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Various Artists: Freedom of the City 2005

John Eyles By

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An eagerly anticipated annual release, the Freedom of the City CD is an essential complement to the live festival, providing the opportunity to check recalled perceptions against objective evidence and to fill in unavoidable gaps, but mostly—whether or not one was there—to catch some great music. Largely for financial reasons, the 2005 London festival was a scaled down version, running only for one day rather than the three days of recent years, and shifting venue to the Red Rose Club rather than the larger Conway Hall. Significantly, the 2005 festival only featured groupings that had never played together before, giving an added edge to the day. (There were one or two minor breaches of this rule; the only major exception was the London Improvisers Orchestra—but it is rare for that group to have exactly the same personnel twice.)

At the live event, my favourite performances were the two trios of Paul Rutherford with John Edwards & Mark Sanders, and Alan Wilkinson with Phil Durrant & Sanders (again). Listening to the CD reinforces that view. It is rare to hear Rutherford just with bass and drums, and the two tracks here leave me hoping this trio records a full album; they sound made for each other. The inclusion of bass and drums adds variety and depth to Rutherford's solo playing without unduly constraining his soaring, swooping style.

Alan Wilkinson can always be relied on to give an uncompromising, committed performance. Here, Mark Sanders' drumming matches it, serving to drive him even harder. Phil Durrant's laptop is an unpredictable element, throwing in whines and white noise that spur the music on, as well as providing tranquil interludes. On CD, Durrant's multi-layering of Wilkinson's playing is hard to appreciate fully, since you can't see which Wilkinson is played live and which isn't.

A similar situation arises with "Interstate 2. Phillipp Wachsmann improvised to a video by Kjell Bjorgeengen, one that his music affected. Live, it was easy to get too involved in the visuals without fully appreciating the music. Just listening to Wachsmann without seeing the video is a revelation; his playing is a tour de force in which he employs a battery of techniques and effects to build up a kaleidoscopic piece layer by layer.

The London Improvisers Orchestra has long been a highlight of the festival (although it seems they may not be this year?) and their three short pieces here emphasise the variety that is possible when different conductors (Simon H. Fell, Caroline Kraabel, Dave Tucker) take control. Kraabel's piece, "Hearing Reproduction 7, is a fascinating attempt to repeatedly get players to replicate exactly what they played at the start of the piece. The result is a short, focused piece; it's hard to believe it was improvised by a thirty-strong ensemble.

Most of all, this CD re-emphasises the unbroken high standard of music heard at the festival. Truly, there was never a dull moment. Roll on Freedom of the City 2006.


Track Listing: Petrah; Felthor; Voicings; Does Rain Know?; Interstate 2; Conduction No. 20; Hearing Reproduction 7; The Dynamix; Don

Personnel: Paul Rutherford: trombone; John Edwards: double bass; Mark Sanders: percussion // Sylvia Hallett: violin, voice; Caroline Kraabel: alto saxophone, voice; Veryan Weston: piano, voice // Phillipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Kjell Bjorgeengen: video // Steve Beresford: piano; Joe Williamson: double bass; Roger Turner: percussion // Lol Coxhill: soprano saxophone; Neil Metcalfe: flute // Alan Wilkinson: alto & baritone saxophones, voice; Phil Durrant: laptop; Mark Sanders: percussion // London Improvisers Orchestra: Sylvia Hallett: violin, voice; Caroline Kraabel: alto saxophone, voice; Phillipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Steve Beresford: piano; Neil Metcalfe: flute; Harry Beckett, Roland Ramadan: trumpet; Ian Smith: flugelhorn; Paul Rutherford, Robert Jarvis, Alan Tomlinson: trombone; Catherine Pluygers: oboe; John Rangecroft: clarinet; Jacques Foschia: bass clarinet; Adrian Northover, Lol Coxhill: soprano saxophone; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Susanna Ferrar, Christoph Ilmer: violin; Marcio Mattos, Barbara Meyer: cello; Simon H. Fell, David Leahy, Joe Williamson: double bass; Dave Tucker: electric guitar; Chefa Alonsa, Xavier Carmona, Tony Marsh, Mark Sanders: percussion; Anna Holmer: toys, voice.

Title: Freedom of the City 2005 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Emanem


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