The Free Jazz tradition in England stretches back to the late ‘60s with such groups as the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Iskra 1903 and the Mike Osborne Trio. Continuing the custom is Mujician, a cooperative group of British heavyweights in Keith Tippett, Tony Levin, Paul Dunmall (the John Surman of his generation) and Paul Rogers. The group has been in existence since 1988 and their musical empathy is evident (the four have played together in various groups aside from Mujician). Tippett's facility for this kind of free playing is the surprise of the album, given that most of his work has always relied on some structure. Two suites, "Spacetime" and "Exquisitely Woven Spiritual Communication" make up the album. Several short segments, varying in number of players, flow out of group introductions. Significantly, the album was recorded in parts in a studio, so the continuity is synthetic.
Free jazz in the British vein is drastically different than that done by American or Continental counterparts. Moments of passion are as common as peaceful solo interludes. The participants never blow freely in fact they can be accused of playing with too much reserve. This may make the album a trying listen for those whose tastes or experience runs more towards consistently chaotic blowouts. Those who have the patience for slow, sparse arrangements, though, will ultimately be rewarded. It is not all peace and quiet, but those moments are more frequent. Spacetimeis the group's fifth album on Cuneiform, a label responsible for promoting once and future British jazz like Soft Machine and the Brotherhood of Breath. While the album's 75-minute length may be off-putting to some listeners, the musicians of Mujician are talented enough and play in enough combinations for the album to remain compelling.
This review first appeared in the June 2002 issue of All About Jazz: New York .
Personnel: Keith Tippett - Piano
Paul Rogers - Double Bass
Paul Dunmall - Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor)
Tony Levin - Drums