If the above performer credit looks like the name of a law firm or advertising agency, rest assured that the six musicians are all familiar faces. The sextet is fronted by two contrasting guitarists, the amusingly-named electric guitarist N. O. Moore who often credits himself with "guitarism", in recognition of his extensive use of pedals and effects, and Nashville-resident musician-composer-producer Ed Pettersen on lap steel guitar. Similarly, the six also include two drummers, the legendary Eddie Prevost who is well into his sixth decade as drummer with the group AMM, and a frequent visitor to the London improv scene, Norway's Ståle Liavik Solberg. The bassist is the highly respected and prolific Olie Brice who is leader of the trio Somersaults as well as his own quintet. Featuring on piano and tape echo is Tony Hardie-Bick, whose skeleton in the closet is that, for a time in the 80's, he was keyboardist with the notorious punk band Sham 69.
With the exception of Solberg, who has other connections with London, the players have all been members of the London improvisation workshop which has met weekly since Prevost established it in November 1999. Pettersen became a regular attendee at that workshop during a year he spent in London and became hooked on improv; he was instrumental in setting up the thirteen-member London Experimental Ensemble, of which he, Brice, Moore and Hardie-Bick are all members. Such links mean that the six musicians have a good understanding of each other's approach to improvisation and easily play together without the need for a pre-agreed template or plan.
Produced by Pettersen, the two-disc album was recorded at Westpoint Studios, London, on February 1st 2019, and consists of five extended improvisations, together running for just over eighty-nine minutes, the shortest being just over ten minutes, the longest almost twenty-eight. Across all five tracks, the characteristic of the music which is most noticeable and remarkable is how free of ego it is; no-one dominates the soundscape or shoulders their way to the front to be heard above the others. Yes, individual contributions can be readily identified but there is nothing here that could be labelled as a solo; instead, we hear all six players together for most of the time, with individual contributions occasionally bubbling to the surface until they are once again subsumed into the collective whole.
In the case of the two drummers, and also that of the guitarists, this methodology is vital as it means that they work together without ever sounding as if they are competing but, instead, accommodate one another so that their playing fits hand-in-glove. Although they do not have another musician playing their same instrument, the same is true of both Brice and Bick; their contributions are subtle but just as important in shaping the music as the drums and guitars. At Prevost's weekly workshop, participants are strongly encouraged (by Prevost when he leads, but also by Hardie-Bick or Moore who occasionally deputise for him) to listen to the contributions of those they play with and react accordingly. The music here is eloquent evidence of the success of such encouragement.
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