PAUL RUTHERFORD trombone
JOHN EDWARDS double bass
MARK SANDERS percussion
A1 - PETRAH - 15:58
A2 - FELTHOR - 9:25
SYLVIA HALLETT violin, voice
CAROLINE KRAABEL alto saxophone, voice
VERYAN WESTON piano, voice
A3 - VOICINGS - 15:10
A4 - DOES RAIN KNOW? - 3:19
PHILIPP WACHSMANN violin & electronics
KJELL BJORGEENGEN video
A5 - INTERSTATE 2 - 24:49
London Improvisers Orchestra
HARRY BECKETT, ROLAND RAMANAN, IAN SMITH trumpets,
ROBERT JARVIS, PAUL RUTHERFORD, ALAN TOMLINSON trombones,
NEIL METCALFE flute, CATHERINE PLUYGERS oboe,
JACQUES FOSCHIA, JOHN RANGECROFT clarinets,
LOL COXHILL, CAROLINE KRAABEL, ADRIAN NORTHOVER, EVAN PARKER saxophones,
SUSANNA FERRAR, SYLVIA HALLETT, CHRISTOPH IRMER, PHILLIPP WACHSMANN violins,
MARCIO MATTOS cello, SIMON H FELL, DAVID LEAHY, JOE WILLIAMSON double basses,
DAVE TUCKER electric guitar, STEVE BERESFORD piano, ANNA HOMLER toys, voice
CHEFA ALONSO, JAVIER CARMONA, TONY MARSH, MARK SANDERS percussion,
A6 - CONDUCTION No. 20 (by Simon H Fell) - 8:07
A7 - HEARING REPRODUCTION 7 (by Caroline Kraabel) - 2:18
B1 - THE DYNAMIX (by Dave Tucker) - 7:53
STEVE BERESFORD piano
JOE WILLIAMSON double bass
ROGER TURNER percussion
B2 - DON'T BEND THE WARDROBE - 26:32
LOL COXHILL soprano saxophone
NEIL METCALFE flute
B3 - PROVIDENCE POINTS SOUTH - 10:30
B4 - A RIGHT IN PHOENICA - 9:40
ALAN WILKINSON alto & baritone saxophones, voice
PHIL DURRANT laptop
MARK SANDERS percussion
B5 - UNSTILL LIFE - 23:33
Digital concert recordings made in London
at the Red Rose by Tim Fletcher - 2005 May 1
Total time 158:23
All previously unissued
For various reasons (such as lack of support from funding bodies), the 2005 FREEDOM OF THE CITY festival was just one day at the Red Rose, organised by Evan Parker and myself (Eddie Prevost being otherwise occupied that day). All of the music performed at the two concerts that day can be heard on this pair of CDs, apart from two additional pieces by the London Improvisers Orchestra, and two other groups (one of which, an octet organised by Parker, went into the studio the following day to record CROSSING THE RIVER to be Psi 06.02).
With the exception of the Orchestra, it was decided to feature groups that hadn't performed before. Well almost… The Beresford-Turner-Williamson trio had been rehearsing in private and had played a gig with Beresford using electronics. Also the duo of Coxhill and Metcalfe played a gig involving jazz standards in the long distant past.
A word of explanation about the duo of Philipp Wachsmann and Kjell Bjorgeengen: Their respective music and video images were influenced by each other. Wachsmann was also connected so that his playing electronically altered the video images. Even although Bjorgeengen's work cannot be heard directly, his influence can.
The other small groups basically speak for themselves, offering more testimony to the excellence of the London improvising scene.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (2005)
"An eagerly anticipated annual release, the Freedom of the City CD is an essential complement to the live festival, providing the opportunity to check recalled perceptions against objective evidence and to fill in unavoidable gaps, but mostly - whether or not one was there - to catch some great music.
At the live event, my favourite performances were the two trios of Paul Rutherford with John Edwards & Mark Sanders, and Alan Wilkinson with Phil Durrant & Sanders (again). Listening to the CD reinforces that view. It is rare to hear Rutherford just with bass and drums, and the two tracks here leave me hoping this trio records a full album; they sound made for each other. The inclusion of bass and drums adds variety and depth to Rutherford's solo playing without unduly constraining his soaring, swooping style.
Alan Wilkinson can always be relied on to give an uncompromising, committed performance. Here, Mark Sanders' drumming matches it, serving to drive him even harder. Phil Durrant's laptop is an unpredictable element, throwing in whines and white noise that spur the music on, as well as providing tranquil interludes.
Phillipp Wachsmann improvised to a video by Kjell Bjorgeengen, one that his music affected. Live, it was easy to get too involved in the visuals without fully appreciating the music. Just listening to Wachsmann without seeing the video is a revelation; his playing is a tour de force in which he employs a battery of techniques and effects to build up a kaleidoscopic piece layer by layer.
The London Improvisers Orchestra has long been a highlight of the festival and their three short pieces here emphasise the variety that is possible when different conductors (Simon H. Fell, Caroline Kraabel, Dave Tucker) take control. Kraabel's piece, Hearing Reproduction 7, is a fascinating attempt to repeatedly get players to replicate exactly what they played at the start of the piece. The result is a short, focused piece; it's hard to believe it was improvised by a thirty-strong ensemble.
Most of all, this CD re-emphasises the unbroken high standard of music heard at the festival. Truly, there was never a dull moment."
JOHN EYLES - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2006
"There are four trio performances on the set, and it's instructive how different the dynamic is in each of them. The opening trio pits the slippery Paul Rutherford with / against / at an angle to the well-attested John Edwards / Mark Sanders rhythm section: the trombonist's multidirectional and superbly deadpan lines engage only selectively with the scuttling activity of a rhythm section that insists on chasing down every idea right now. With Wilkinson / Durrant / Sanders the saxophonist is the lynchpin, hooking up in traditional free jazz fashion with Sanders but also matching up the graininess of overblown sax to Durrant's buzzes and shrills. It's an intriguing insection of tear-the-house-down free jazz with laptop electronics, even if the contradiction between freely pulsed drums and pulseless (or neurotically vibrating) electronics tends to be highlighted rather than resolved. The performance by Sylvia Hallett, Caroline Kraabel and Veryan Weston has a dappled, teasing quality, the notes darting around like minnows; voices and instruments swap places or double each other so often you can hardly tell where one begins and the other ends. My favourite trio, though, is Steve Beresford, Joe Williamson and Roger Turner, who turn in what's unmistakably a jazz performance, marked by crisp, quick-witted volleys between Turner and Beresford (who at times sounds like a pared-down, lightning-fast Paul Bley) and Williamson's oblique bass work, which flips back and forth rapidly between patient, broken walking bass and roiling, near-directionless masses of bowing.
There are three tracks from the London Improvisers Orchestra: Caroline Kraabel's Hearing Reproduction 7 is a conceptual piece in which the entire orchestra repeatedly 'rewinds' itself like a tape-machine - not really a particularly satisfying piece of music in itself, but I don't think that was the point - while the others are impromptu conductions by Simon Fell and Dave Tucker. Fell's adheres to the traditional orchestral section divisions of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion in order to bring them into rather ominous dialogue, while Tucker's is more concerned with setting up sharply varied backgrounds behind featured soloists.
The remaining tracks on the album are duo performances. A soprano sax / flute duet between Lol Coxhill and Neil Metcalfe has a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't flavour: ideas are discarded almost as rapidly as they surface, at least until halfway into A Right in Phoenica, when Coxhill switches from wry snippets to reeling lyricism and the music finds a groove that carries them almost to the piece's end. Only one side of the interaction between violinist Phil Wachsmann and video artist Kjell Bjorgeengen is directly audible on CD, though Wachsmann's clear-cut juxtapositions of mood and texture are audibly the result of an unheard audio/visual dialogue. The opening minutes are a superb display of the violinist's wit and balletic grace, an essay of sorts in mixed-messages improvisation: a conventionally beautiful, silken tone, for instance, may be applied to a hopelessly out of tune phrase. The closing sections are something else again: meticulously constructed passages of tenuous beauty or scrabbling density, the electronics overlays at various times suggesting Reichian minimalism, Hardanger fiddle, or even a quiet church organ."
NATE DORWARD - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2006
"For me, several combinations stand out, primarily because I wouldn’t have imagined them or thought they’d work. The trio of trombonist Paul Rutherford, percussionist Mark Sanders, and bassist John Edwards kicks off the comp, laying down something so close to jazz as to be shocking. Rutherford, always hilarious underneath all those chops, begins to slide and swoop, interjecting bebop flutters and the rhetorical honks of freedom he pioneered some 40 years ago. Sanders and Edwards glide along, brushwork and quasi-walk being the order of the day, but in the second track of this trio’s diptych, a more 'contemporary' mode of expression is evident, conjuring images of the first Iskra project in all its egalitarianism.
Sylvia Hallett’s work is too broad in scope for any kind of convincing summary. As comfortable in song craft as in the structured spontaneity of 'free' improv, her solo disc for Emanem, WHITE FOG, is one of the label’s best and, so far, Hallett’s most consistently satisfying statement. She has performed sections of that seminal disc during solo sets on FOTC compilations past, but on 2005, she is joined by Caroline Kraabel (saxophone and voice) and Veryan Weston (piano). The results go some long way toward putting FOG in the shade; I’m not sure I’ve heard a group that communicated, listened, and assimilated better than these three, as they produce something that crosses Ligeti with an early minimalist of your choice, eschewing only the pulse patterns. Weston is superb in many settings, but he outdoes himself here, choosing every note perfectly, blending seamlessly with voices, violin, and saxophone, the combinations producing astonishing unity from seemingly disparate source material.
Another trio, Alan Wilkinson, Phil Durrant, and Mark Sanders, surprised me the most. Any skepticism I had about the combination of Sanders’ percussion and Durrant’s electronics was quickly dispelled; the two forces merged so completely that it took me a full minute to be able to differentiate between hi-hat and electrotwitter. Wilkinson’s post-Ayler exhortations exhibit infinite control, even in the throws of passionate expression.
There are so many more things to talk about: The LIO conductions, where they obviously have huge fun, not to mention the astonishing and gorgeous Wachsmann piece with video projection, studies in minimalist tonal scope and maximalist timbre. Needless to say, this compilation lives up to the reputation deservedly enjoyed by its predecessors, and fans of this music needn’t hesitate. It would also make a fantastic introduction for someone new to the many riches this vibrant scene has to offer."
MARC MEDWIN - ONE FINAL NOTE 2006
"Due to lack of funds, the 2005 edition of the FOTC festival was reduced to a single-day event, whose testament is this double CD shining with beauty coming from everywhere. Insurrectional quarrels seem to spring out of the first trio, with John Edwards on double bass and Mark Sanders on percussion tumbling over inflammable balloons propelled by Paul Rutherford's trombone, up to those skies where maimed poetry and uninhibited melodicism gleam all day long. Sylvia Hallett, Caroline Kraabel and Veryan Weston (violin, alto sax and piano plus their voices) suffocate joy in a repartition of nostalgic surprises, their grainy atmospheres similar to the dust covering an ancient gramophone trying to play the only melted vinyl that it wants to accept, with the result of evoking sleeping gnomes from the attic. Underlining Kjell Bjorgeengen's videos, the electronically treated violin of Philipp Wachsmann weaves the concrete illusions and oblique fantasies of a kid practicing his grip on a future that's not going to be made of symphonies and quartets, rather of bird watching and progressive isolation.
London Improvisers Orchestra - a 30-piece supergroup this time - follows theoretical dreams of non-conformity: led by Simon H. Fell, it muddies Pendereckian lamentations with percussive clattering and apparent contrary motions; under the guide of Caroline Kraabel, a stop-and-go game of micro-counterpoint is put into action for an all-too-brief enjoyment; finally, Dave Tucker's The Dynamix reminded me of those fantastic East-European cartoons where every character's personality is highlighted by an instrument or a combination amidst continuous changes of perspective.
Only Steve Beresford, Joe Williamson and Roger Turner try to drive their musicianship around jazz: their piano/bass/drums trio sounds like frying popcorn in a room that visitors always forget to visit, yet they finish their performance with a serious spurt of gorgeous free music. Flute and soprano sax (Neil Metcalfe and Lol Coxhill in a two-movement utopian conversation) are the sole protagonists in a sunny world where good ideas not only have the right to exist, but also find their place in the mind of the ruling ones. Finally, Phil Durrant's laptop's shrieks and purrs carve their niche in the middle of furious exchanges between the saxophones of Alan Wilkinson - in torrential post-Archie Shepp eruptive power - and, again, the great Mark Sanders in a frenzy of communicative emotion. A fit conclusion for this indispensable set."
MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2006
"FREEDOM OF THE CITY's small-group improv offerings are new but fall into familiar categories: energy music (the trio of saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, laptop Phil Durrant and drummer Mark Sanders, with Wilkinson matching the aggression of Durrant's set of shrill noises), elegant, classical-tinged improv (violinist Sylvia Hallett, alto saxophonist Caroline Kraabel and pianist Veryan Weston), a multi-media experiment (violinist Philipp Wachsmann interacting with the video effects of Kjell Bjorgeengen in a 24-minute solo statement) and several sets of ambling, conversational improv. The opening trio provides an especially strong example of the latter - while drummer Sanders drives it along, trombonist Paul Rutherford and bassist John Edwards trade off lead and accompaniment ably. As with prior Freedom Of The City sets, the advantages of free improv (constant conversation, unusual textures, the abundance of information) parry with the risks (the feeling that five minutes may go by with only one minute's worth of ideas emerging). The short pieces by the London Improvisers Orchestra stand out the most; Simon Fell, with his first conduction on record, creates a piece grounded by bass clarinet drones, while the other sections provide fluttering statements on top, winding up with as much organization as many through-composed pieces, while Dave Tucker's conduction is looser but features several amusing ensemble exclamations (like Ornette Coleman hijacking Benny Goodman's band) and the set's only extended glimpse of Evan Parker. Kraabel's Hearing Reproduction 7 features her ensemble playing a few seconds of music before Kraabel cues a halt and then has them attempt to recreate it. It's a pity this piece lasts only two minutes."
PAT BUZBY - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2007
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