Composition and structure, improvisation and the use of space, time gathered and broken down, music notated and musicians given the leeway to go beyond. Simon H. Fell makes use of these and other concepts like the works of Pierre Boulez. From this amalgam rises his music, often with a slow deliberation, at times with emphasis, at times in a cloak of silence.
The two discs that comprise this double set by SFQ (aka the Simon Fell Quartet/Quintet) are different in their evolution and resolution. The first is more abstract, making greater use of spacesome of which is left empty, or filled by silence if you will. "Trapped by Formalism 2" has a sense of forward motion but continuity is chopped, the fragments linked by the ticking of time. The progression breaks up but is not made whole, and the shards of that emphasis can be prickly. It would be perhaps be easier to assimilate the music if one were watching the band on stage. It is easier for a live musician to involve the audience than it is for a recording of abstract music to garner the attention of a listener, as it is with the music on this CD.
The quartet music on disc two is cohesive and has more body. Classical themes evolve and are developed, even if that identifiable trait of quietude manifests itself. But in this instance it is not a trying proposition. As a matter of fact, it adds a dimension to the thematic structure. While that style has its play and gets its strength from Alex Ward on clarinet and Guy Llewellyn on French horn, both of whom open pristine thoughts, free jazz gets its due on "Liverpool 1b," scuffled into being by Fell on the bass, after which come the squiggles, the looping lines and the tweak of electronics. Both streams are inspired.
The two different approaches coalesce into a whole for a provocative picture of the art of Fell.
Personnel: Disc 1: Alex Ward--clarinet; Gail Brand--trombone; Alex Maguire--piano; Simon H. Fell--double bass;
Disc 2: Alex Ward--clarinet; Guy Llewellyn--French horn; Simon H. Fell--double bass; Mark Sanders--
drums and electronics.