A magical and transporting, down by law, A-list masterpiece, bass saxophonist Tony Bevan's Bruised is among the very deepest and most rewarding albums to come out of the UK this year, performed by a joined at the head, heart, and hip, genre-busting, genius lineup.
It's free improvisation, Jim, but not as we usually know itso instinctively architectural that it's hard to believe it was collectively created wholly in the moment, and is now released entirely free of overdubs, edits, or any other post-prod studio artifice (but it was, and it is). It's free improvisation for people who think they don't like free improvisationand for those who know they do.
An acknowledged Jedi master of free music since the mid-'90s, with all the profileor rather lack of itthat comes with the territory, Bevan's name is becoming more widely known right now through his featured participation on the Steve Reid Ensemble's mindbending mutant mutha, and international cult hit, Spirit Walk, on Soul Jazz Records.
Bruised will appeal both to devotees of Reid's free-your-ass-and-your-mind-will-follow aesthetic and to fully paid up, inner circle initiates of free improvisation. Massively, toweringly original, there are nonetheless distinct echoes of the early astral jazz of Pharoah Sanders: Bevan's masterful use of overtones, split tones, and deep down, bar-walking honks; the trippy drums and tuned percussion backdrops which are features of most tracks; the joyous lyricism of all the players; and the leisurely explorations of atmosphere, vibe, and texture. Sanders' signature motifs are brought up to the present, and into the future, by the assmilated music of the last 35 years and by live sampling and electronica.
The chemistry between the musicians is just perfect. Bevan, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Mark Sanders are of course three acutely responsive and uniquely creative group improvisors. Their lines are framed and enriched by Orphy Robinson's mostly-abstract tuned percussion (check out his marimbula, a giant bass thumb piano, on "Rhinocrat") and live sampling (the mutated steel drum reverberations shadowing the bass saxophone on "Bruised" are out of this world wonderful), and the sonic inventions of Springheel Jack electronicist Ashley Wales, a subtle, musicianly, and compelling presence throughout, especially enjoyable on "Sunhouse" and "Taxi Dance."
If you love the Steve Reid Ensemble's Spirit Walk, it's an ace high certainty you'll love Bruised just as madly, just as badly, and vice versa. Do the right thing, stay in the rhythm.
Personnel: Tony Bevan: bass and tenor saxophones; Orphy Robinson: vibraphone, steel drum, marimbula, percussion, electronics; John Edwards: double bass; Ashley Wales: soundscapes and electronics; Mark Sanders: drums and percussion.