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John Coxon and Ashley Wales (together known as Spring Heel Jack) have stirred the stimulus of several musicians, their bed of bass and drums and electronics being the take-off point. They do so once more with their fourth outing in Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, this time with the indelibly persuasive presence of Wadada Leo Smith and regular cohort Evan Parker.
The music here is completely improvised, a perfect setup for some provocative twists and turns, as it evolves in the sphere of freedom and settles very comfortably in a structured realm as well. Inventiveness casts its spell within these two ambits.
One of the most stunning tracks comes in the radiance of “Autumn.” The rich hues of Coxon’s hymnal organ set the tone, and then Smith delves into it, long lustrous lines that shimmer in their intensity before they curl and beckon Wales, who provides a thick, velvet drape for the trumpet to bounce off. Change is shaded and in that subtlety a magical resonance is created. “Track One” offers a sparser landscape. In its quiet permutations, the unhurried piano makes good use of space to lay down notes while Coxon exudes calm with his laid back harmonica. Smith hammers at that fabric with flinty shards, triggering dramatic impulses that give the tune a fulsome body.
Smith is the one who often creates interesting pathways. His trumpet is the herald and the diviner. But Parker must be given his due. His soprano floats with a lovely delicacy on “Inlet,” the meditative feel abetted by the arco of John Edwards. And then as he builds tension slowly but surely on “Quintet”; the others, particularly Mark Sanders, who makes adept use of the brushes and cymbals, reach in and play off each other to intense effect.