If there were elections for most influential figure in creative improvised music outside the performing sphere, John Corbett would be a shoo-in in my book for reaping the most ballots. Though he also wears the hat of musician, it’s as a concert/festival producer, radio jock, writer and general voice box for the Chicago and European scenes that he drums up the most publicity and support for the music and its practitioners. In early 2000 he added role of label producer to his resume and it’s in this capacity that he’s been able to affect an even farther-reaching good. Acting in concert with the Atavistic imprint to manage the Unheard Music Series, Corbett curates a reissue line targeting long out of print and previously unreleased recordings culled from both his own massive collection and those of his colleagues. This reissue of a hopelessly obscure platter from a Danish quartet, almost completely unknown outside its homeland, is a perfect example of the type of priceless artifacts that the label routinely refurbishes under its aegis.
According to Corbett’s sleeve notes Prehn and crew originally organized in 1963, recording sporadically, but performing frequently and eventually honing their sound into the advanced music heard here. Hearing this later stage in their development leads to all sorts of intriguing questions regarding their evolution and influences. The music is compellingly akin to the other European improvisers and is strikingly modern in both its conception and execution. Prehn’s Classical training shows in the closely-knit structures that often arise amongst the calculated interplay. His touch at the keys, moving from dark dissonance and heavy use of repetition as on the rhythmically askew “Modus Vivendi” to the piercing pitched clusters of “The Armed Man,” recalls Paul Bley’s early work with the likes of Jimmy Giuffre and for ECM. Vang’s percussionary sense is similarly versed, particularly on the former track where a rising waves of cymbal noise wash emphatically over the stabbing notes of Krogh and Prehn. Krogh sounds very much like a youthful Evan Parker, taking such post-Coltrane traits as overtones and multiphonics in highly personalized directions. His unaccompanied cloudbursts on the closing free improvisation “It Was Sunday Morning” explode outward with near atomic force. Ehlers is more than up to the technical challenge posed by his peers tugging and wrestling with his strings on tracks like “Progess” and aforementioned “The Armed Man,” and in the end emerging victorious from a maze of complex harmonic patterns.
Transfers are from obvious vinyl sources and the traces of surface needle static are audible in the edges of the individual tracks. The disc’s running time conforms to the length of the original album leaving any possible outtakes or additional material from the session frustratingly absent. But don’t let the brevity be a deterrent toward shelling out the appropriate green for acquisition. The rarified music on hand is well worth the price and guaranteed to open many ears.
Unheard Music Series on the web: http://www.atavistic.com
Personnel: Tom Prehn- piano; Fritz Krogh- tenor saxophone; Poul Ehlers- bass; Preben Vang- drums. Recorded: February 5, 1967.