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Various Artists: Free Zone Appleby 2006

John Eyles By

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In Memory of Paul Rutherford (1940-2007)

The Sunday afternoon free improvisation sessions at the annual Appleby Festival always set a high standard. This line-up for 2006 raised particularly high expectations, and it doesn't disappoint.

With the untimely death in August 2007 of trombonist Paul Rutherford—a giant of the music and a true gentleman also—this release acquired added poignancy and significance. Here, Rutherford appears as part of a quartet, two trios and a duo. On the quartet, with Evan Parker, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens (i.e. the Schlippenbach Trio plus Rutherford), he is in fine voice straight away, his pure-toned, rapidly articulated phrases weaving in and around Parker's sax in a joyous game of musical tag. Later, in a three-way interaction with Schlippenbach and Lovens, he displays the same delicacy, speed of thought and lightness of touch that was always a wonder to hear. His music seems weightless without ever being lightweight. On any instrument, that would be extraordinary; on trombone, it is miraculous.

Wisely, all seven players are never heard together. The one quartet is the largest grouping, and the remaining smaller groupings ensure variety, and space to appreciate the interactions. All are excellent, but once again the focus must be on Rutherford. His trio with Rudi Mahall and Philipp Wachsmann teams three equally refined players, as does another with Wachsmann and Lovens; on both, the music simmers away, threatening to burst into flame but never doing so. Hey, sometimes tension without resolution works fine, as here.

Sandwiched between these trios is Rutherford's duo with Parker, and that track steals the album. Taken at a stately pace, the piece finds the two veterans—as on the quartet piece—weaving in and out and around each other; the analogy that comes to mind is of two boxers sparring, not in an aggressive, combative way but playfully, each knowing what the other is capable of and respecting that. Beautiful.


Track Listing: Favourite Fruit Trio 1; Favourite Fruit Trio 2; Favourite Fruit Duo 1; Favourite Fruit Quartet; Favourite Fruit Duo 2; Favourite Fruit Trio 3; Favourite Fruit Trio 4; Favourite Fruit Duo 3; Favourite Fruit Trio 5; Favourite Fruit Duo 4.

Personnel: Paul Rutherford: trombone; Evan Parker: soprano & tenor saxophones; Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet; Phillipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Alexander von Schlippenbach, piano; Aki Takase: piano; Paul Lovens: drums.

Title: Free Zone Appleby 2006 | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Psi

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