Late April Medley

ISOTOPE – Golden Section

Posthumous release of live and studio tapes from 1974-75, recorded by a line-up thus composed: Gary Boyle (guitar), Hugh Hopper (bass), Nigel Morris (drums) and Laurence Scott (keyboards) with percussionist Aureo de Souza joining the party in two tracks. Golden Section is a good, unyielding album of British fusion, largely influenced by entities such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. Also, rather intriguingly, this embodiment of the band seems to foresee realities which will be explored shortly thereafter by Tony Williams’ New Lifetime. Boyle’s digital pyrotechnics still sound attractive after all these years, Hopper is solid and funky, Morris works fine as an impulsive rhythmic propeller and Scott coordinates the whole with harmonic taste to spare. The bulk of the pieces appears structurally related, but the eminence and the technical level of the players – and the feeling born from those traits – stick the music with a brand that’s typically Cuneiform. Picture a mental place where, as soon as a track begins and themes and improvisations flow, one smells the dust on a gatefold cover, mourning the loss of that adolescent curiosity whose fruits were tasted during locked-room meetings with a different kind of awareness. Holding back emotions becomes an arduous task, then. This was a heavily touring unit (as shown by the extreme facility with which the players engage in the tunes) whose short extent was enormously disproportioned in regard to a prospective success. Looks like even a young Michael Jackson was once spotted with an Isotope LP in his hands: believe it or not, there was a time in which Motown used to distribute their albums. (Cuneiform)

SCOTT FIELDS ENSEMBLE – Fugu

These pieces were initially created with the intention of providing substance for a choreography by Li Chiao-Ping, whose dancers apparently couldn’t manage to follow the material’s erratic metres well enough to actually bring the proposed collaboration to a completion. Providentially the sounds remain, and they’re refined as much as necessary to stand alone for regular CD-fuelled consumption. The leader shows a superb command of nylon strings alternating disobedient clusters, asymmetrical rasgueados, swinging impertinence and poetic linearity depending on the circumstance. The lyrical counter altar is represented by cellist Matt Turner, who often steals the spotlight with the daydreaming rigour of his beautiful tone, finely complemented by vibraphonist Robert Stright’s shimmering unselfishness. An outstanding rhythm section – Geoff Brady on percussion, John Padden on double bass – provides a pulse that is full of zip but never petulant, contributing to the dismemberment of potential lassitude – a constant peril both in jazz and any kind of music conceived for dance. Fields confirms himself to be a name to keep an eye on all the time, especially when analyzing the way in which he frequently relinquishes a role of guitar-wielding protagonist while privileging a considerable transparency in the overall design, in turn cleverly enriched by a magnificent stability in the composed/improvised ratio. (Clean Feed)

GLASGOW IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA – GIO Poetics

Difficult CD to appraise, this one. I’ve been listening to it on and off for months, without deciding about what the real feedback was. The conclusion is “positive”, overall – but in spurts, not in its entirety. GIO was in this occasion joined by Ernesto and Guilherme Rodrigues, who were travelling in Scotland for a live performance with vocalist Aileen Campbell and guitarist Neil Davidson. The recording was arranged 24 hours after that set, the outcome showing all the positives and the negatives of such a swift decision. Indeed what is virtually absent is the sense of on-the-spot composition that is typical of multi-instrumental settings where a minimum of prior concentration, when not an actual rehearsal, has taken place before the red light appears. There are in fact moments in which a general impression of scarce lucidity transpires amidst the numerous cooperative transactions. Yet there’s also an unquestionable “rough freshness” that permeates the four selections, with particular regard to “Dog’s Got My Money”, a gorgeous mixture of timbres – with an observable predominance of tensely droning strings – that alone is worth more than a few listens. The attractiveness of non-training consists in a series of unexpected snapshots of perturbed restlessness, which renders this introvert music quite interesting despite my difficulty in penetrating its spirit in depth. As told above, this disc requires time and persistence – and even following that, rewards are NOT a given. (Creative Sources)

JOHN WOLF BRENNAN – The Speed Of Dark

Brennan, a bright pianist and a musician gifted with finely tuned ears, is capable of digging out inspiration from a multitude of different elements – instrumental, natural, motorized or all of the above – and translate it into music which, as far as the experimental nuance might go, often sails seas of tranquil melancholy and brooding moods, a particularly conspicuous case in point being the returning theme of “Vals”. In this record he calls his means of expression “nonsolopiano”, given the employment of enhancing items such as mechanical pumps and aged clocks to dictate the tempo of a piece, or simply to duet with, besides the sporadic use of other instruments including Irish whistle, melodica and accordion. The Speed Of Dark revolves around scarcely acknowledged connections linking Ireland and Switzerland (respectively, Brennan’s family’s native country and the artist’s current location – the man is fortunate, one would say) and utilizes materials – concrete and invented – from both areas, combined in diverse types of creative practice. The way in which he articulates the sonic imagery is transparent and, at the same time, immeasurable like the unpremeditated propagation of affecting vibrations that frequently arises from the scents of these graceful solutions, even the most ingenious ones. Listening to those sympathetic chordal designs while reflecting about certain angles that life unexpectedly shows comes pretty easy, correspondingly to the will of regularly spinning the CD. A technically sophisticated, reflective classiness that pays dividends. (Leo)

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