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London Jazz Composers Orchestra: That Time

John Sharpe By

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London Jazz Composers Orchestra: That Time
Issued to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, That Time uncovers a fascinating window on the early years of the pioneering company which are only sparsely documented elsewhere.

The first two tracks from Berlin and Donaueschingen date from 1972, some six months after the LJCO's debut album Ode (Intakt, 1996), while the last two were captured in 1980, the same year as Stringer (Intakt, 2006). Engineer Ferran Conangla has done a marvelous job with the tapes, the earlier selections in particular sounding remarkable for live recordings of this vintage.

At this stage in its development the Orchestra performed charts from not only the leader bassist Barry Guy, but from within the membership and outside. The four compositions related here suggest something of the diverse procedures and designs which that enabled.

While trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's characteristically punning "Watts Parker Beckett To Me Mr. Riley" may reside at the jazzier end of the spectrum inhabited by the LJCO, it nonetheless contains its fair share of prickly abstraction and modernist orchestration. After the portentous introductory chords the arrangement moves through a series of gambits, providing settings for forward looking solos from those name-checked in the title as it does.

Pianist Howard Riley is percussive and adventurous, while Evan Parker's overblown tenor saxophone solo is ferocious. Derek Bailey's electric guitar shards are notable among the supporting cast at this point. In retrospect the soloists sound surprisingly close to American free jazz, especially the case for Trevor Watts' supple twisting alto cries and Harry Beckett's burnished flugelhorn spurts and gobbets. A sweetly voiced line typical of Wheeler emerges from the boisterous tumult towards the finish to round off an excellent outing.

As Guy explains in the liners, his gritty "Statements III" has half an eye on the reputation of the prestigious Donaueschingen Festival for presenting important works by composers of the Second Viennese School. Even so the slabs of sound are underpinned by percolating detail from this assemblage of improvisers who breathe life into the piece, avoiding any of the residual stiffness inherent in new music outfits of the day.

The seething morass cuts to piping reeds, an open textural episode in which Bailey's plinks, skitters and swells vie with a scratchy saxophone and clattering percussion, spiky ensembles and bristling interjections, ending with an exciting a capella duet between Wheeler's trumpet and Watts' alto.

Trombonist Paul Rutherford's "Quasimode III" starts with personalized electronics, which sound a little dated now, before establishing a driving figure which gives way to Parker's soprano saxophone aerobatics set against a gradually choppier backing, the first in a succession of spotlights.

Riley's "Appolysian" takes a modular approach, and showcases distinct sections of the Orchestra rather than individuals, moving from a thicket of scuttling strings, via an unruly polyphony from the low brass during which Rutherford's multiphonics come to the fore, to querulous reeds which are ultimately subsumed into amassing thunder and a swirling spiralling down conclusion.

The conundrum of how to integrate free improvisers within large group composition hasn't gone away. That Time offers not only a range of fruitful strategies but shows how vital and challenging music can be the result.

Track Listing

Introductions; Watts Parker Beckett To Me Mr. Riley; Statements III; Quasimode III; Appolysian.

Personnel

Barry Guy: bass.

Buxton Orr: conductor (2, 3); Kenny Wheeler: trumpet; Harry Beckett: trumpet; Mark Charig: trumpet; Dave Holdsworth: trumpet (2, 3); Dave Spence: trumpet (4, 5); Paul Rutherford: trombone; Mike Gibbs: trombone (2, 3); Paul Nieman: trombone; Alan Tomlinson: trombone (4, 5); Dick Hart: tuba (2, 3); Melvyn Poore: tuba (4, 5); Trevor Watts: saxophones; Evan Parker: saxophones; Mike Osborne: saxophones (2, 3); Alan Wakeman: saxophones (2, 3); Dave White: saxophones (2, 3); John Warren: saxophones (2, 3); Peter Brotzmann: saxophones (4, 5); Larry Stabbins: saxophones (4, 5); Tony Coe: saxophones (4, 5); Derek Bailey: guitar (2, 3); Howard Riley: piano; Philipp Wachsmann: violin (4, 5); Barry Guy: bass; Chris Laurence: bass (2, 3); Jeff Clyne: bass (2, 3); Peter Kowald: bass (4, 5); Tony Oxley: percussion, violin; Paul Lytton: percussion (2, 3); John Stevens: percussion (4, 5).

Album information

Title: That Time | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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