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Howard Riley: Consequences

Chris May By

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Revered by a few but unknown to most, Howard Riley has been an uncompromising free music agitator since the late '60s, first in small group settings, later with bigger outfits, like the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, and solo performance. His music ebbs and flows between material with no obvious antecedents and recalibrated shades of early bop. He's frequently bracketed alongside Cecil Taylor, but while he can indeed generate a lot of notes, he plays them pianistically rather than percussively. A better reference point is the dissonant lyricism of Thelonious Monk. Such resonances are, however, the relatively minor tributaries of a broad river of trenchant individualism.

Riley wanted Consequences, which was recorded in the studio, to retain the edgy no-deletions-possible spontaneity of live performance. Consequently (and hence the title), each of the twelve tracks is a first take, and every piece that was recorded during the session is included on the album.

Less abstract and more expansive than is Riley's frequent wont, the album is a page-turning, ten-fingered exploration of loosely pre-sketched, mostly upbeat material. Traces of Monk's close harmony note-clusters are heard from time to time, particularly on the title track and the overtly Monkish "Trinkling," and there are fainter echoes of boogie ("Enabling") and stride ("Thinking Of Then").

Even at his most spontaneous, Riley has a gift for in the moment structure and on the hoof editing. Form and brevity together shape each tune: average track length is about five minutes and each piece resmembles free association writing starting out from the sketchiest of plots. Stimulating and principled music.

Track Listing: Consequences; Feelgood; Old Times; Nobility; Enabling; Chance Encounter; Last Night; Spring Fling; Rituals; Thinking Of Then; Trinkling; Further Consequences.

Personnel: Howard Riley: piano.

Title: Consequences | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: 33 Jazz


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