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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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And indeed it is. But the genesis of Crimson > 2014 was the confluence of many factors. First came the 21st Century Schizoid Band; then, while it's not often considered as such, came Jakszyk's Bruised Romantic Glee Club, on which a number of past and future Crimson members played. And then, finally, came A Scarcity of Miracles, which seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle. "I think it was a combination of things," Jakszyk said. "Mel played on my solo record, Robert played on my solo record and Gavin played on my solo record. And Robert said he really loved Mel's playing on it. I don't think it was any one thing. I think it's one of those things where you look back at it now and think, 'Life is strange.'"

As it is, because beyond his involvement in Crimson's latest incarnation, Jakszyk has ultimately joined Steven Wilson as a new stereo and surround sound mixer for the group's ongoing 40th Anniversary Series. Jakszyk's first Crimson remix—his superb and revelatory look at THRAK—will be augmented, as the series nears its conclusion, with his stereo and surround mixes of The Power to Believe, along with Wilson's still-outstanding remixes of 1982's Beat and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair (the jury is still out as to whether a 40th Anniversary reissue of The ConstruKction of Light is, as the album Fripp seems to look upon even less favourably than he did Lizard, in the cards).

But then another event occurred which further led down the inevitable road towards the Crimson > 2014 lineup. "Ian [Wallace] died," Jakszyk explained. "Mel and I did a version of 'Islands' at his memorial, and Robert was, again, very impressed; he'd heard Mel on the 21CSB recordings and my solo record and then he saw him play live. He invited me up to his house and we chatted, and we talked a lot about Gavin. And then there was this thing where he called me up and asked if I wanted to do this album for DGM where we would just improvise some stuff. And that's what ended up turning into Scarcity. When we started, I didn't have any idea that it was going to be anything more than two geezers in a room with a couple of guitars...and it became what it became out of that. There were fake drums that I'd put on it, and I asked can we use Gavin; and there was fake bass and I asked could we could get rid of it and get a bassist and Tony came in. That was quite early on."

And, of course, the story has already been well-told that Scarcity's six songs were really built on the improvisations that the two guitarists recorded, with Jakszyk then taking the material home and, shaping them into songs with lyrics, where it became evident that another voice was necessary. Before Harrison and before Levin: enter Collins, whose playing elevated an already strong record—truly one of the most flat-out beautiful recordings of actual songs with which Fripp has been involved outside of instrumental Soundscapes recordings like Love Cannot Bear (DGM Live, 2005).

"There's been a mutual respect right from the beginning," said Collins.

"He's never been shy about that," Jakszyk continued. "Even with the thirty-year gap, Mel's one of the one or two guys that Robert has always spoken highly of."

"And then I listened back to some of the older stuff and realized just what a great player Robert is," added Collins.

Fripp's place in the history books has already been assured by a career now in its sixth decade, but his playing with this Crimson incarnation is notable not just for reviving material that's not been played in decades (if at all), or for his unique approach to improvisation that's even further distinguished by his alternate tuning. What has also been satisfying about watching Crimson > 2014 perform material from 1969-1974 is that Fripp has returned to some of the textures that made his playing so wonderful back in the day, and which he seems to have steadfastly avoided in the ensuing years. "I think Robert has enjoyed that," said Jakszyk. "I think he's found it a challenge to try and recreate them. He sits there and fiddles about with that complicate rack he has...and the next thing, he's found a kind of replicant of the solo in 'Sailor's Tale.'..and, again, as a fanboy..."

But in addition to the banjo-on-steroids solo he plays in the middle of Islands' "Sailor's Tale," it's great to hear Fripp employ a warm, clean tone on tracks like In the Court of the Crimson King's "Epitaph" and encore title track. Throughout the Montréal performance, however, Fripp was featured no more frequently than anyone else in the group; in fact, while there were solos aplenty, there was an overriding sense that the group as a collective was the thing.

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