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Spring Heel Jack Live is a result to SHJ's venture in the world of avant-jazz and improvised music. It all started with Masses, an album that was first in a project called "Blue Series Continuum," where avant musicians from the Thirsty Ear record label went to collaborate together. This duo has made a name for itself in the world of drum'n'bass and dance music and their decision to join another group of free jazz musicians (Evan Parker, Mathew Shepp, Tim Berne, Roy Campbell, George Trebar, etc.) resulted in almost total abandoning of their electronica origins to pursue new directions and challenges in the domain of free jazz. The outcome was music that went beyond anyones expectations and was often unrafined, noisy, free but beautiful. But this was not a collective improvisation as it was usually done in jazz music.
This is actually a collage of those players' improvisations over the digital effects and processing provided by the Spring Heel Jack. The samples, loops as well as the found noises meant that they have surrendered the drum'n'bass works and were attempting a new kind of fusion, between studio manipulation and improvisation. Masses was then followed by Amassed and this time beside Mathew Shipp and Evan Parker they were accompanied by guests J. Spaceman aka Jason Pierce from Spiritualized on guitar (John Coxlon is a former member of Spiritualized) as well as Han Bennik on drums, Paul Rutherford on trombone, John Edwards on bass and Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. This time the adventure in the world of improvised music went even further and it seems that they have succedeed to top their best work in the genre that they invented.
Live finds these musicians ambitiosly pursuing into a territory that is neither completely free-jazz nor free-improv but instead it took some of the best moments from both worlds. It explores a vast soundworld of scratches and noises, frantic but focused and rhythmically tight playing. It is a collective improvisation but compared to other simmilar efforts this one actually is headed somewhere, it has a direction. Equally impressing as the others is J. Spaceman, who adds a trashy and unattamed noisey guitar typical for the Spiritualized sound. Although with different background compared to others he is no stranger to collective improv sessions as Spiritualized synthesizes the same free-improv approach into their own compositions (best seen at their live gigs) and they just turn into a beast where anything is possible. The same happens in here. Spirits lurk here and the ghost of Miles Davis (the electrified one circa 1974) can be seen somewhere around as the first track starts with the "...In A Silent Way" intro where J. Spaceman plays the Mclaughlin opening and then it bursts into a collective jam. John Coltrane can be also be heard here as Evan Parker's tenor sax resembles Coltrane's sound rather than his own. There are even moments when the collective sounds just like the Master Musicans Of Jajouka who have been doing this type of collective jams for the last 4000 years.
The second track starts with solo drum sounds i.e. it turns the drums into a symphony of sounds as drummer Bennik literally tries to squeeze all kinds of sounds from the drums. The intro on the drums lasts for about 8 minutes and later the band would join in a collective madness. The most impressive part is the middle section where forms would emerge and then would slowly dissolve, with intense passages interrupted by silences of irregular length. The piano chords near the end do resemble some of Spiritualized moments. In a way it reminds me of early Can collective improvisational efforts where the band functioned as one mind.
Live explores a vast landscape of moods, colors, styles and it features fierce, heavyweight performaces which even though joyful they are certainly cathartic. But for most part the music is adventurous, intriguing, challenging but demanding, which in the end will reward any patient listener with an open mind for new things.
Track Listing: 1. Part 1, 2. Part 2
Personnel: Han Bennink-drums; Evan Parker-tenor saxophone; William Parker-bass; Matthew Shipp- Fender rhodes; J Spaceman-guitar; Spring Heel Jack-all other instruments and electronics
Track Listing: 1. Part 1
2. Part 2
Personnel: Han Bennink-drums; Evan Parker-tenor saxophone; William Parker-bass; Matthew Shipp-Fender rhodes; J Spaceman-guitar; Spring Heel Jack-all other instruments and electronics
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.