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Barry Guy / London Jazz Composers Orchestra / Irene Schweizer: Radio Rondo

Nic Jones By

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Radio Rondo was recorded at a Swiss jazz festival in May of 2008. The program is split into two halves, the first of which is a Irene Schweizer solo; the second, featuring the pianist in the company of bassist Barry Guy and his longstanding orchestra.

What makes the music notable is the degree to which it's reflective of fearsome intelligence at work. As a pianist, Schweizer has taken the time-honored route in her working through influences and emerging with her own voice. Here, that's marked by a certain restlessness not necessarily reflective of her musical personality; a largely irrelevant point, since her work is so stimulating. Her accommodation with the moment is entirely her own, and the same is true of the manner in which she not only conjures up an idea but also teases it out, wringing it out for telling effect. It seems like second nature for her to know exactly when it's outlived its usefulness; a point most effectively made at around the seven minutes and thirty seconds mark of her solo "Schaffhausen Concert," where she gets as close as she ever has to Cecil Taylor's sense of drama. Even then, it could easily be merely a point of reference.

The LJCO is, along with the Globe Unity Orchestra, one of the longest-standing European improvisation ensembles. It's clear, from its realization of Guy's "Radio Rondo," that the mixture of stalwarts and relatively new names is highly attuned to the bassist's musical methodology. In lesser hands, the often dramatic nature of the piece, manifested in great swathes of horns, would come across as striving for effect, but here it's a different matter.



It seems at times as though Schweizer sometimes has to negotiate some treacherous waters, but the underlying poise—a quality that's amplified by the often truculent nature of Guy's work for this orchestra—is extraordinary. At no point does the music congeal, despite the momentum of the piece being far from linear. Instead, it's the very discontinuities that are essential to this music's overall success, which in itself sets out a manifesto for its ongoing vitality.


Track Listing: Schaffhausen Concert; Radio Rondo.

Personnel: Henry Lowther: trumpet; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Rich Laughlin: trumpet; Conrad Bauer: trombone; Johannes Bauer: trombone; Alan Tomlinson: trombone; Per Ake Holmlander: tuba; Evan Parker: reeds; Mats Gustafsson: reeds; Trevor Watts: reeds; Simon Picard: reeds; Pete McPhail: reeds; Phil Wachsmann: violin; Irene Schweizer: piano; Barry Guy: bass, director; Barre Phillips: bass; Paul Lytton: percussion; Lucas Niggli: percussion.

Title: Radio Rondo | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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