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Splinters: Inclusivity

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Splinters: Inclusivity
Archive label Jazz In Britain comes up with another winner. Inclusivity is a 3 x CD collection of the complete performances of Splinters, an all-star 1972 septet comprising three hard boppers, two radical experimentalists and two in-betweeners. They were tenor saxophonist and flautist Tubby Hayes, alto saxophonist Trevor Watts, trumpeter and flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler, pianist Stan Tracey, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummers Phil Seamen and John Stevens. The band assembled for just two London gigs five months apart. It made no studio recordings.

The discs are housed in a 12" x 12" hardcover pack with a bound-in 34 page book, which is split more or less equally between contemporary photos of the musicians by the late Jak Kilby and an essay by specialist historian Simon Spillett.

The British jazz scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s was beset by external and internal threats. Externally, the overwhelming rise of rock culture meant there were fewer gigging opportunities for jazz musicians, as clubs and concert halls followed the money. Internally, the scene was becomingly increasingly divided, partly in response to the rock explosion and partly due to the passionate partisanships different jazz styles engendered. On a positive note, however, sections of the jazz community were fighting back against rock's economic onslaught through co-operative endeavours and pressure groups. There was also a newfound willingness among some musicians to bury their aesthetic differences, in recognition that there was more that united them than divided them. Splinters grew out of this belief.

All this is chronicled by Spillett in his extended essay. This draws on contemporary reviews and interviews, the memories and observations of musicians who were active in the early 1970s, and, crucially, the thoughts of the sole surviving member of Splinters, Trevor Watts. It is Watts, too, who we have to thank for the audio—two sets he recorded at the 100 Club on May 22 and a one-set performance at the Grass Roots on September 12. Sound quality is, aside from an occasional glitch, really good.

Splinters' style was "time no changes," an approach that was familiar to some members but less so to others. There were no rehearsals—the 100 Club performance was advertised as a "Jam Session" and the group only adopted the name Splinters shortly before the Grass Roots gig for publicity purposes—and no pre-composed material, let alone arrangements. The seven musicians simply got up on stage and, tentatively at first, started playing.

What we hear is not a cacophonous collective freak-out, but, for most of the time and at its best, a series of individual showcases (titled "Phases" after the event) featuring the individual frontline players over coursing motor rhythms from the two drummers. As a purely musical experience you probably had to be there, though with musicians of this calibre there is enough to engage one's interest five decades on. But what was most important about Splinters was the intention behind its formation, and Jazz In Britain is to be thanked for bringing this chunk of history into the public domain.

Track Listing

Disc One: Live At The 100 Club Set 1: Phase 1 – 5. Disc Two: Live At The 100 Club Set 2: Phase 6 – 8; Encore. Disc Three: Live At Grass Roots: Phase 1 – 6.

Personnel

Tubby Hayes
saxophone, tenor
Trevor Watts
saxophone
Kenny Wheeler
flugelhorn
Jeff Clyne
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

Tubby Hayes: tenor saxophone, flute; Trevor Watts: alto saxophone; Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stan Tracey: piano (1-5, 10-16); Jeff Clyne: bass; Phil Seamen: drums (left channel); John Stevens: drums (right channel).

Album information

Title: Inclusivity | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Jazz In Britain


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