153

Lol Coxhill: Spectral Soprano

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Lol Coxhill: Spectral Soprano Free improvisers often receive criticism because they don't (or choose not to) play within other contexts. Lol Coxhill sets the record straight on Spectral Soprano, a collection of pieces that span a very broad range of styles from '54 through the late '90s. Coxhill has had his fingers in everyone's pie at one time or another, and this 2-disc set testifies to his abundant curiosity. The thick sheaf of liner notes and photos provides a loose roadmap to the high (and odd) points in Coxhill's varied musical career.

Rather than ordering the pieces in chronological order, the producers decided to render a tossed salad out of the affair. Opening with a lyrical ('54) rendition of "Autumn in New York," the first disc moves right into rock and roll. Subsequent installments cover the gamut from straight-ahead jazz through soul-inflected solo improvisation, electronic music, goofy vocal games, and wild experiments with tone and structure. One thing is for sure: Lol Coxhill does not take himself too seriously. (Just look at the photo on the inside of the liner notes, where he's pictured in leisurely repose with one hand clasping a beverage and the other firmly grasping his crotch.) But rather than offering a self-indulgent display of styles, however, Spectral Soprano reveals quite a bit about the man and his music.

Something about this record reminds me of Fringe Benefits, a similar 2-disc retrospective assembled by Jon Rose, the restless free improv violinist. Rose performed violin improvisations knee deep in the surf—Coxhill delivers an otherworldy swimming pool performance recorded by a condom-encased mic. Rose tossed in a snippet of his day job in a country and western band—Coxhill a pair of lo-fi recordings with Tony Knight's Chessmen, a very run-of-the-mill '60s rock band. The point of the former: neither player is afraid of taking risks to explore the outer boundaries of sound. The point of the latter: every working musician has to earn a dollar (or a pound, as the case may be).

Some of the most illuminating tracks on Spectral Soprano lie somewhere in the middle:

  • A duo performance with Veryan Weston of "Embraceable You" (leading into "Quasimodo") projects an infectiously bouncy lightness.
  • "Vermillion Sands," a collaboration with electronic music pioneer Paul Schütze, suggests melancholy and regret.
  • "Two Out of Three" contrasts Coxhill's bird-like soprano tone with pedal points by bassist Dave Green.
  • On "Tourism in Crisis," the saxophonist plugs into an echo unit and dances through the air alongside Steve Miller on keyboards.
  • On "Victory Walk," Coxhill joins two other horns and a bass through an arranged melody, loose sauntering improv, and a free-sounding ending.
  • The closer, "Introduction to the Orchestra," features the saxophonist's first performance with the London Improvisers Orchestra (25-strong!), a delicately interwoven group improvisation. (He subsequently went on to join the group.)

If you've had a chance to hear Lol Coxhill play in open improv settings, you'll know he has enormous talent. But Spectral Soprano is an ear opener. His versatility and range are surprising—and best of all, he has a very well-developed sense of fun. For the curious, Spectral Soprano presents a welcome cornucopia of sounds. These two hours end way too soon.


Track Listing: Disc One: Autumn in New York; Bad Boy; Strictly Legal; Vermillion Sands; Not the North; Three Go To Letchworth; Embraceable You/Quasimodo; Union Dues; Turned Out Nice Again; Happy Birthday Bob Cobbing; I Thought About You; Aquaslide; Experiments With Temperature; Two Out of Three; Messin' With The Man. Disc Two: A Brief Introduction to Sax; Magic Buffalo; Uptown Top Ranking; Perdido; Out of Nowhere; Brits Abroad; Tourism in Crisis; Verstehen Und Sprechen; Murder in the Air; Sweet Hawaiian Kisses; Victory Walk; C.A.K.; Resonance; Introduction to the Orchestra.

Personnel: Lol Coxhill: saxophones, piano, voice, etc; and others too numerous to name.

Title: Spectral Soprano | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Emanem


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "King of the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review King of the Blues
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 27, 2016
Read "Shapes" CD/LP/Track Review Shapes
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 6, 2016
Read "The Promise Of Happiness" CD/LP/Track Review The Promise Of Happiness
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 7, 2016
Read "Makes My Heart Sway" CD/LP/Track Review Makes My Heart Sway
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 23, 2016
Read "June" CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Groovin'" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin'
by Jeff Winbush
Published: November 2, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.