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G. F. Fitz-Gerald & Lol Coxhill: The Poppy Seed Affair

Nic Jones By

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Guitarist G.F. Fitz-Gerald has always mapped out musical territory every bit as distinct as that of Derek Bailey or Hans Reichel, while Lol Coxhill is one of the most distinctive soprano saxophonists on the planet. They've worked as a duo for decades and this one-DVD/two-CD set straddles those decades with rare aplomb.

The DVD was shot in 1981 and depicts crimes of passion performed in a style simultaneously surreal and expressionist by members of the performance art collective known as the Matchbox Players. Based on the evidence seen here, they knew only too well that rules were only there to be broken, especially when the results teeter on an edge. That is what happens here making a description difficult to do the results justice.

The first of the CDs presents a Fitz-Gerald / Coxhill duo performance from the same year. Such is the richness of the musical dialog that repeated listening is likely only to result in deeper rewards. Spontaneous melodicism has always been an integral part of Coxhill's musical personality and he proves it on "11:52," where the amount of ground covered is far in excess of the duration of the piece.

Coxhill can almost lay an inalienable claim on wry wistfulness too and he starts out in that vein on "9:40" before adapting with lightning reflex to Fitz-Gerald when he comes in, from which point the two men shadow each other so closely that at times it's not easy to distinguish one from the other despite the relative angularity of Fitz-Gerald's work.

In a sense Fitz-Gerald's work for solo electric guitar, tape collage and loops is an antithesis of the spontaneity of free improvisation, but the displacement of spirit implied by his methodology is more than compensated by the spirit with which he applies it. Thus the cries of animated children, the flushing of a toilet and what sounds like a power tool become parts of an ambient whole which is in denial of the usual implications of the term. In view of this, Fitz-Gerald's solo guitar work seems like that of a musician as concerned with the environment he's making music in as with notions of logical progression, which makes for a singular listening experience.

Track Listing: CD1: 10:59; 11:52; 9:19; 9:54; 9:40; 11:35. CD2: Listen Collage: Cameos by Count Simon Bedoyere Stable, Mouseproof, Simon Sandwich, various records, Portobello Road sounds; Fractal One: Solo improvisation for electric guitar and effects foot pedals; Fractal Two: Solo improvisation for electric guitar and distortion box; Band In My Head: Dual tape loop for voice, guitar and radio sampling; The Team: Tape collage for Matchbox Purveyors theatricals.

Personnel: Lol Coxhill: soprano sax, tenor sax, voice, electronics; G.F. Fitz-Gerald: guitar (CD1, CD2), tape collage (CD2), loops (CD2); Archie Leggett: bass (DVD); Robert Wyatt: drums and chicken clucks (DVD).

Title: The Poppy Seed Affair | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Reel Recordings

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