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Phil Minton Quartet: Slur

John Eyles By

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This improvising quartet first came together in the mid '90s recording Mouthfull of Ecstasy (Victo, 1996), which was inspired by author James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake. Although, vocalist Phil Minton has for decades performed with individual members of the quartet, and since 1996 has recorded fine duos with all of them, this is only their second release together.

In contrast to that first album, which integrated Joyce's words into the music, this one is entirely without words. Minton's extraordinary voice becomes an instrument like the others, conveying a vast array of emotions and meanings through sound alone. As so often, that voice astonishes in the diversity of sound it can produce; moans, yelps, whoops, squeals, guttural roars, breathless gasps, dark mutterings, Loony Tunes squawking—and much more—are all in Minton's repertoire. Never contrived, he produces exactly the sound needed for the moment, each seemingly produced deep within his soul. It is a constant wonder that his vocal chords aren't shredded in the process!

Minton's voice is in amongst the other instruments, not simply as a conventional vocalist. The music of the four musicians swirls around, with the focus never remaining in one place for long. Typically, a contribution from any one of the four lasts no more than ten seconds, and rarely do all four play simultaneously. Rather, this is a fluid series of duos and trios, with such distinctions as foreground/background and lead/support being totally irrelevant. On the rare occasions when all four do play at once—as at the start of "A Bit More or the middle of "Closer —the effect is stunning, a series of rapid-fire reactions and exchanges too quick to take in.

Moments that bring a large grin to one's face—even laughter—are common, often prompted by Minton's more unexpected and surreal interjections. Yet this is serious music in the sense that it commands attention. Never is it dull or po-faced.

Track Listing: Almost There; Lower Down; Higher; A Bit More; Far Off; Closer; Back; Length.

Personnel: Phil Minton: voice; John Butcher: soprano and tenor saxophones; Veryan Weston: piano; Roger Turner: percussion.

Title: Slur | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Emanem


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