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Lol Coxhill: Spectral Soprano

Mark Corroto By

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To describe Lol Coxhill as an eccentric English improviser would be redundant, maybe redundant times two. The saxophonist known for his wicked sense of musical humor is a true original voice. These two discs contain 29 tracks, over two hours of music recorded between 1954 and 1999.

Compiled by the artist, these tracks take in the breadth of his career. The early work finds some hauntingly beautiful music, such as his straight take on “Autumn In New York,” circa 1954. We also hear his R&B/rock gig with Tony Knight’s Chessmen. Coxhill is probably best known in improvising circle for his soprano saxophone sound. His command of the most difficult of instruments finds him in the elite company of Evan Parker and Steve Lacy. His path is definitely one of most resistance. Coxhill has a passion for traditional music, playing it ‘straight’ within the context of free shows. He takes on Charlie Parker’s’ “Quasimodo” and Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” as a lounge lizard singer before ripping through Bird’s changes. Is he serious or a kitsch dealer?

This scrapbook of Coxhill’s career has the voyeuristic effect of being admitted into his inner circle of friends. Coxhill makes musical theatre, eschewing the serious nature creative music has taken on. The company he keeps is with his friends and sympathizers like Veryan Weston, Pat Thomas, Lu Edmonds, and Dave Green. Coxhill can honk and squank with the best and also deliver a musical punch line. The session assembles reveal more depth to his music too. He plays some hauntingly beautiful passages as on Jimmy Van Heusen’s “I Thought About You” and his original title “Two Out Of Three.” But you just never know what to expect, one track he plays the ‘elbow piano’ and on another he announces “the saxophone is not a condiment.” Indeed!

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

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