Home » Jazz Articles » Lol Coxhill / Charles Hayward / Hugh Hopper / Orphy Robinson: Clea...

225
Album Review

Lol Coxhill / Charles Hayward / Hugh Hopper / Orphy Robinson: Clear Frame

By

Sign in to view read count
Bassist Hugh Hopper and multi-instrumentalist Robert Wyatt have intersected on a number of occasions since playing in legendary British group Soft Machine nearly forty years ago, but they've rarely worked together in as free and experimental a context as Clear Frame. This improvisational collective features, along with the intrepid Hopper, the equally fearless Lol Coxhill (soprano saxophone), Charles Hayward (drums, keyboards) and Orphy Robinson (vibes, steel pan, percussion). Wyatt's guest appearance on several of these all-improvised tracks is an inspired choice (one prompted by Wyatt himself when he introduced the group at a 2004 jazz festival), and while he's been pushing the boundaries of the cornet for decades, he's rarely had the opportunity to take things as far out as he does here.



Hopper's earlier collaboration with Hayward on Numero D'Vol (MoonJune, 2007) provides some context for positioning this group, but the less conventional instrumentation of Clear Frame—and a collective résumé that includes work with everyone from free improvisers Evan Parker and Fred Frith to acid jazzman Courtney Pine—makes this recording a more challenging listen.



Hopper remains committed to groove, albeit of the most abstruse kind. "Paperweight" even swings along semi-amiably, at least at the start; but the bassist soon ventures into a series of unexpected chords, Hayward loosens up, and Robinson's vibes blend both staggered rhythms and ethereal atmospherics. Even so, it's Coxhill's soprano and Wyatt's surprisingly deep cornet—sounding, at times, rather like a trombone, and often sounding as if he were far off in the distance—that ultimately draw the rest of the group into freer territory, where Hopper and Hayward continue to provide an irregular pulse, one that can shift on a moment's notice.



Robinson's steel pan provides an unusual backdrop for Wyatt on the opening "Clean Slate," with Hopper's slide bass and Coxhill's almost moaning soprano creating an unsettled ambience anchored by Hayward's restrained brushwork. "Tin Plate," by contrast, begins aggressively, Hopper's trademark fuzz bass paired with Hayward's more tumultuous kit work. It's a fifteen-minute exploration of sonic extremes, emergent rhythms and some of Coxhill's most inspired playing on the date, suddenly coalescing into a persistent rhythm and dramatic textural about-face when Robinson switches to vibes. Dissolving once more into darker territory driven by the kind of brooding bass line that's another of Hopper's trademarks, the number winds down curiously, with an up-tempo groove propelled by Hayward and Robinson's percussion, with unpredictable shifting of emphasis taking place around the group.

Collective improvisation is inherently risky; even more so when dealing with a group this size. But while the music of Clear Frame is often dense and difficult to absorb, Coxhill, Hayward, Hopper, Robinson and Wyatt are clearly all working with their ears and minds wide open. They're equally observant of the need for space to let this kind of spontaneity breathe, making Clear Frame a debut that will appeal to those who like their music with no small supply of hard surfaces and sharp edges.



Visit Lol Coxhill, Charles Hayward, Hugh Hopper, Orphy Robinson and Robert Wyatt on the web.

Track Listing

Clean Slate; Tin Plate; Noise Gate; Void Crate; High Rate; Better Late; Paperweight; Figure Eight.

Personnel

Lol Coxhill: soprano saxophone; Charles Hayward: drums, keyboard; Hugh Hopper: bass guitar; Orphy Robinson: vibraphone, steel pan, percussion, effects; Robert Wyatt: guest cornet.

Album information

Title: Clear Frame | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ReR Megacorp


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

The Way of the Groove
Ben Patterson
Incorporated
Skopje Jazz Inc.
Times Like These
Nica Carrington

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.