An excellent 4-CD set from a UK tour of the long-running London monthly concert series Mopomoso, featuring improvisations from various grouping of John Russell, Evan Parker, John Edwards, David Leahy, Pat Thomas, Alison Blunt, Benedict Taylor, Kay Grant & Alex Ward.
Parker, Evan / Pat Thomas / John Russell / John Edwards / Alex Ward / Alison Blunt / Benedict Taylor / David Leahy / Kay Grant
Mopomoso Tour 2013 | Making Rooms [4 CDs]
Released in: Great Britain
"Originated by guitarist John Russell and pianist/trumpeter Chris Burn, Mopomoso is an improvised-music organisation that has run a series of monthly concerts in London ever since 1991, making it the longest-running such series in the UK. Between April 23rd and 30th 2013, Mopomoso embarked on a tour of England which visited seven cities outside London. At each stop, local improvising musicians supported the core group of musicians-Russell, saxophonist Evan Parker, bassists John Edwards and David Leahy, pianist Pat Thomas, violinist Alison Blunt, violist Benedict Taylor, vocalist Kay Grant and clarinetist Alex Ward.
Making Rooms is a four-CD set that was recorded on that tour. The discs are distinct, each one by a subset of the core group-the trio of Parker, Russell and Edwards (also known as House Full of Floors after their 2009 Tzadik album), Thomas solo, the all-string trio of Blunt, Taylor and Leahy, and the Grant-Ward duo.
The most obvious feature of those groupings is that the players know each other well and have experience playing together. While that makes for first-rate music, it rather goes against the Mopomoso ethos which often combines players with little or no prior knowledge of one another, leading to some surprising and unforeseen successes. Another comment (not a grumble) is that Mopomoso is renowned for regularly inviting overseas players to play with UK-based musicians but, for funding reasons, the core group on the tour were all English. Doubtless, the next Mopomoso tour, will take note of such considerations...
Meanwhile, the music here makes an excellent advertisement for freely improvised music in general and for Mopomoso in particular, the four contrasting discs showcasing the range and variety of the music, its energy and its beauty. House Full of Floors opens proceedings with three extended pieces, totalling some seventy minutes. Parker humorously described this trio as being "like three people on a tight rope each holding a safety net for the others." At one level that is an excellent analogy, as each of the three plays a similar role in ensuring the other two are supported and integrated into the totality of the group's music. That requires sympathetic listening from each of them, allied to the ability to react swiftly and appropriately. All three make those skills seem like second nature, so their music is never remotely as precarious or wobbly as Parker's analogy might suggest; on the contrary, it is tight, focused and flows easily.
The discs of this set are individually titled and sleeved, all four being housed together in the pictured box, alongside an attractive 20-page booklet documenting the tour. Altogether, it is hard to find fault with any aspect of this release. "-John Eayles, Weekertoft
Biography for: Evan Parker
"Evan Parker was born in Bristol in 1944 and began to play the saxophone at the age of 14. Initially he played alto and was an admirer of Paul Desmond; by 1960 he had switched to tenor and soprano, following the example of John Coltrane, a major influence who, he would later say, determined "my choice of everything". In 1962 he went to Birmingham University to study botany but a trip to New York, where he heard the Cecil Taylor trio (with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray), prompted a change of mind. What he heard was "music of a strength and intensity to mark me for life ... l came back with my academic ambitions in tatters and a desperate dream of a life playing that kind of music - 'free jazz' they called it then."
Parker stayed in Birmingham for a time, often playing with pianist Howard Riley. In 1966 he moved to London, became a frequent visitor to the Little Theatre Club, centre of the city's emerging free jazz scene, and was soon invited by drummer John Stevens to join the innovative Spontaneous Music Ensemble which was experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation. Parker's first issued recording was SME's 1968 Karyobin, with a line-up of Parker, Stevens, Derek Bailey, Dave Holland and Kenny Wheeler. Parker remained in SME through various fluctuating line-ups - at one point it comprised a duo of Stevens and himself - but the late 1960s also saw him involved in a number of other fruitful associations.
He began a long-standing partnership with guitarist Bailey, with whom he formed the Music Improvisation Company and, in 1970, co-founded Incus Records. (Tony Oxley, in whose sextet Parker was then playing, was a third co-founder; Parker left Incus in the mid-1980s.) Another important connection was with the bassist Peter Kowald who introduced Parker to the German free jazz scene. This led to him playing on Peter Brötzmann's 1968 Machine Gun, Manfred Schoof's 1969 European Echoes and, in 1970, joining pianist Alex von Schlippenbach and percussionist Paul Lovens in the former's trio, of which he is still a member: their recordings include Pakistani Pomade, Three Nails Left, Detto Fra Di Noi, Elf Bagatellen and Physics.
Parker pursued other European links, too, playing in the Pierre Favre Quartet (with Kowald and Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer) and in the Dutch Instant Composers Pool of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. The different approaches to free jazz he encountered proved both a challenging and a rewarding experience. He later recalled that the German musicians favoured a "robust, energy-based thing, not to do with delicacy or detailed listening but to do with a kind of spirit-raising, a shamanistic intensity. And l had to find a way of surviving in the heat of that atmosphere ... But after a while those contexts became more interchangeable and more people were involved in the interactions, so all kinds of hybrid musics came out, all kinds of combinations of styles."
A vital catalyst for these interactions were the large ensembles in which Parker participated in the 1970s: Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) and occasional big bands led by Kenny Wheeler. In the late 70s Parker also worked for a time in Wheeler's small group, recording Around Six and, in 1980, he formed his own trio with Guy and LJCO percussionist Paul Lytton (with whom he had already been working in a duo for nearly a decade). This group, together with the Schlippenbach trio, remains one of Parker's top musical priorities: their recordings include Tracks, Atlanta, Imaginary Values, Breaths and Heartbeats, The Redwood Sessions and At the Vortex. In 1980, Parker directed an Improvisers Symposium in Pisa and, in 1981, he organised a special project at London's Actual Festival. By the end of the 1980s he had played in most European countries and had made various tours to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. ln 1990, following the death of Chris McGregor, he was instrumental in organising various tributes to the pianist and his fellow Blue Notes; these included two discs by the Dedication Orchestra, Spirits Rejoice and lxesa.
Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time. Parker's first solo recordings, made in 1974, were reissued on the Saxophone Solos CD in 1995; more recent examples are Conic Sections and Process and Reality, on the latter of which he does, for the first time, experiment with multi-tracking. Heard alone on stage, few would disagree with writer Steve Lake that "There is, still, nothing else in music - jazz or otherwise - that remotely resembles an Evan Parker solo concert."
While free improvisation has been Parker's main area of activity over the last three decades, he has also found time for other musical pursuits: he has played in 'popular' contexts with Annette Peacock, Scott Walker and the Charlie Watts big band; he has performed notated pieces by Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman and Frederic Rzewski; he has written knowledgeably about various ethnic musics in Resonance magazine. A relatively new field of interest for Parker is improvising with live electronics, a dialogue he first documented on the 1990 Hall of Mirrors CD with Walter Prati. Later experiments with electronics in the context of larger ensembles have included the Synergetics - Phonomanie III project at Ullrichsberg in 1993 and concerts by the new EP2 (Evan Parker Electronic Project) in Berlin, Nancy and at the 1995 Stockholm Electronic Music Festival where Parker's regular trio improvised with real-time electronics processed by Prati, Marco Vecchi and Phillip Wachsmann. "Each of the acoustic instrumentalists has an electronic 'shadow' who tracks him and feeds a modified version of his output back to the real-time flow of the music."
The late 80s and 90s brought Parker the chance to play with some of his early heroes. He worked with Cecil Taylor in small and large groups, played with Coltrane percussionist Rashied Ali, recorded with Paul Bley: he also played a solo set as support to Ornette Coleman when Skies of America received its UK premiere in 1988. The same period found Parker renewing his acquaintance with American colleagues such as Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and George Lewis, with all of whom he had played in the 1970s (often in the context of London's Company festivals). His 1993 duo concert with Braxton moved John Fordham in The Guardian to raptures over "saxophone improvisation of an intensity, virtuosity, drama and balance to tax the memory for comparison".
Parker's 50th birthday in 1994 brought celebratory concerts in several cities, including London, New York and Chicago. The London performance, featuring the Parker and Schlippenbach trios, was issued on a highly-acclaimed two-CD set, while participants at the American concerts included various old friends as well as more recent collaborators in Borah Bergman and Joe Lovano. The NYC radio station WKCR marked the occasion by playing five days of Parker recordings. 1994 also saw the publication of the Evan Parker Discography, compiled by ltalian writer Francesco Martinelli, plus chapters on Parker in books on contemporary musics by John Corbett and Graham Lock.
Parker's future plans involve exploring further possibilities in electronics and the development of his solo music. They also depend to a large degree on continuity of the trios, of the large ensembles, of his more occasional yet still long-standing associations with that pool of musicians to whose work he remains attracted. This attraction, he explained to Coda's Laurence Svirchev, is attributable to "the personal quality of an individual voice". The players to whom he is drawn "have a language which is coherent, that is, you know who the participants are. At the same time, their language is flexible enough that they can make sense of playing with each other ... l like people who can do that, who have an intensity of purpose." "-Evan Parker Website (http://evanparker.com/biography.php)
Biography for: John Russell
"John Russell got his first guitar in 1965 while living in Kent and began to play in and around London from 1971 onwards. An early involvement with the emerging free improvisation scene (from 1972) followed, seeing him play in such places as The Little Theatre Club, Ronnie Scott's, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Musicians' Co-Op and the London Musicians' Collective. From 1974 his work extended into teaching, broadcasts (radio and television) and touring in the United Kingdom and, ever extensively, in other countries around the world . He has played with many of the world's leading improvisers and his work can be heard on over 50 CDs and albums. In 1981, he founded QUAQUA, a large bank of improvisers put together in different combinations for specific projects and, in 1991, he started MOPOMOSO which has become the UK's longest running concert series featuring mainly improvised music."-John Russell Website (http://www.john-russell.co.uk/biography/)
Biography for: John Edwards
"After taking up the bass, around 1987, John Edwards co-formed The Pointy Birds who went on to win awards for their music for The Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs dance troupes. The group appeared at festivals in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Moers, Leverkusen, Copenhagen. Around 1990, Edwards played his first gigs with London improvisers such as Roger Turner, Lol Coxhill, Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton.
Between 1990 and 1995 Edwards was a member of three touring groups simultaneously: B-Shops For The Poor, The Honkies and GOD. During this period he also became an increasingly regular player on the London improvised music scene and performed his first solo gigs; he composed and performed music theatre with the bass and cello duo The Great Explorers, street-busked a lot and appeared at many more festivals in Germany, Estonia, France, Italy, Czech, etc.
Since 1995 John Edwards has become a "mainstay" of the London scene, playing with just about everybody, an activity that has seen him clocking up between 150 and 200 gigs a year. He has become regular player with Evan Parker, in many groupings, and with Tony Bevan, Veryan Weston, and Elton Dean, often in collaboration with Mark Sanders on percussion. He has become a more frequent player on the European (and festival) scene, appearing at Taktlos, Ulrichsburg, Nickelsdorf, Budapest, New Zealand and in the USA. He continues to work on solo performances."-EFI (http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/musician/medwards.html)
Biography for: Pat Thomas
"Born 27 July 1960; Piano, electronics. Pat Thomas started playing at the age of 8 and studied classical music and played reggae. He began playing jazz at sixteen after seeing Oscar Peterson on television then listened to snatches of jazz on the radio before, in 1979, playing his first serious improvised gigs. From 1986 he played with Ghosts which was Pete McPhail and Matt Lewis.
In addition to programming his keyboards, Pat Thomas also utilises prerecorded tapes. He told Chris Blackford (1991), 'As far as the tapes are concerned I'll probably just sit in front of the TV and tape whatever's going on and so some editing afterward to decide what might be useful. ...But I don't actually put a label on each tape saying what's on there, so when I come to use them I don't know what I'm going to be playing. That obviously prevents me from setting things up. I pick them at random and see what happens. So I'm just as surprised as anybody else at what comes out'.
In 1988 he was awarded an Arts Council Jazz Bursary to write three new electroacoustic compositions for his ten-piece ensemble, Monads: Roger Turner and Matt Lewis, percussion; Pete McPhail, WX7 wind synthesizer; Neil Palmer, turntables; Phil Minton, voice; Phil Durrant, violin; Marcio Mattos, bass; Jon Corbett, trumpet; Geoff Searle, drum machines. The intention was to feature different aspects of electronics using improvisation so, for example, one piece - Dialogue - featured Pete McPhail and Neil Palmer, another concentrated on the interaction of percussionists and drum machines, and a third piece had Phil Minton and Jon Corbett improvising with a computer. The pieces were performed at the Crawley Outside-In Festival of new music in 1989.
Pat Thomas was invited by Derek Bailey to play in Company Week in 1990 and 1991 and he also took part in the Ist International Symposium for Free Improvisation in Bremen with the guitarist. He has been a member of the Tony Oxley Quartet (documented on Incus CD 15) and played in Oxley's Angular Apron along with Larry Stabbins, Manfred Schoof and Sirone at the 8th Ruhr Jazz Meeting and in the percussionist's Celebration Orchestra. He plays with Lol Coxhill in a range of combinations from duo to being a member of 'Before my time', is a member of Mike Cooper's Continental Drift, and he has a well established duo with percussionist Mark Sanders and a trio with Steve Beresford and Francine Luce. In 1992 Pat Thomas formed the quartet Scatter with Phil Minton, Roger Turner and Dave Tucker; funded by the Arts Council they toured the UK in 1993 and again at the beginning of 1997.
On the 'Festival circuit', Pat Thomas has appeared at: the Young Improvisors Festival at the Korzo Theatre, Den Haag (with Jim O'Rourke, Mats Gustafsson and Alexander Frangenheim); Angelica 95 in Bologna, Italy; the Stuttgart 5th Festival of Improvised Music 96 (with Fred Frith, Shelly Hirsch, Carlos Zingaro and others); and the 3rd International Festival 96 in Budapest (with Evan Parker, Phil Minton, John Russell and Roger Turner).-EFI (http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/mthomas.html)
Biography for: Alison Blunt
"Growing up in Kenya and Cumbria and starting out as a classical violinist, Alison Blunt has become an internationally respected artist creating music utilising or consisting of improvisation, Her solo and collaborative projects often reach beyond the music stage and involve film, text, dance, theatre and visual art.
Alison Blunt was born in Mombasa, Kenya, grew up in Nairobi and subsequently in the Lake District, UK. Finding her way from a classical violin training at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Alison's fascination with sound, motion and space has led her into national and international projects exploring the boundaries between art forms and genres and creating, performing and recording new music.
She has performed new and creative work in contrasting environments including Royal Albert Hall, BFI, Southbank Centre, Barbican, Sage Gateshead, Sesc Pompeia (Brazil), MS Stubnitz (Germany), Boat Ting, Colourscape Music Festival, Little Angel Theatre, Vortex Jazz Club, Cafe Oto, Colston Hall, Symphony Hall, Buckingham Palace Gardens, Latitude Festival, Bimhuis (Holland), SoundOut Festival and ACME (Australia), Musikhuset Aarhus (Denmark), St Magnus Festival & Mull Theatre (Scotland), European Storytelling Marathons (Holland & Belgium), Alte Gerberei (St Johann, Tirol), MS Stubnitz, Radialsystem, & B-Flat (Germany), Stockwerk Jazz Club (Styria), Wunderbar (South Island NZ) and The Kosmos (New Mexico USA) with a diverse array of creative artists including Apartment House, Apocryphal Theatre Company, Renee Baker, Julia Barclay-Morton, Barrel, Barcode Quartet, Cristiano Calcagnile, Lawrence Casserley, Viv Corringham, Guy Dartnell, John Edwards, Vinny Golia, HANAM Quintet, Elisabeth Harnik, Tristan Honsinger, Cat Hope, Birthe Jorgensen, Tony Marsh (RIP), Hannah Marshall, Lisa Mezzacappa, Gianni Mimmo, Phil Minton, Lode, London and Berlin Improvisers Orchestras, Evan Parker, Pierette Ensemble, Reciprocal Uncles, Gino Robair, Mark Sanders, Guillaume Viltard, Ove Volquartz and Michael Zerang.
Alison's activities range from composing for film, visual arts, theatre and contemporary dance productions to touring solo musical storytelling performances, from performances with interdisciplinary ensembles to arranging and recording children's albums, from gigging with rock bands to gigging with world folk music artists, from writing about new music to performing and recording new music. Alison resists being pigeonholed."-Alison Blunt Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/AlisonBluntMusic/about/?ref=page_internal)
Biography for: Benedict Taylor
"Benedict Taylor is an award winning composer & solo violist specialising in contemporary music and improvisation. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music & Goldsmiths College, and is a leading figure within the area of contemporary composition & string performance, at the forefront of the British & European new and improvised music scene.
He composes, performs & records internationally, in many leading venues and festivals including: Royal Court Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, BBC Arts Online, Berlinale, Venice International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Festival, London Contemporary Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Cantiere D'Arte di Montepulciano, Edinburgh Festival, CRAM Festival, Cafe Oto, The Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre, The Vortex, Ronnie Scott's, ICA, BBC Radio 3 & 2, Radio Libertaire Paris, Resonance FM London.
Through his work he is involved with a number of higher education institutions, giving composition, improvisation & performance lectures at the Royal College of Music, City University and Goldsmiths College amongst others. He is the founder and artistic director of CRAM, a music collective and independent record label dedicated to new music."-Benedict Taylor Blogspot (http://benedict-taylor.blogspot.com/p/benedict-taylor-is-award-winning_2.html)
Biography for: David Leahy
"David Leahy is a Kent (UK) based musician and dancer specialising in things improvised, from Free Improvisation in music to Contact Improvisation in dance.
Biography for: Kay Grant
"Kay Grant is a vocalist whose work is informed by experience in a range of styles including jazz, opera, rock and pop. Considering the voice as an instrumental component rather than a privileged expressive vehicle, she uses her far reaching vocal range along with a wealth of stylistic elements, tones, colours and noises, playing with imagination, energy and sensitivity.
Although born in Brooklyn, an early holiday to visit family in London left her determined to call it home, and sheÕs been a dedicated Londoner for half her life. Grant originally took to the stage at the age of six, singing musical theatre alongside her parents in local productions. She played violin and flute in her school orchestra and big band and sang in choir, winning an award for best musical student at the age of 12. When her interest in voice became more serious she began studying privately. She received a scholarship to sing with the Oratorio Society of New York performing at Carnegie Hall, sang with the Connecticut Opera and played Gretel in Hansel und Gretel.
Discovering the avant garde and free improvisation, she became increasingly drawn to contemporary music and composition, and began a series of collaborations with a range of downtown New York figures Š including performances of Cobra and free improv group workouts with John Zorn, recordings and live appearances with Elliott SharpÕs Carbon and combinations with instrumentalists such as cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Michael Evans."-Kay Grant Website (http://www.kaygrant.com/about/)
Biography for: Alex Ward
"Alex Ward was born in 1974. He is a composer, improviser, and performing musician. His primary instruments are clarinet and guitar, and he has also performed in public and on recordings on alto sax, piano/keyboards, bass guitar, and as a vocalist. He was based in Oxford from 1992-2000, and since then has lived in London.
His involvement in freely improvised music dates back to 1986, when he met the guitarist Derek Bailey. As an improviser, he was initially principally a clarinettist (sometimes also playing alto sax), but since 2000 he has also been active as an improvising guitarist. On both instruments, hIs longest-standing collaborations in this field have been with the drummer Steve Noble.
From 1993 to 2001, most of his activity as a composer took place in collaboration with Benjamin Hervé, mainly in the context of the rock band Camp Blackfoot. From 2002-2005, his writing was mostly done solo, and was primarily focused on songs. Since 2006, he has been heavily involved in both solo and collaborative composition, predominantly (though not exclusively) of instrumental music. Much of his writing and performing during this time has been done with Dead Days Beyond Help, a duo with drummer Jem Doulton. He also currently leads a number of bands including Predicate, Forebrace, The Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet, and Alex Ward & The Dead Ends.
He has been a member of many other groups including ensembles led by Eugene Chadbourne, Simon H. Fell and Duck Baker, and has also done various work as a session musician and in collaboration with other media. Since 2005, he has co-run the label Copepod Records with composer/performer Luke Barlow. He does the recording, mixing and/or mastering of most of his own music, and for many of the groups he plays in."-Sites.Google.com (https://sites.google.com/site/alexwardmusician/biography)
The discs of this set are individually titled and sleeved, all four being housed together in the pictured box, alongside an attractive 20-page booklet documenting the tour.
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The discs of this set are individually titled and sleeved, all four being housed together in the pictured box, alongside an attractive 20-page booklet documenting the tour.
Catalog ID: Weekertoft 1 - 4
Squidco Product Code: 22666
Format: 4 CDs
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Box Set - 4 CDS + Booklet
All tracks recorded April 23rd to 30th, 2013.
Sound Kitchen, Hare and Hounds, Birmingham.
Safehouse, Friends Meeting House, Brighton.
Oxford Improvisers, The Newman Rooms, Oxford.
Colston Hall, Bristol.
Notes andSounds, Bar Abbey, Sheffield.
A Better Noise, Summerhill Pavillion, Newcastle.
Tubers Music, St. Margaret's Church, Manchester.
Pat Thomas-solo piano
David Leahy-double bass
Kay Grant- voice
Alex Ward- clarinet
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1. What! No Soap? 22:31
2. Gunpowder 24:49
3. The Auction Of Pictures 23:01
1. Naqsh 12:36
2. For Al Battani 5:27
3. Ziyrab 11:50
4. The Letter 2:40
5. Ibn Arabi 6:40
6. Al Ghazali 3:11
7. For Martin Lings 06:08
8. For Yusuf Lateef 2:35
9. Mulla Nasrudin 5:29
1. Sheet Bend 13:15
2. Overhand Knot 2:34
3. Square Knot 06:11
4. Slip Knot 17:08
5. Figure 8 Knot 2:16
6. Half Knot 8:51
7. Half Hitch 06:46
8. Noose 11:26
1. Bristol 7:36
2. Oxford 07:07
3. Sheffield 4:33
4. Newcastle 9:48
5. Birmingham 8:09
6. Brighton 8:22
7. Manchester 6:56