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Kieran Hebden / Steve Reid / Mats Gustafsson: Live At The South Bank

Mark Corroto By

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If abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock could be asked how his instant drip paintings reflect the entire history of modern art, he might have replied that his body movements, splatters, flinging, flipping and pouring of paint act as a channel for all this painterly knowledge—and that of his forefathers and contemporaries. Likewise, this two-disc set of music by electronic artist Kieran Hebden, drummer Steve Reid and Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson transmits music from the free jazz experiments of the 1960s through the experimental electronica movements of today.

Recorded in 2009, Live At The South Bank is sadly the final release from Reid, who died in 2010 of cancer. The duo of Hebden and Reid produced four prior discs, the last being NYC (Domino, 2008). Their collaborations were born out of mutual admiration. Reid, who had studied with John Coltrane, recorded with James Brown, Sun Ra, Frank Lowe and Miles Davis, was attracted to Hebden, his junior by some 33 years, probably because, Hebden, who often records under the moniker Four Tet, blurs the distinction between electronica, folk, hip hop, and jazz into more abstract and improvised concepts.

For this date, the pair employs fire-breathing Gustafsson who—like the late sixties duo of Coltrane and drummer Rashied Ali, or reed man Peter Brötzmann's pairing with drummer Hamid Drake—instantly summons an almost pure energy of sound. With that energy, few traditional jazz instruments can accompany him besides a drummer. Gustafsson requires the return of energy from sources such as Merzbow (a noise artist) or Sonic Youth (a rock band).

Indeed, Reid and Hebden pack the necessary horsepower to accompany the saxophonist. In fact, their attack on the opening dynamic cavalcade of "Morning Prayer" doesn't allow Gustafsson to find an entrance; he's not heard from until nearly 19 minutes into the first disc.

Reid and Hebden build rhythms and counter-rhythms, with build being the operative word. Each lengthy piece is a dance of alluvium, the flowing sediment formations of layer-upon-layer of movement and samples. When Gustafsson finally enters, his sound, like an ocean liner's horn, blasts the departure. The sound is not so much a struggle as a cooperative synergy. Reid's drumming is crisp and invigorating throughout, building, uplifting and moving forward. The trio tears into modern electronica and jazz in the same way Albert Ayler or John Coltrane might have done, had they access to computers and sampling back in the late 1960s.

Track Listing: CD1: Morning Prayer; Lyman Place; People Be Happy. CD2: Untitled; 25th Street; The Sun Never Sets.

Personnel: Kieran Hebden: electronics; Steve Reid: drums; Mats Gustafsson: saxophone, slide saxophone.

Title: Live At The South Bank | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Smalltown Superjazzz

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