6

Bob Downes Open Music: It's A Mystery

Roger Farbey By

Sign in to view read count
Pursuing his self-styled Open Music route, multi-instrumentalist Bob Downes treads a very thin and courageous line between written jazz and total improvisation. Of his many recordings, some funky jazz rock, others wholly extemporized, there are several which involve organised pieces evolving into often lengthy improvisations. It's A Mystery (not to be confused with the pop song by punk star Toyah Willcox) contains archival previously unreleased recordings spanning the length of his career from the early 1970s onwards.

The gongs and cymbals of the opening short title track segue seamlessly into the Ballet Rambert commissioned "Dream Journey." At nearly 25 minutes this is by far the longest piece on the album. This is an alternate take to the cut lasting the whole of the first side of Downes's Open Music recorded for Philips in 1970. Underpinned by dramatic drums, timpani and obligato bass, Downes's flute and screeching vocals dominate the session, occasionally punctuated by an uncredited horn ensemble.

"Imminent Danger" is a film noir-ish six minute piece that is both engaging and hypnotic and held together by a colossal wind orchestra over which Downes solos on flute. "Predator" is a short mood piece recorded in a shower room situated within a thermal bath. "Floating Shapes," a short library music track, was recorded at around the time of Open Music in 1970 and is in the same vein as "Dream Journey."

Downes is accompanied by his erstwhile alphorn compatriots on "Night Fear," a lugubrious piece, redolent of the 2015 album Bob Downes And The Alphorn Brothers. The short "You Leave Me Breathless" previously appeared as an extra track on the CD re-release of Episodes At 4am accompanying Downes reciting his poem "The Wind Upon The Moor." Here it appears without the verse and employs flute pads and breath sounds to create echoey atmospherics. On "Barker," recorded live in 1971, Downes deploys flute, alto flute, wind gong, Chinese cymbal, foot stamping and sound poetry and at a little over six minutes, perfectly demonstrates both his versatility and seemingly boundless imagination.

"Coming Together" juxtaposes Chinese and Turkish cymbals in an exercise to evince their different acoustic properties. "Spaced Out," recorded in 1971, uses alto flute and an egg slicer recorded at 7½ ips but played back at 3¾ ips. The effect is eerie and marginally discombobulating. "Suprise Encounters" is an improvisation recorded in 1976 with Downes on flute and Timothy Kramer on cello. Downes had previously engaged the cellist to play on a score he had been commissioned to write for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. The final number, "Voodoo Man" is a one minute percussion extravaganza featuring amongst other instruments a home-made "quiero" fashioned out of a large cow bone over which the bone of a deer is lightly rolled.

This miscellany of recordings provides an excellent insight into the thought-provoking career of one of jazz's most creative innovators. The inclusion of the lengthy "Dream Journey" earmarks it as highly significant within the canon of Downes's works.

Track Listing: It's A Mystery; Dream Journey; Imminent Danger; Predator; Floating Shapes; Night Fear; You Leave Me Breathless; Barker; Coming Together; Spaced Out; Surprise Encounters; Voodoo Man.

Personnel: Bob Downes: flute, alto flute, contrabass flute, flute pads, tenor saxophone, wind gong, wind chimes, hanging bamboo sticks, quiero, shaker, drums, cowbell, Chinese cymbals, Turkish cymbals, egg slicer, voice; Derek Hogg: timpani, vibraphone, tam-tam, finger cymbals; Jim Gregory: flute; Daryl Runswick: double bass; Denis Smith: drums, wind chimes; John Stevens: drums; Timothy Kramer: cello; Hagen Nowottny, Eckhard Nowottny, Björn Peterich: alphorn (track 6); unknown trumpet and saxophone players (track 2); 65 piece wind band (track 3).

Title: It's A Mystery | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ReR Megacorp


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Two in a Box CD/LP/Track Review Two in a Box
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Discussions CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "The Darkening Blue" CD/LP/Track Review The Darkening Blue
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette" CD/LP/Track Review Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette
by Nicola Negri
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "For Massas" CD/LP/Track Review For Massas
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: June 11, 2017
Read "Blue And Lonesome" CD/LP/Track Review Blue And Lonesome
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Elevation" CD/LP/Track Review Elevation
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2016
Read "Mind Behind Closed Eyes" CD/LP/Track Review Mind Behind Closed Eyes
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 22, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.