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The duo of John Coxon and Ashley Wales, known as Spring Heel Jack to the drum'n'bass crowd, walked out of the jungle on last years Masses recording, eschewing programmed beats for the more esoteric sounds found in free jazz. Like a military band meets a fluxus happening, their ‘nu’ sound for Matthew Shipp’s Blue Series left dance beats behind for a more spontaneous approach to music making.
This year's effort maintains their new philosophy of sound, more noise - no dance, in another ambitiously creative effort. Where last year’s Masses employed mostly American artists, this disc features almost entirely a European cast. Coxon and Wales organize groupings in less dense circumstances this time. The duos, trios, quartets, and quintets are preamble for the dramatic final piece “Obscured,” with its full cast, energized- pulse resolution.
Before the listener gets to the mammoth finale, the producers have addressed varying free pieces for your consideration. The smaller lineups and sparser landscape makes for more interesting listening. Evan Parker’s familiar saxophone jumps to the foreground on the seven tracks he sits in on. Highlights include his soprano duo dance with guitarist Spaceman on “Maroc” and his slippery tenor work on “Duel” against the backdrop of Han Bennink’s urging snare and the samples SHJ tosses at him that repeat as if they were a car alarm.
Kenny Wheeler gets treated to an odd casio tone and the sounds of tearing paper (or is it that a tape dispenser?) to replicate the sounds of fire behind his gentle trumpet lines. Coxon and Wales have successfully shed the predictable for the random. They bring the noise now with less forecast. Tossing bells against Matthew Shipp's retro-Fender Rhodes. This is a meeting of acoustic with the metallic. The dance club has been deconstructed into the factory. A sound probably not within the comfort zone of SHJ’s earlier fans. But a welcomed addition to the nu jazz that has been new and invigorating for the last forty years.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.