Within improvised music, there are (at least) two very different traditions. In one tradition (exemplified by groupings such as Company and Relay) musicians who are relatively unknown to each other are thrown together to make what they will of the meeting, sometimes negotiating a common language in the process, often with astonishing results. At the other extreme are long-standing groups of individuals who have played together over many years and established an almost telepathic understanding of each other's playing and reactions to stimuli. Into this latter category would fall groupings like AMM, the Evan Parker trio and Mujician, all very different, but three of the very finest.
Mujician have been together now since 1988 (this album is their fifth, all released on Cuneiform, all recommended). They are effectively a "supergroup" (remember them?) bringing together four extraordinary players who are all leaders in their own right and also superb instrumentalists, Paul Dunmall on soprano & tenor saxophones, Tony Levin on drums, Paul Rogers on double bass and Keith Tippett on piano. However, it is not just their individual skills that are most noteworthy in Mujician, but the nature of their interactions. The music that they play is totally improvised, with no pre-arranged rhythms, chords, themes, order. That is what keeps their music fresh and exciting. But it is the musicians experience with each other that makes the music coherent and dynamic. Although there is no prearranged order to this music, it is certainly not anarchic; indeed, in its way, some of it is as structured as a Bach fugue. On this outing, Mujician have opted for shorter pieces. None of the fifteen tracks here exceeds ten minutes, with several around the two-minute mark. This contrasts with pieces on past albums that have been about half an hour long. Instead, here, these short pieces are organised into two longer pieces ("suites" is descriptive but maybe too grand a word), "Spacetime" and "Exquisitely Woven Spiritual Communication" - both very apt titles for what the group does. This organisational structure brings the twin advantages of variety and coherence, but I suspect that these "suites" are the result of post-production selection and editing. Anyway, the end result is another excellent Mujician album that is recommended to anyone with open ears.
Personnel: Paul Dunmall: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tony Levin: drums; Paul Rogers: bass; Keith Tippett: piano.