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Okay students, take out your notebooks and follow along with this two-CD live recording made at the inception of a super group. Like looking through a telescope at the formation of a new galaxy, the Townhouse Orchestra delivers a weighty performance of improvised music.
The quartet is made up of master British saxophone legend Evan Parker and a Scandinavian dream team. Bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love have also combined forces in bands including Atomic, The Thing (with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson), and Scorch Trio (with guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim). Townhouse Orchestra's fourth member is Sten Sandell, a pianist very familiar with all three of his partners.
Recorded in Oslo, Norway in February 2007, Belle Ville is a follow-up to the quartet's debut, Townorchestrahouse (Clean Feed, 2005). Each disc contains a single lengthy but highly focused improvisation that never falters throughout its 45 minutes. Despite the daunting appearance of the track lengths, the listening experience is unfazed.
The quartet puts on a pageant of sound, displaying Herculean aggregates of power before instantly shifting into singular soloing without pause or loss of momentum. Much like a painting exhibition of Jackson Pollock or Gerhard Richterm, it's possible to stand back and take in the whole of the music, or zero in on detail and enjoy its various pieces and parts. Sometimes the whole is indeed too much to consume, as this is a monumental work of art.
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.