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Bob Downes Open Music Trio: Flashback (2009)

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Bob Downes Open Music Trio: Flashback How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Bob Downes may be a name unfamiliar to many, but to some his name is synonymous with an electrifying period in British jazz. Downes was on the cusp of this new movement and recorded some idiosyncratic albums between 1969 and 1970. Deep Down Heavy was almost a rock album, whereas the as yet un-reissued Open Music recorded for Philips was much nearer to the free jazz genre. Two others were Diversions a trio album (for his own label Openian) and the more rock infused Electric City on Vertigo. This last album employed a host of well-known British jazz musicians including Ian Carr
Ian Carr
Ian Carr
1933 - 2009
trumpet
, Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
1930 - 2014
trumpet
, Harry Beckett
Harry Beckett
Harry Beckett
1935 - 2010
flugelhorn
and Ray Russell
Ray Russell
Ray Russell
b.1947
guitar, electric
. But it was his trio work that was the most intriguing.

Flashback is a mixture of rehearsal and live recordings made in 1973 in various locations, so the sound quality is never quite up to studio par. However, the compositions and performances more than compensate for this. The mood here is one of pulsating, rhythmic energy, not free enough to lose rock audiences and never clichéd enough to alienate jazz audiences. Of particular note here is the way in which multi instrumentalist Downes (whose main instruments are flute, reeds and vocals) gels with bass virtuoso Barry Guy
Barry Guy
Barry Guy
b.1947
bass
along with Denis Smith on drums. The fiery and spontaneous execution of the pieces is reminiscent of Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
1936 - 1977
reeds
, Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
or even Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
(on "West Eleven").

Guy's bass work on "Seashore" is stunning and he plays some terrific bass guitar on "Maya," essential listening since Guy virtually never plays electric bass. Flashback which Downes has made available on Openian (the first jazz album on his label in 35 years) is a fascinating piece of jazz history that should be savored. Although Downes no longer performs in public, this truly engaging set of recordings is a testament to the really exciting sound of his open music.

Track Listing: Brasilian Beauty; Funky Groove(I); Funky Groove (II); Wavelength; Asian Aura; Wailing; Whorefying Experience; Seashore; Maya; Blues Ride; Walkin' Runnin' Man; West Eleven.

Personnel: Bob Downes: flute, alto flute, bamboo flute, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocals; Barry Guy: double-bass, electric bass; Denis smith: drums.

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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