|Recorded at Gateway Studios, August 28, 2000.
Whenever pianist John Lewis left the confines of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) to head up his own ensembles, he brought a certain pointillist formalism to those projects. It was the same with pianist Horace Silver. When he exited the Jazz Messengers to go out on his own, the band's ingrained funkiness went along with him to enliven many other sessions. Something similar happens when drummer Eddie Prévost puts together his own groups. Point man for Britain's AMM for more than 35 years, the concept of democratic group improvisation migrates with him as well.
However, precisely because it's Prévost's project, his background asserts itself as well, and his bands are usually more "jazzy" in quotes than what is produced by improv purist AMM. At the same time the "jazz" created by the drummer's bands certainly has almost nothing in common with the music produced by the likes of the MJQ or The Jazz Messengers.
It's the tension between these different impulses that makes this CD so interesting. Improvisation of any sort is affected by the individuals involved. And it's easy to contrast bassist John Edwards and soprano saxophonist Tom Chant with the grand old men of Brit Improv who fill out AMM.For a start they're younger. It's only been in the past few years that Edwards has become the Ron Carter of London's improv scene, working with everyone from saxophonist Evan Parker to pianist Veryan Weston. Chant is even more callow -- in his twenties in fact -- and he's been known to consort with DJ-electronica types such as those in The Cinematic Orchestra. But don't expect any samples on this disc.
Instead it's classic improv -- if that isn't an oxymoron -- concerned more with tone and texture than tunes and technique. There are no solos per se, merely different emphasis of an organic whole. "Whatever Words," for instance, at nearly 22 minutes the longest track, begins with a drum solo. But the percussion is used for scene setting not pyrotechnics. Later, the arco bass turns to long string examinations and then what resembles bass guitar strums. Farther along through split tones, Chant is able to suggest one note in a solo, then answer himself with an undertone, as the tempo shifts and Prévost introduces his version of more straight ahead drumming. Here, as elsewhere, the saxophonist is more likely to depend on flutter tonguing, reed growls and slap tonguing than legato lines to make his points. When he's not using multi phonics, though, the saxophonist seems to be expelling pure grit from his reeds.
"Perchance" begins with an unaccompanied hunting horn tone matched with percussion played with almost military exactness. Edwards' contribution, which morphs from what could be the buzzing of angry bees to short wave signals, gets the saxophonist into the aviary, where he soon emerges with little parakeet cries as a variegated drum pattern reveals itself.
Throughout Prévost showcases everything from the delicate triangle strokes, J. Arthur Rank like gong blows, cymbal scrapes and the suggestion of tiny, rubber tipped balls rolling on his snare. At times he reminds one of Native Indian ritual percussion ceremonies, at others the steady rhythm of jazz's most versatile percussionist, Max Roach. Not every point made is instrumental though. Sometimes silences and fades assume prominence in the mix.
Always theoretical, Prévost contributes an essay on his concept of improvisation to the booklet. Every improvisation courts failure he notes. But he needn't have worried in this case.