|The most important Bruce's Fingers recording for years; Simon Fell's latest thoughts about 21st-century composing for improvising small group.
By any account, Simon Fell is one of the most important musicians working today. As improviser, composer, and musical organizer, the depth and range of his music is truly staggering. Throw on the onslaught of Hession/Wilkinson/Fell's The Horrors Of Darmstadt, the microscopic reductivism of IST's Ghost Notes and the multi-layered compositional form of Composition No. 30: Compilation III back to back and it seems almost incomprehensible that they are all facets of the same musician. Until, that is, one takes a more careful listen. Because at the root of these diverse sonic explorations is an insatiable fascination with the intersections (and contrasts) between structure and collective, spontaneous improvisation and a finely honed attention to density, timbre, and textures. This can sometimes make for demanding listening, but with Fell, it always pays off. Like Anthony Braxton's quartet music, Fell here has assembled a multi-layered music out of a series of overlapping events, composed with the specific players in mind. The extended suite is comprised of tight collective counterpoint, lithe sub-groupings, and heated solos. Any of the players can pick up a thread and run with it, either as a solo voice or superimposing refractions of time, theme, or ensemble textures. Recorded in one take, the mutable amalgam of improvisation and composition can swing like mad or move into thorny freedom with split-second shifts of direction as the focus moves around the ensemble. This is a startling and exhilarating work that easily shoots to the top of any list of the year's best releases. Michael Rosenstein