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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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"I remember growing up listen to Crimson, and when the new lineup came out with Discipline I loved it but, in my head it really wasn't a King Crimson," Jakszyk continued. "That was my personal perception. And I know there is a split camp [with respect to the Belew-era Crimson], but a comment we get a lot is, 'I never thought I'd hear this song played live.' I think, for Robert, it allows him to say: 'This band didn't start in 1981; it started in 1969. I think he's enjoyed going back and I know that Robert's opinions of certain records have traditionally been colored by his personal experiences in making them. I think that it's now possible for him to go, 'This is just a song we're doing with this band.' It allows him to re-experience the tune in a new way. Whereas before it could of been colored by some personal grievance he had with a member of the band, now it's song that he enjoys playing. It was a song so associated with a particular record that he couldn't help but feel it. So it's giving him the opportunity come back and evaluate it purely on musical terms."

That Jakszyk is able to sing material originally sung by Greg Lake, Gordon Haskell, Boz Burrell and John Wetton, referencing all of these singers with certain signatures while, at the same time, always bringing something fresh in his own distinctive interpretations—a voice that was heard to great effect on both A Scarcity of Miracles and his own The Bruised Romantic Glee Club (Iceni, 2006, reissued by Panegyric, 2009)—was something that he'd already begun years earlier, when he became part of 21st Century Schizoid Band in 2002.

A group of otherwise all-Crimson alumni, 21CSB largely culled its repertoire from the 1969-1975 Crimson catalog, along with a bit of new music. In addition, 21CSB performed material from McDonald and Giles (Island, 1971), the recording long considered as the brighter, more optimistic side to Crimson's largely dark complexion, featuring two original Crimson alum—saxophonist/flautist/keyboardist Ian McDonald and Michael Giles—along with the drummer's brother, bassist Peter Giles (never a full-fledged member, but who played on Crimson's In the Wake of Poseidon). The group became quite successful for the simple reason that longtime Crimson fans were enthralled with the idea of hearing their favorite older Crimson songs played live by many of the people who actually did so in the first place (or, at the very least, on record).

Still, that was, indeed, a tribute band as opposed to Crimson > 2014's more modernistic approach to reinventing the material. Jakszyk was both 21CSB's singer and, simultaneously, the guitarist tasked with playing Fripp's parts—for many, a role that would be considered insurmountable and yet, based on Pictures of a City: Live in New York (Iceni, 2006), one that the singer/guitarist/occasional flautist managed to pull off, seemingly effortlessly, to perfection. That band was, in many ways, the beginning of relationship-building and a healing that led, along with A Scarcity of Miracles, to the current King Crimson lineup. Certainly, it was the first time that Jakszyk showed up on Fripp's radar.

"When Boz, Ian and I left King Crimson in 1972," Collins explained, "Robert did ask me to stay on and form the new band [instead of violinist David Cross], but at the time I'd just had enough and didn't want to play in odd time signatures anymore [laughs]. I just wanted to play funk."

"Now he can't get enough of it," Jakszyk interjected dryly, to laughter around the table.

"Well, it's not as simple as that," Collins continued, "but I didn't really want to continue. I think my head had been destroyed. Then it all came back with the Schizoid Band, where Robert called Jakko, and that was actually the turning point. And then Robert called me up—this was after 30 years—and said he supported the whole project and wished us all the best. This is bearing in mind that I hadn't spoken to him in years and years—and he said 'I must say I do apologize for all the mean things i said to you back in 1972,' which was actually very nice; so OK, it's history now."

As a side-note, finding parts for Collins was no small challenge with material on which there were originally no reed or wind parts. "I didn't know the material either," Collins explained. "Dec [Declan Colgan, president of Panegyric] would send me some songs and I'd have an idea what I might play, but with a lot of it I didn't...'The ConstruKction of Light,' in particular. It had already evolved in Robert's mind where I could play, and the flute thing seemed to work out. But then we tried adding a sax solo. The set parts, the baritone things, double the bass and allow Tony to not have to play those lines if he doesn't want to. Plus it's freeing to take what was, for awhile, a signature Crimson sound and apply it to some of the newer pieces and bring it back full circle...and I think it's working."

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