There was a ripple of surprise last year when Stan Tracey and Evan Parker's Suspensions and Anticipations was released, on Parker's own Psi label. These eleven free improvisations presented a rarely-seen side of Stan Tracey. True, he had recorded free improvisations with his quartet as early as 1964, but the meeting with Parker took him deeper into improv territory than ever before. In the event, the album was best summed by Parker's own closing comment on the recording, "Amazing!
Now comes Khumbula (Remember), another album of duo improvisations, pairing Tracey with master drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and produced by... Evan Parker. Although Tracey and Moholo-Moholo had not played together for over thirty years, and never as a duo, they sound as if they have been improvising together all their lives, so fluent is the music. As an improviser, Tracey is definitely an instant composer, rather than a deconstructionist; while not obviously relying on any well-worn tricks or licks, he is always striving to produce order out of chaos, rather than vice versa. For instance, he does not shy away from dramatic repetition, as some improvisers would; he is not "playing without memory but rather playing around with the form.
As a consequence, more than once he sounds on the verge of breaking into a familiar melody, or a new but compelling one, as on the outstanding "Plurality. Tracey's percussive piano style is perfectly complemented by Moholo-Moholo, whose playing is as sympathetic as ever, sometimes thunderous, sometimes delicate to the limits of audibility; he retains his ability to turn on a sixpence when required, instantly responding to Tracey, and creating the impression of telepathy.
Khumbula (Remember) marks the end of an era; 65 year-old Louis Moholo-Moholo, who has been a prominent member of the London jazz and improvised scene since arriving with the Blue Notes in the '60s, has decided to return home to mainly live in Cape Town. This beautiful album will make a fine memento until he returns.
Personnel: Louis Moholo-Moholo, drums & Percussion; Stan Tracey, piano.