|One Final Note Review
[In February 2005, after years of public debate and demonstrations, the British parliament finally passed a bill outlawing fox hunting with dogs. This may or may not be relevant background information to what follows…]
Recorded in October 2004, shortly before Louis Moholo-Moholo—nicknamed “the fox’s fox”—finally departed his adopted home of London for his native South Africa, Naan Tso abounds with fox references. The quartet consisting of Moholo, Evan Parker, Steve Beresford, and John Edwards—collectively named Foxes Fox—recorded one eponymous album together in 1999 for Emanem, and has been an occasional feature on the London scene. They are as wily an improvising foursome as one could hope to encounter.
Although recorded in the studio, these performances have the energy and spontaneity of a live gig. The quartet turns in three long pieces (the title track is the longest at 31 minutes); a nine-minute trio performance without Beresford completes the album. Evan Parker—playing tenor sax throughout—is the voice that initially grabs the attention. As so often, his stream of invention—particularly on “Naan Tso”—is so relentless as to make one’s head reel, and the only way to appreciate it is to surrender and be swept along. The music often feels as much free jazz as improv, despite all four players being equal and unconstrained; the key to this seems to lie with Moholo, whose playing brings a subtle pulse that provides momentum, maybe even discipline.
On “Reinecke Gefettet” (named after an episode in Goethe’s Reinecke Fuchs/Reynard the Fox), a languid, laid back ambience is created, with Parker laying down a mellow melodic line, supported by rumbling tom-tom from Moholo. The temperature of the piece slowly rises as the drummer injects ever-increasing volume into his playing accompanied by crashing waves of cymbals, as Parker gradually becomes more animated and rapid fire in his delivery, urged on by Beresford’s fractured chords.
The trio track, “Slightly Foxed” (a term used by secondhand booksellers) provides an intriguing opportunity to compare the band with and without Beresford’s piano. Jazz groups without piano are often said to be freer than those with, being less tied to its chords. Here, the opposite seems to be the case. The pianist brings an unpredictable anarchic edge to the foursome—without him, the trio playing is more linear, more predictable; with him, it is more volatile, more fun.
Its release date meant this album arrived too late to be on many “best of 2005” lists; however, that omission is solely to do with timing—not with the quality of the music on offer here.