Monday, December 1, 2008

Keith Tippett Group - Dedicated to You, But You Weren't Listening

"A phrase such as "the golden era of British jazz" may seem an oxymoron to some ears. But 1971 was certainly that. The influence of brilliant South Africans - Louis Moholo, Johnny Dyani et al, who had relocated to London to escape the horrors of apartheid - combined with ready hobnobbing between rock and jazz players made for a scene that was as distinctive as it was vibrant.

While Keith Tippett would go on to make a great deal of music with the South Africans, here he was flirting with the rock musicians. He was married to Julie Driscoll, after all, and a year earlier had appeared on the BBC's Top of the Pops playing piano with King Crimson, three of whose albums he appeared on.

Two other Crimson associates, the dazzling cornettist Marc Charig and rambunctious trombonist Nick Evans, are in this band. The saxophonist Elton Dean, then part of Soft Machine, is also here, as is the very soul of that band, the drummer Robert Wyatt. He was about to leave the Softs to form the inestimable Matching Mole, which would feature our own Dave MacRae on keyboards. Another under-acknowledged Antipodean, Neville Whitehead, is on bass, part of a sprawling rhythm section that includes a second bassist (Roy Babbington), two more drummers and a percussionist. The 11-piece band is completed by the rock guitarist Gary Boyle.

Dense, you might deduce, and you'd often be right. Given that Tippett was about to unleash his 56-piece (and sometimes larger) Centipede on the world, however, this is positively airy. Bright sounds are always hurtling forward to scythe through the dark forest of drumming. There's Dean's startling saxello, a variant of the soprano, on which he had a knack of creating impressions of some double-reed curiosity from Afghanistan. Charig's cornet, too, is such a fiery, nimble force that, when combined with the swoops and lewd asides of Evans's trombone, the horns can more than hold their own.

The compositions, typically, veer between being free, jazzy, atmospheric, riff-driven and bizarre. Were newcomers to the album told it was recorded yesterday, they wouldn't blink. Its re-release is a glory for those there the first time round and for fresh adventurers."- John Shand

Mr. Tippett in full on, monstrous kosmigroov mode. More from him (including the ridiculous but sandblasting 100 strong ensemble Centipede) to follow soon.

5 after dawn

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