance group “House of Absolute’.

Sothiac – Pat Moonchy (vocals, synth), Lucky Liguori (guitar, gongs) & Paul Jolly (bass clarinet, clarinet, saxophone)

Matt Hutchinson

I have played jazz and Improvised Music since the 1960's (and)with many great Jazz and Improvising musicians both here and abroad; many becoming good friends as did guitar man - John Russell - He I first met sometime in the '80s, possibly at the old Red Rose Club. Later we got to play together as regular members of the Chris Burn Ensemble that operated for several decades. Today I'm currently concentrating on the piano rather than using a back breaking electronics and synths set up, however with the now miniaturisation of such equipment I can't rule out a return to 'heavenly ethereal sounds' in the future - if can get a good price for some of my preloved heavy gear ! I'm Hoping to release some piano solos that I'm currently recording and perhaps a recital of impros from the organ of St. Roland de Fiefty
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that over the years I found John Russell's enthusiasm and dedication to Improvised music pretty inspirational, (this despite all the odds and the very little money) and all this with humour, generosity and exceptional musicianship.

'Sock it to us John!'

Lee Allatson

Lee Allatson is a drum set player from Leicestershire, UK, specialising in free improvisation.
His early percussive years included classical tuition and a keen interest in 1970’s film soundtracks - all fused within the cultural melting pot of Caribbean, Asian and Eastern European influences provided from a Leicester city education. Moving to vocals and electronics manipulation he developed his experimental edge through free music playing with his regular trio Misterlee and in ad hoc performance opportunities with Damo Suzuki (Can), Paul Dunmall and Wildbirds & Peacedrums. The drum seat has become home once again in recent years and as well as teaching percussion and recording solo drum set works, Lee now regularly plays in several free improvising ensembles with, amongst others: John Russell, Bruce Coates and Christopher Hobbs. Lee also founded and runs the South Leicestershire Improvisors Ensemble.

Mark Browne

Mark Browne has been playing saxophones in an improvised music context since the 1980s and has performed and recorded extensively and his varied resume includes projects with Adam Bohman, Jonathan Bohman, Martin Klapper, Lol Coxhil, Pat Thomas, Alex Ward, Roland Ramanan. In 2010 he formed Crush!!! With Sonic Pleasure and Ian MacGowen and in addition has performed and recorded in a trio with Richard Sanderson and Daniel Thompson. Mark Browne is the current Chair of Oxford Improvisers.

Ståle Liavik Solberg

Ståle Liavik Solberg (drums/percussion) has established a base for himself as a central part of Oslo's thriving improvised music scene. Working with ensembles VCDC, Will it float? (with John Russell, Steve Beresford & John Edwards), Silva-Rasmussen-Solberg trio and in duos with Fred Lonberg-Holm and John Russell his open and attentive drumming has received many positive responses from musicians and audiences in both Europe and the USA. Solberg is also known as one of the driving forces behind the series Blow Out! in Oslo, and he curates the festival with the same name together with fellow drummer / percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love.