In an ideal world Lol Coxhill would be far more widely celebrated than he is, and even in the world as it is he's a soprano saxophonist with an instrumental vocabulary every bit as rich and distinctive as that of the late Steve Lacy. Equally to his credit is the fact that he has recorded in a variety of settings both within improvised music and outside of it, the latter including recordings with the British band Delivery over thirty years ago and singer-songwriter Juliet Lawson in more or less the same era.
This set finds him performing solo, a setting in which he has always excelled, and as half of various duos. As he's well into a career that amounts to a working definition of single-mindedness, this in essence is what's on offer here. When that quality is allied to a fertile musical imagination it only makes for fulfilling listening, and Coxhill doesn't disappoint on that score.
He might just be alone in bringing a profound melodic sensibility to the area of free improvisation, indeed only the Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg springs to mind as a musician of similar outlook. That quality comes to the fore on the twenty solo minutes of "Alone At The Vortex," where Coxhill also shows how he employs silence and space as essential components in his music. In lesser hands this approach might be fraught with risks, the silence serving only to indicate the lagging of inspiration, but the fact that this impression never comes is a tribute to his innate musicality. This was equally true of the piece Coxhill recorded live as a street musician on Charing Cross Railway Bridge in London, England thirty-seven years ago, just to prove how single-minded he is!
His duo partners are a nicely diverse bunch, and trumpeter Henry Lowther is perhaps the most surprising one. "Together With HL" finds both men seemingly tentative yet exploratory, coalescing periodically yet in that special way which ensures no loss of individual personality.
Hugh Davies brings his invented instruments to bear upon "Together With HD," and the supplementing of conventional instrumental vocabulary opens up a realm of new possibilities in a way quite dissimilar to, say, Anthony Braxton's work with the electronics of Richard Teitelbaum.
Space sadly doesn't permit discussion of everything that's on offer here but the fact remains that this is perhaps the ideal showcase for Coxhill as a freely improvising musician of such distinction that he puts to shame a host of others working in different idioms of the music.
Personnel: Lol Coxhill: soprano sax; Hugh Davies: invented instruments (1); John Russell: guitar (2); Henry Lowther: trumpet (4); Pat Thomas: keyboards, samplers, electronics (5).