Jazz / Free Jazz
Working both inside and outside the instrument's body, Pat Thomas presents a compelling vision of what the piano can do in the 21st century. At times playing with recognisable musical material and at others going deep into sonic abstraction, Pat's playing encompasses massive extremes: solidity and flow; seriousness and laughter; uproar and imperturbability. A major solo statement, Al-Khwarizmi Variations traverses the history and the physicality of the piano. Pat rules. "Thomas runs the gamut of techniques, splashing clusters, weaving contrapuntal lines and building elaborate structures from the inside out. Despite their variety, they share a fundamental quality – they truly sound like spur of the moment creations, not the final draft of ideas mulled over for weeks, if not months on end. Their impact is enhanced by one of the more effectively engineered piano sounds in recent memory, one that puts the piano right in your lap. The value of this is felt immediately, as the first variation is brimming with above-the-staves clusters that are wincingly bright. Conversely, Thomas creates china-rattling thunder when he plunges into the bass register." - Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure
Pat Thomas/ piano
Recorded and mixed by Rick Campion at City University Music Studios on 19 June 2011. Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray's Inn Road. Artwork from a 15th century Mamluk tile, adapted for print by Paul Abbott. With thanks to Trevor Brent
Pat Thomas - Al-Khwarizmi Variations
Fascinating combination of two uncompromising saxophonists. Seymour Wright grew up listening to Evan Parker's radical reshaping of the saxophone and both develops and deconstructs it in his own playing. Together, the two interrupt and augment each other incessantly, creating tight spirals of difference and similarity that crackle with ideas and energy.
"Wright’s penetrating attack stands out throughout, providing an effective foil for Parker’s more serpentine phrasing. One thinks here of Parker’s duo outings with reed players like Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton, Wolfgang Fuchs, or Lol Coxhill and Wright certainly holds his own." - Michael Rosenstein, Point of Departure
Evan Parker / soprano and tenor saxophones
Seymour Wright / alto saxophone
The title comes from the writing of Daniil Kharms. Thank you Ute, Evin, the Kernel Brewery, Geoff and Derby Jazz. Recorded by Sebastian Lexer on 5 October 2014 at the Kernel Brewery, London (1-2) and by David Reid on 12 October 2014 at The Studio, Derby (3-5). Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Artwork/Design by James Vickery. Music by Evan Parker and Seymour Wright. Produced by Trevor Brent
Evan Parker & Seymour Wright - Tie The Stone To The Wheel
Sebastian Lexer (piano+) and Steve Noble (drums and percussion) first played together in the winter of 2011 and what seemed like an unlikely, even oppositional, pairing quickly proved itself to be an extremely well-matched one. Noble's sharp vertical hits and Lexer's sustained horizontal textures echo, disrupt and enrich each other, producing music full of complex slants and intricate resonances.
"They sync together immediately, entwining natural resonances of strings and cymbals, percussive attack of keys and drums, and the variegated textures of electronic processing and shuddering, abraded percussion. The two leave behind any notion of conversational give-and-take, instead diving in to the development of a constantly morphing collective voice." - Michael Rosenstein, Point of Departure
"a dialect nourished by sequential superimposition and counteraction of alien, nigh impossible noises, they spawn incongruous yet mesmerizing musical patterns" - Antonio Poscic, The Free Jazz Collective
"the descriptions 'drummer' and 'pianist' are barely adequate, only scratching the surface of what each of them does" - John Eyles, All About Jazz
"It’s incredible what strange and beguiling music they make. As well as the tinks, plinks, taps and crashes that you might expect, here are planar whorls and laminal tones closer to electronic music than anything in orthodox pianism; and amid the stacked metal clatter, percussive emphases and taut skin and rim shots of Noble’s playing sit shimmering tones and plaintively vocal-like sounds, either scraped-up or bowed from sympathetically resonating materials. These sonics out-strange anything most percussionists ever dream of. And better yet, this is all done with as much restraint and sensitivity as animation." - Tim Owen, Dalston Sound
Sebastian Lexer / piano+
Steve Noble / drums and percussion
Recorded by Giovanni La Rovere at Cafe Oto, London on 25 October 2011 (1) and 18 June 2014. Mixed by Sebastian Lexer. Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Artwork/Design by James Vickery. Music by Sebastian Lexer and Steve Noble. Produced by Trevor Brent
Sebastian Lexer & Steve Noble - Muddy Ditch
About Trumpet and Saxophone brings together New York based trumpeter Nate Wooley and London based saxophonist Seymour Wright for a series of intensely material duo improvisations that inhabit the tricky overlap between these two instruments. Recorded on their second encounter, there's an intriguing balance of freshness and reflection in the music here, one that matches their deep knowledge of improvised music's various pasts as well as their commitment to experiment and discovery.
"a spiky, raw collection of brief improvisations that see them pushing at each other rather than slipping into comfort zones . . . full of a palpable tension but somehow also very simple and unadorned . . . a fine set of recordings that showcase the act of improvisation in its bared boned glory." - Richard Pinnell, The Wire
"Wooley and Wright have both made extraordinary solo recordings: these duets might represent their sum and difference or their square root. About Trumpet and Saxophone is eminently worthy of close listening. It might enrich or impoverish a listener in a new way." - Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
"if the history of jazz can be told via great trumpet/saxophone pairings (Bix/Tram, Diz/Bird, Chet/Gerry, Miles/Trane, Don/Ornette, Kenny/Evan...add your own favourites) separated by stylistic quantum leaps, then the pairing of Nate/Seymour might just represent the latest such leap." - John Eyles, All About Jazz
Nate Wooley / trumpet
Seymour Wright / alto saxophone
Recorded by Rick Campion at City University Music Studios on 4 July 2012. Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Edited by Trevor Brent. Cover painting by Geoff Wright (Svetlana, 1968). Music by Nate Wooley & Seymour Wright
Nate Wooley & Seymour Wright - About Trumpet and Saxophone
At times barely more than breathing, at others breaking into full-throated song, A Doughnut's End is a highly concentrated sequence of solo improvisations that captures the full range of Minton's vocal powers.
As he says in the accompanying notes, while there is continuity between this record and previous "doughnut" albums, this latest offering is "less optimistic than forty years ago" when he still "thought stuff would get better", an optimism diminished by the continued political dominance of "slush-spraying doughnut-scoffers".
A Doughnut's End is a stark and affecting testament to one man's ongoing exploration of the potential of the human voice.
"Minton has forged an alternative lexicon, one that seemingly forgoes the constraints of tradition and language. The result is a perverse, evocative set, the kind of performance that forces a reaction and demands attention be paid to it — music that has the power to cause unrest and revulsion in the listener. . . . An air of fragility lingers throughout, a reminder that even Minton’s finely honed, idiosyncratic delivery is all too susceptible to the inevitable pitfalls of existence. . . . The primal outpouring of A Doughnut’s End is all-consuming, and without language to dirty the proceedings, it is as much a personal meditation as it is a display of pure virtuosity." - Soe Jherwood, Tiny Mix Tapes
"Many of the sounds on the album’s 15 short tracks are unpleasant, but they’re all the more powerful for it. This work is in no way deprived of wonder, and you have to marvel at the breadth of what Minton can do. “Breaking News” bleeds from high pitched warbling to multiphonic density, the throat pushed to the weirdest limits of its potential. “There’s A Reason” reprises this sonic field, almost electronic in texture, while “Set In Stone” takes these techniques and flirts with the operatic. “Grandish”, the album’s final track, works through a series of high pitched peeps that could come from an as yet unidentified beast." - Matt Krefting, The Wire
"Things flap and billow a bit more than they used to, which Minton accentuates in the formation of starker, more striking vocal shapes – unstable vibratos, phlegmy belching baritones. What if it isn’t volume and clear articulation that renders a voice audible amongst the masses, but visceral wordless eccentricity?" - Jack Chuter, ATTN Magazine
Phil Minton / voice
Recorded (April & June 2013) and mixed by Rick Campion at City University Music Studios. Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Photography by Jocelyn Low. Music by Phil Minton (PRS) Produced by Trevor Brent
Phil Minton - A Doughnut's End
"it is odd to talk about a piano/bass/drums trio as a radical departure. But it is impossible to think of this meeting between bassist John Edwards, drummer Mark Sanders, and pianist John Tilbury in any other way . . . from the first notes, the three erase any notion of piano trio conventions . . . the three build tensile drama from moments of fractured intensity which break against pools of calm . . . you should jump on this one quickly" - Michael Rosensten, Point of Departure
"this one-off encounter is truly an exceptional listening experience" - Burning Ambulance
"London has long had a pedigree of crossbreeding improv's various styles and generations, but few have been as successful as this" - Richard Pinnell, The Wire
In his review of Exta, the critic Brian Olewnick commented that “there's a tendency on the part of [John Tilbury's] younger companions to defer a bit to him”, adding that, in his view, this was not “necessarily a bad strategy”. In this encounter, their first as a trio, John Edwards and Mark Sanders do not defer to Tilbury at all, and it proves to be perhaps the best strategy of all.
This is a vigorous music of equals, the democratic clamour of three distinct personalities committed to occupying a common space and working together to create something collective without erasing their differences in the process. There's tension, even friction, at times between Edwards and Sanders' quickness and Tilbury's more measured approach, but it's a productive tension and one that enables all three to explore areas of their playing that perhaps aren't always foregrounded: Edwards' ability to wait and patiently twist long resonant notes out of near nothingness; Sanders' sense of space and sharp delicacy with small sounds; and Tilbury's thunderous density and energetic attack.
It's a startling performance and one that, like all great improvisation, exceeds, and perhaps even upsets, expectations.
John Edwards / double bass Mark Sanders / drums and percussion John Tilbury / bird calls, piano and tape
Recorded by Katherine Arnold at Cafe Oto on 17 June 2013. Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Title from Martha Rosler, Culture Class (Sternberg Press, 2013). Music by John Edwards, Mark Sanders and John Tilbury (PRS). Produced by Trevor Brent
Edwards / Sanders / Tilbury - A Field Perpetually at The Edge of Disorder
Diverse musical elements - coruscating cymbal scrapes, shimmering amplifier hum, melancholy saxophone circlings, sharp hits of snare, string and reed, slow motion guitar riffs, deep tam-tam surges and floor tom rasps, hypnotic prepared piano figures, and hovering fragments of song-like melodies - fracture and coalesce in this single intense improvisation.
Featuring two of the foundational figures of free improvisation alongside a younger arrival, this recording captures the first meeting of this trio. They had all played together before separately, and the combination of familiarity and unfamiliarity proved productive: there's plenty of divergence and convergence here, and plenty of tension too - most interestingly, perhaps, in their differing approaches to repetition and tonality. At times coming uncomfortably close to each other, at times standing far apart, the trio moves inexorably towards a beautiful - and, in its simplicity, startling - conclusion.
" . . . everything here is circular. While the musicians are often playing continuously they only enter the foreground at distinct and isolated moments, as if circling through patterns in which they sometimes move into temporal zones indicating high volume. That sense of a score (or scroll or star map) is strong here. Parker employs circular breathing, initially for brief passages, later at greater length, reiterating short scalar phrases. The phrases are varied, first incrementally and then expansively, multiplying through overtones. There’s a sense that certain sounds – the tenor phrases, a particularly abrasive cymbal scrape – are being looped, entering at irregular intervals, sometimes triggered by one another, creating a sense of ongoing structure that’s further magnified by Coxon’s drones, occasional squiggly guitar figures and subtle references to blues. It’s subtle, continuous work." - Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
"Something is going on here but we do not really know what. Coxon, who is a very unusual guitarist, can make his instrument sound like a toy clock or the zither in “The Third Man”, together with Parker’s elaborate sax techniques and Prévost’s almost unbearable high-pitched bowed sounds these sound splinters create an uncomfortable world, as if a man was on the run, afraid of something horrible." - Free Jazz Collective
John Coxon / guitar
Eddie Prévost / percussion
Evan Parker / saxophone
Recorded by Tom Bugs live at The Cube, Bristol on 8 March 2008. Mixed by Rick Campion at City University Music Studios Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray's Inn Road. Many thanks to Mark & Chiz (Qu Junktions) and all at The Cube. Artwork by James Vickery. Music by John Coxon, Evan Parker and Eddie Prévost
John Coxon, Eddie Prévost & Evan Parker - Cinema
Having first played together here in 2010, it was immediately evident to everyone in the room that something had clicked between Ikue Mori and Steve Noble and a very special combination had emerged. Apparently operating according to some sort of shared dream logic, Mori and Noble’s music is always unpredictable but never incoherent, switching suddenly between ominous abstract soundscapes and exuberant rhythmic interplay, peppered with strange recurrences, idiomatic fragments and vertiginous changes of perspective, and characterized by a strong sense of forward momentum. From her beginnings drumming with the seminal no wave unit DNA, Mori has always had a distinctively percussive sensibility, and her deft electronic manipulations merge perfectly with Noble’s fiercely physical handiwork. Drums and their digital double: the similarities and differences overlap and interrupt, crystallize and dissolve, split and converge into a fast-flowing torrent of compelling musical activity.
"This is not an arid exercise in sonic exploration, however, and Mori extends her electronics beyond the merely imitative. She conjures up some wonderfully rich colours, such as the thick, smeared chords in Combustion, heard over Noble’s totemic drumming." - Free Jazz Collective
Ikue Mori/ electronics
Steve Noble / drums, percussion
Recorded on 16 November 2011 at Eastcote Studios, London. Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Music by Ikue Mori (Tohban Djan Publishing BMI) & Steve Noble (PRS).
Ikue Mori & Steve Noble - Prediction & Warning
Two of OTOs favourite improvisors lock together in Tokyo, creating jagged noise and percussive clashes - sometimes full steam, sometimes hiding in each others shadows.
"Utterly beguiling recording of two great improvisers at work in the Hara Museum, Tokyo in the winter of 2013. Drumset, percussion, guitar, amplifier - a simple set up that produces complex and extremely dynamic results, with immense swells of enveloping feedback, fragile cymbal scrapes that hover at the edge of audibility, ecstatic free-rock clatter and slyly resonant melodies."
''The musicians feed their material into the space, enough to be picked up by their feedback system, after which they ride their own sounds, penetrating inside the noise to throw its shapes." - Philip Clark, The Guardian
"Yoshihide allows his guitar’s feedback to build up, and as The Last Train unfurls with ghostly patience, he carefully molds the increasingly molten sounds emerging from his six-string until at times it barely sounds like a guitar at all. . . . Turner’s jangles on bells and bowls imbues the music with a gamelan-like ritualism, whilst Yoshihide’s guitar acts as a bass-heavy foundation allowing the drummer to throw out percussive blasts and clashes in controlled abandon." - Joseph Burnett, Dusted
Roger Turner / percussion
Otomo Yoshihide / guitar
Recorded by Taku Unami at Hara Museum, Tokyo on 17 February 2013. Mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Produced by Trevor Brent.
Roger Turner & Otomo Yoshihide - The Last Train
"Shipp’s manic repetitions, Butcher’s scalar blankets, and Lehn’s warm reverb remind the listener of certain eras of experimental improvisation and composition, but it isn’t the remembrance that contains the power, but the feeling that this is something fresh and new. It is a music that brings up new ideas and paradigms" - Nate Wooley
John Butcher / saxophones, feedback
Thomas Lehn / analogue synthesizer
Matthew Shipp / piano
1. Cluster I - 10:41
2. Cluster II - 12:18
3. Cluster III - 14:09
4. Tiefenschärfe - 05:58
Recorded live at Cafe OTO on 19 February 2014 by James Dunn. Mixed by John Butcher and Thomas Lehn. Mastered at Gray’s Inn Road by Rupert Clervaux. Notes by Nate Wooley. Photography by Andy Moor (The Ex). Design by James Vickery. Thanks to Trevor Brent.
John Butcher / Thomas Lehn / Matthew Shipp - Tangle
First meeting of pianist Matthew Shipp and reed player John Butcher recorded here back on Valentine’s Day 2010. It was an unusual, perhaps even awkward combination, given Shipp’s deep roots in the American free jazz tradition and Butcher’s key position at the more abstract end of European free improvisation, but the pairing proved productive, and the two pugnacious individualists found a common space in which to work and forge new musical bonds.
Matthew Shipp / pianoJohn Butcher / saxophones
1. Curling / Charred - 8:512. Mud / Hiss - 8:253 . Fundamental Field - 14:514. Generative Grammar - 29:13
Recorded live at Cafe OTO on 14 February 2010 by Sebastian Lexer. Special thanks to producer Peggy Sutton
John Butcher & Matthew Shipp - At OTO
In ancient Roman religious ritual, exta were the organs of a sacrificed animal offered up to the gods - the lungs, heart, liver and gall bladder; here, Exta is a selection of four pieces (one in two parts) carefully extracted from a long studio session.
"Butcher’s sax ranges from soft, whispery purrs to teeth-chatteringly spiteful blasts. Lehn’s analogue synth leaps in a moment from burbling tones to fiercely sizzling abstraction, and Tilbury slips from his familiar melodic interludes and fragmented arpeggios to crashing, seismic attacks on the inside of the piano. What sets this album head and shoulders above similar offerings is the understanding between the trio. It’s not just the way all three move together as one from subdued lull to explosive rupture, but how each pushes at the others, stopping the music from settling into routine. Throughout the two-part “Pulmo”, each of the trio takes the opportunity to wrench the music from one direction to another with a sudden attack just as it settles into a plateau. More than a routine outing for three old heads, Exta is as vibrant, powerful and testing as anything we have heard from any of them in a while, which in itself makes it an essential addition to Improv’s history. " - Richard Pinnell, The Wire
"This gloriously unhurried, constantly shifting music—each dynamic stimulus tempered by currents of textural stasis, notably on the initial stretch of 'lecur'—resists summation. It is an enthralling, exemplary piece of work." - Tim Owen, Dalston Sound
John Butcher / saxophones
Thomas Lehn / synthesizers
John Tilbury / piano
Recorded by Rick Campion at City University Music Studios on 25 June 2012. Mixed by Thomas Lehn. Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Photograph by Andy Moor (The Ex) Music by John Butcher (PRS), Thomas Lehn (GEMA) & John Tilbury (PRS)
Butcher / Lehn / Tilbury - Exta
A deeply enigmatic duo of trumpet and drums augmented by live electronics and an expanded percussive array (tam-tam, multiple high hats etc.), Stonecipher is a mesmerising work that operates in the blurred regions between the electronic and acoustic. Dörner's electronics have never been more effective, creating viscous clouds of sound which are illuminated by Sanders' sparse, precise formations, producing a dense fabric of insidious extended tones, gradual inclines and sudden drops, and sounds that slowly fold back into themselves or abruptly open onto unexpected plateaus. There's something wonderfully unhurried about the way that Stonecipher develops, but there's a real quickness bubbling under this apparent slowness that prevents the music from ever completely solidifying: just when you think you're on firm ground something moves and the whole landscape is reshaped.
"Understated throughout, the pair fold together softly muted sounds – hissing, breathy escapes of air and their digitally transformed, equally subtle cousins from Dörner, and a masterfully restrained, widely varied palette of soft tones and brief peaking flurries from Sanders. The end result is a slow, naturally fermenting but never boiling-over landscape of beautiful, surprisingly restrained music formed with remarkable understanding." - Richard Pinnell, The Wire
Axel Dörner / trumpet, electronics Mark Sanders / drums, percussion
Recorded by Rick Campion on 19 June 2011 at City University Music Studios. Mixed by Axel Dörner. Artwork by Jane Millican (detail of Scene, 2010, pencil on paper) Music by Axel Dörner (GEMA) & Mark Sanders (PRS)
Axel Dörner & Mark Sanders - Stonecipher
A stunning series of duo improvisations from two of the world's finest string players, whose shared dynamism and intensity of purpose produces fluid, powerful music that ranges from dense viscosity to swift effervescence. With all-strings improvisation there's often a danger of pseudo-classicism, of sounding vaguely like modernist chamber music, replete with refined flourishes and familiar motifs. Edwards and Lee don't just avoid this but go nowhere near it, heading off in another direction entirely. White Cable, Black Wires is full of rude vitality, driven by an intensely physical interplay which encompasses growling blocks of noise, subtle melodies, and nimble rhythmic entanglements.
"White Cable, Black Wires frontlines two obscenely talented improvisers who can sometimes take a backseat next to the “big names” they keep company with. If you’re anything like me, though, theirs are the names that draw your eye when seeking out exhilarating music. It also marks another resounding success for Fataka, quickly becoming a label to watch on the improv scene." - Dan Sorrells, Free Jazz Blog
John Edwards / double bass Okkyung Lee / cello
---Recorded by Sebastian Lexer at The Welsh Chapel, London on 25 May 2011. Mixed by John Edwards. Mastered by Rupert Clervaux at Gray’s Inn Road. Music by John Edwards (PRS) & Okkyung Lee (ASCAP). Produced by Trevor Brent.
John Edwards & Okkyung Lee - White Cable, Black Wires