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As the Freedom of the City 2007 festival draws near, here is a timely reminder of the quality of the music that can always be expected there. Although the three groupings here do not feature any "household names, they do contain many decades of experience at playing improvised music, and that is what shines through on these performances.
Besides the quality of their music, maybe the tracks here were also selected to stress the cosmopolitan nature of FOTC. The opening trio consists of two Spaniards and a New Zealander. Chefa Alonso proves herself to be a distinctive and fluent improviser on soprano sax. The prolonged passages where all three players are in full flight are exhilarating. They also sound distinctive, something that is not easy to achieve given the wealth of improvising sax-bass-drums trios around.
The 2006 festival was memorable for the visit of improvisers from Brussels' Collectif Inaudible, who played in various groupings together and with London-based players. (Their visit confirmed the impression created by their album Cardo of a highly inventive and slightly eccentric bunch.) "Okgnig features one such performance by an all-Belgian quartet. In particular, Jan-Michel van Schouwburg is an amazing vocalist (not singer), producing an extraordinary array of sounds and effects. At times it sounds as if an over-excited dog has wandered onstage. The only minor downside here is that we can only hear his performance, not see it as well, as he is quite a performer.
The members of the final quartet are seasoned veterans of the London improv scene with the likes of Derek Bailey, John Stevens and Evan Parker... and the London Improvisers' Orchestra. Saxophonist Garry Todd does not play often in public, but that is no reflection on his playing, which is free-flowing and very listenable. Although the quartet improvises, its music is the most jazz-tinged of the three tracks here.
To summarize, this edition of the annual Freedom of the City release is well up to the usual high standard; as essential as ever if you want to keep in touch with the improv scene in London.
Track Listing: Chćchara; Okgnig 1; Stipple.
Personnel: Chefa Alonso: soprano saxophone (1); David Leahy: bass (1); Javier Carmona: drum set, percussion (1); Jean-Michel van Schouwburg: voice (2); Adelheid Sieuw: flutes, voice (2); Jan Huib Nas: guitar (2); Guy Strale: clarinet, piano, percussion (2); Garry Todd: tenor saxophone (3); Nigel Coombes: violin (3); Nick Stephens: bass (3); Tony Marsh: drum set (3).
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.