Recorded live in concert, in October 1993, at Museum Bochum, during the Ruhr Jazz Festival, this album is not a reissue but is being released for the first time, its wryly amusing title indicating that it has been declared fit for public consumption. In fact, the album's four tracks, being the only recordings of this Anglo-German quartet together, make a valuable snapshot of the four at an interesting stage of their careers. Guitarist John Russell and drummer Paul Lovens had first paired up some years earlier, in the quintet News from the Shed (completed by John Butcher, Phil Durrant and Radu Malfatti), which toured England in 1986 and continued gigging until 1994. In 1992, saxophonist Stefan Keune and bassist Hans Schneider had recorded together as two-thirds of the Stefan Keune Trio, alongside drummer Paul Lytton (not to be confused with Lovens!) Varying in length from twenty-three minutes down to four-and-a-half across this forty-five minutes, the freely improvised tracks give all four musicians ample space to be heard. Without any apparent need for a warm-up, from the start of "Stretchers," the longest track and opener, all four are in full flow; Schneider and Lovens do not adopt the role of a conventional rhythm section but are afforded the freedom to roam far and wide in addition to maintaining the group's pulse, freedom which they each seize at every opportunity, adding occasional solos, embellishments to the group sound and commentaries upon the music of their bandmates. Russell's role is not dissimilar, occupying a crucial position between the bass & drums and Keune; his trademark guitar arpeggios and fills clearly identify this group as a quartet not a trio, an important distinction. Unsurprisingly, the saxophonist tends to gravitate to the fore, without obviously hogging the limelight or crowding out the other three. His quick reactions and fluid playing make for thrilling listening, whether he be on tenor or sopranino. All things considered, it is all too evident why each of the four pieces here received prolonged applause from the audience at the concert. After this recording, Keune kept up links with the other three members, recording in long-standing duos both with Russell and with Lovens (see the You Tube clip below for all three together at London's Vortex in 2012), and in a trio with Schneider plus drummer Achim Krämer. This is classic European improv at its best.
Stretchers; Cuism; Drei; With a Big Stick.
Stefan Keune: sopranino, tenor sax; John Russell: acoustic guitar; Hans Schneider: double bass; Paul Lovens: drumset, cymbals, gongs, musical saw.
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