Although Phil Minton’s notes attest his bitterness towards the current English political setting, it would be simplistic to exclusively relate A Doughnut’s End to that. By paying attention to the innumerable nuances of this thoroughly human album, a realization occurs: the voice – employed as only Minton can do – is the means through which the removal of the self can be attained without necessarily losing a unique identity. It represents, for lack of a better expression, the urgency of what usually remains untold.
As preposterous as it may appear, the concept is made clearer by the analysis of the tensions, strains, compressions and suspensions that singularize the Englishman’s extension of our primary instrument. The effort to limit oneself within a definite gamut to radically enhance the huge forces comprised in there. The ability of multiplying pitches to express vulnerability and frustration. The way irony, discouragement and exuberance can be combined in contexts deprived of technical subterfuges. The inborn capacities of a man who has fought stereotypes over several decades have created an instantly recognizable vocabulary, totally familiar for those who were there since the beginning but – most probably – still quite problematic for the occasional visitor.
However, we really shouldn’t mind the latter category. It is so beautiful to listen to Minton taking deep breaths in between bursts and gusts; it’s reassuring to find his imperiously growling gargles and illustrious groans stronger and more significant than ever. In “Still Breathing” he truly sounds like the sea and the wind, and it’s just wonderful. When talking about matchless improvising personalities, this gentleman’s name should be among the first to be quoted. In order to appreciate a modest greatness we have to relinquish the admiration for vacuous grandeur, for substance is something that can’t be taught. But one can always learn – by merely listening.