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The quartet of Paul Rutherford, Harrison Smith, Tony Moore and Eddie Prevost from a concert in Bristol, UK in 1992, intricate and informed interplay from Euro free jazz masters.

Free Jazz Quartet
Memories For The Future

Free Jazz Quartet: Memories For The Future (Matchless)
Label: Matchless    
Released in: Great Britain    

Free Jazz Quartet - Memories for the Future

The future is a concept laden with paradox. A certain lazy rhetoric plays with the contradictions, giving us Back to the Future, 'nostalgia for the future', or more promisingly A Future for the Past, or Lincoln Steffens' famous comment when he went to the new-fledged Russia and declared that he had seen the future working. In practice, the future is never seeable, other than in imagination. By the same token, memory is not real, but merely scattered printouts of experience, selective, hoarded, consoling or self-serving.

There is a fundamental philosophical divide here. Progressives understand the future to be real, or realisable, and the past a dead weight. Conservatives rely entirely on precedent and regard the optative as dangerous nonsense. For men and women of the left, the future has a particular and positive reality; they see it as a destination at the end of the sands, where conservatives see only a mirage. The trick, of course, is to take enough of the past along to remain human, and not be burdened by it.

One younger British musician, associated with the Matchless label, signs off his letters and e-mails, simply and poignantly, 'Future'. The men on this record are of a somewhat older generation, one for which the future once had a more apocalyptic and driven cast. Here they are, though, revisiting their own past in ways they might formerly have rejected, and invoking memory as a positive. A lazier title would have been Memories Of The Future, a predictable contradiction that succeeds as word-play but flirts with nostalgia.

The 'for' is important because it implies effort, a conscious decision to store up something for later use. Here is, or are, momentary occasions that resist the temporal sift and refuse to be blown away. Here is, to adapt the title of a fine book on architectural heritage, a future for the past. In its first incarnation, now twenty years ago, the Free Jazz Quartet cast its music in an urgent future tense. The track titles on Premonitions, the group's only previous CD, were all cast as warnings: 'Roman Geese', 'Tocsin', 'Eddystone', which is not just the name of a great lighthouse that warns of dangerous sands, but a pun on the drummer's name and his sound, and 'Red Flags', which neatly combines a beach warning with the bloodied shirt of demonstrators turned into banners of protest.

'Old Moore's' referred to a famous annual publication which offers predictions for the year ahead, but also to an old LP by the trombonist, which went out as Old Moers Almanac. Paul Rutherford is no longer with us, but the music here captures him, as well as saxophonist Harrison Smith, cellist Tony Moore and percussionist Eddie Prévost in one of their finest performances. Each has moved along individual paths over the years, sometimes converging, sometimes deliberately not. Each has taken a step away from jazz, sometimes away from music altogether. Prévost has committed his ideas to writing; Moore to the visual and plastic arts. Smith has refined a saxophone voice that is not so much a vehicle for self-expression as an aspect of personality, which is a far more difficult and disciplined route.

The late Derek Bailey, who along with Rutherford, Evan Parker, Prévost and fellow-drummer John Stevens is one of the founding figures of British free music, used to say that there was no such thing as 'free jazz'. In less rebarbative moods he would alter that to say that the only musicians he knew who played free jazz were saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and drummer Milford Graves. There is a certain consensus that 'free jazz' was an evolutionary way-station in British creative music, an episode in the transformation of bop into 'free'. There is something to recommend that view, but it tends to derogate free jazz as neither fish nor fowl, an awkwardness rather than an achievement, a rough patch in the dialectic.

As such, it's a false negative, since rough patches are definitive of any dialectical process, and they are usually where the most creative thinking is to be found, there rather than in the eventual synthesis. It is impossible to hear this group without recognising its deep roots in jazz. Where later outfits might forsake progressivism for a time to revisit the jazz repertory - all those Coltrane and Dolphy tributes - the Free Jazz Quartet accepted that the language was not exhausted or its terrain fully explored. Release of this wonderful set may yet lead to the group's reformation, with Rutherford present in spirit, if not person.

Definitions are always problematic, and in this field the source of much antagonism and mis-hearing, but however one defines jazz, either as an established language or as a looser complex of varied procedures and gestures, it has certain recognisable characteristics: a distinct approach to ensemble; an element of 'swing'; some relation to the blues. Anyone hearing FJQ for the first time will be immediately aware of these characteristics, even if they appear in unfamiliar form. It plays like a group, not like a chance encounter or like a conscripted 'ensemble'; it swings in its thoughtful way, thanks largely to Prévost's deep familiarity with the literature - not for nothing was he the 'Art Blakey of Brixton' - but also to Moore's extraordinary time-feel and ability to occupy space or leave it thrillingly empty. It's intriguing to hear a cello take the bass's part. The sound draws attention to itself, human-pitched and -proportioned, proposing a new role for the low instrument other than harmonic anchor and time-keeper. When Rutherford played, the blues were never far away; he drew on them deeply, from beginning to end; Smith, too, though his narratives are very different, less bitingly confrontational, stories that have to be heard right through to the end.

This music evokes strong memories, coming as it does out of the not so distant past, but it also points forward, as it is intended to do. Its permanent newness is not in any way degraded by a few years on the shelf and its message remains strong and proactive. Back to the future? Nostalgia for the future? It works."-Brian Morton, from the liner notes

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Improvised Music
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
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Price: $18.95
In Stock


Shipping Weight: 2.00 units

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Product Information:

UPC: 502049207629

Label: Matchless
Catalog ID: MRCD76
Squidco Product Code: 12330

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2009
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardstock Gatefold Sleeve
Recorded at a concert given at St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol during 1992.


Paul Rutherford-Trombone

Harrison Smith-Tenor/soprano saxophone and bass clarinet

Tony Moore-Cello

Eddie Prevost-Drums

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Track Listing:

1. A Fertile Valley 4:42

2. Pulsate 8:30

3. Summoning 7:24

4. Octavian Law* 3:37

5. Vibrational 9:44

6. Memories for the Future 7:08

7. Harmonious Revelations 7:10

8. Blurring of Boundaries 3:54