Various Artists: Freedom of the City 2005 (2006)
As stated in the liner notes to the first set with this title, "The Freedom of the City festival was set up as an annual event [starting in 2001], in order to showcase the phenomenal London improvised music scene.
Though this recording was made in just one day (May 1, 2005), it contains enough music to fill two CDs. Many of the musicians who performed in 2001 are back, with mixed results. The first really impressive track is "Interstate 2, attributed to violinist/electronics man Phillipp Wachsmann and video artist Kjell Bjorgeengen. We may be missing something by not seeing the video, but this nearly 25-minute effort is a totally riveting piece for solo violin and electronics. It has all the "noise" of the Derek Bailey school of improvisation with great conceptual control, a wide dynamic/sonic color range, formidable instrumental virtuosity and a committed focus that is sometimes missing from this scene.
In a very different way, "Don't Bend the Wardrobe, an improvisation by Steve Beresford (piano), Joe Williamson (bass) and Roger Turner (drums, percussion) is also striking, focused and honest music. Turner knows how to play with energy, yet he allows the sound of the bass and piano to come through. Beresford is perhaps underrated as a melodic pianist in the US, but if you like, say, Paul Bley, give this track a good listen. Williamson's bass may be slightly under-recorded, but he is an equal voice in the three-way counterpoint. All the musicians are totally in touch with one another, playing for the total sound.
It's great that Evan Parker set the Freedom of the City series in motion, and that Martin Davidson's Emanem label records and releases these documents. Maybe not all of the music is great, but the spirit and energy of the London improvising scene continues to be inspiring.
Track Listing: Petrah; Felthor; Voicings; Does Rain Know?; Interstate 2; Conduction No. 20; Hearing Reproduction; The Dynamix; Don't Bend the Wardrobe; Providence Points South; A Right in Phoenica; Unstill Live.
Personnel: Paul Rutherford: trombone; John Edwards: double bass; Mark Sanders: percussion; Sylvia Hallett: voice; Caroline Kraabel: alto sax, voice; Veryan Weston: piano, voice; Philipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Kjell Bjorgeengen: video; London Improvisers Orchestra; Steve Beresford: piano; Joe Williamson: double bass; Roger Turner: percussion; Lol Coxhill: soprano sax; Neil Metcalfe: flute; Alan Wilkinson: alto & baritone saxes & voice; Phil Durrant: laptop; Mark Sanders: percussion.