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Lol Coxhill & Raymond MacDonald: Morphometry

Duncan Heining By

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Glorious, custard-coloured vinyl, a charming and witty woodcut by artist Ian Barrett (Syd's nephew) on the cover and ten duos featuring saxophonists Lol Coxhill and Lol Coxhill & Raymond McDonald—what's not to like? My first sightings/hearings of the legend that was Lol took place in my mid-teens. Crossing Hungerford Bridge en route to the South Bank for a concert or else to Waterloo Station to get the last train home, there was Lol improvising to the sound of trains or following his own oblique way through some standard.

Coxhill was a reassuringly uncompromising, if eccentric, figure in British music for so many years. Like Roland Kirk, Lol was a true vaudevillian. Or to put it another way, Charles Dickens would have been proud to create a character like George Lowen Coxhill. Morphometry has more perhaps of 'Coxhill the master improviser' than 'Coxhill the raconteur' but that same sense of fun and irreverence still permeates these grooves.

And Scottish saxophonist, Raymond MacDonald, is no junior partner here. There is a sense that MacDonald sometimes defers to Coxhill—not so much holding back but rather letting the great man establish the territory before sharing equally in its exploration. In all honesty, I cannot always distinguish the two when they play together except where MacDonald switches to alto —Coxhill plays soprano throughout. But I don't think that's the point. This a joint venture in sound and there is a nice contrast between the textures and shapes that each man creates.

You know the 'joke' about jazz sounding like a pet shop on fire. Well, the pet shop analogy, though not the fire bit, is not a zillion miles off the mark. There is definitely something bird-like or animal-like about these improvisations. Collins Dictionary gives the definition of 'morphometry' as "the skill or act of measuring the external form of an object, organism or landform." But Morphometry goes further in skilfully measuring and exploring sound as form. In that respect, it has something of the natural world about it—of bird song, animal cries or of wind through trees or the pitter-patter of rain. Best heard through headphones, the music here is relaxing, calming and soothing. It feels as natural as breathing.

Track Listing: Grumpy Ears; Today – The Pond! Tomorrow – The World!; Dilettante In Paris; Upsetting The Neighbours; If I Like It, I’ll Write Back; Complicated Shoes; Late Night In Portpool Lane; It Never Entered My Mind/Duet With A Blackbird; Weekend Epiphanies; Spaghetti In The Piano.

Personnel: Lol Coxhill (soprano saxophone); Raymond MacDonald (soprano and alto saxophones)

Title: Morphometry | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Glo-Spot


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