Cuneiform has unearthed another gem from the '70s British jazz scene in Which Way Now. Bassist Harry Miller was one of the staples of that era, and on this performance from November of 1975, he shows just why. The band here was the original lineup of Isipingo, and while there is a structure to the music, the door to each player's perspective is left wide open. That is the way Miller preferred to write, placing no holds on improvisation. The result is an energetic, eloquent and exciting experience.
Miller plays the bass with a thick sound, giving it a broad dimension while pegging it deep in the beat. And no matter which way the others took his music, he could get all the ideas to coalesce in his solo turns. Any of the four tracks here can testify to that. On "Family Affair, he sets a rapid pulse with drummer Louis Moholo. Later, he shapes the proceedings by playing on the melody, using stop time signatures, and stretching out with a supple grace. Mike Osborne (alto sax) has the first say and he lays the ground work, his liquid tone slip sliding its way into interesting alleyways. Pianist Keith Tippett takes it all out, his left hand anchoring the adventures of his right as he extends the parameters of the melody in a tide of ripples, cascades and swirling tempo.
"Which Way Now is a bright spark of a tune with Osborne bopping out, fleshing the theme with short notes that leap with abandon as he gradually pushes onward. Nick Evans picks up his taut line, bringing in deeper shades on his trombone. Evans however, does not stay in the same terrain, adopting a lighter flex and thus a captivating whole. The other horn man, Mongezi Feza, lets loose a slew of notes and then elongates and curls them, his trumpet interjections creating a tantalising portrait. The rhythm section edges the front line, Miller with a walking bass line and Moholo with cymbal accents.
This is an outstanding recording and a welcome document of a great band.
Family Affair; Children At Play; Eli's Song; Which Way Now.
Nick Evans: trombone; Mongezi Feza: trumpet; Harry Miller: bass; Louis Moholo: drums; Mike Osborne: alto saxophone; Keith Tippett: piano.
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