Intakt CD 005 (Double-CD)
The pieces here are recent works in the 18 year history of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. ‘Polyhymnia’ is by Guy himself, the others are by the American composer and multi-reed instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, a man similarly fascinated by jazz/conservatoire marriages and as influenced by Stockhausen and John Cage as by John Coltrane.
‘Polyhymnia’ was recorded at the Orchestra’s November ’87 visit to the Rote Fabrik in Zurich, and the four pieces by Braxton were performed at the Taktlos Festival in March 1988 (at Rote Fabrik Zürich), with the composer himself directing.
Taken together, the works reveal the breadth of the LJCO’s scope. Barry Guy maintains that ‘Polyhymnia’ represents the ‘third era’ of the band’s activities. The first was the original version featuring the ground-breaking British free improvisors of the early 1970s which quickly developed into a vehicle for an abstract music frequently using such conservatoire devices as tone rows, but increasingly tightening the scores to the growing frustration of the improvisors. In the second phase, Guy started to use the textures of the performers’ most successful group improvisations as the basis for scores that would emphasise textural changes rather than notated passages.
‘Polyhymnia’, opening with a darting, agitated unaccompanied tuba solo augmented by stormy broodings of the basses, moves progressively through dissonant ensemble passages toward a kind of triumphant consonance, as if the improvisors and the writer have collaborated to beat a fiery, white-hot metal into a sculpture of poise and resolution. In this respect, ‘Polyhymnia’ anticipates the more harmonically elegant ‘Harmos’, which the LJCO has also recorded and which will feature on a subsequent disc.
Anthony Braxton’s compositions, which have emerged from an astonishing body of notated work that now numbers some 350 pieces over 20 years, follow principles he has devoted his life to refining. Braxton often augments othodox notation with symbols of his own to regulate speed, intensity, dynamics and the selection of instruments. On this album you will hear Nos. 135 (+41,63,96), 136 (+96), 108B (+86,96) and 134 (+96).
The London Jazz Composers' Orchestra’s performances of these works are not simply fascinating instances of adventurous music being made on the borderline between idioms, nor even simply engaging as increasingly rare examples of music that resists the late-Eighties drift towards retrospectives – they are also resounding demonstrations of the scope for formal and improvised musics together if the meeting is in the hands of sensitive marriage-brokers. Though the LJCO will be 20 years old at the turn of the decade, it continues to react to developments at the forefront of musical research, and to musical languages in transition. Given Barry Guy’s indefatigable energies and commitment to the enterprise, it is likely to continue to do so well into the 21st century.
John Fordham, London, 1988 (part of liner notes)
CATALOGUE LONDON JAZZ COMPOSERS ORCHESTRA
released January 1, 1988
Barry Guy: Bass, Director
Anthony Braxton (track: 2): Conductor
Barry Guy (track: 1): Conductor
Barre Phillips: Bass
Dave Holland: Bass
Marc Charig: Cornet
Evan Parker: Reeds
Paul Dunmall: Reeds
Peter McPhail: Reeds
Simon Picard: Reeds
Trevor Watts: Reeds
Alan Tomlinson: Trombone
Paul Rutherford (2): Trombone
Radu Malfatti: Trombone
Henry Lowther: Trumpet
Jon Corbett: Trumpet
Steve Wick: Tuba
Phil Wachsmann: Violin
Tony Oxley (2): Drums
Paul Lytton: Drums
Howard Riley: Piano
POLYHYMNIA is composed by Barry Guy. Recorded Nov 11, 1987 Rote Fabrik Zürich, Engineer: Peter Pfister.
COMPOSITIONS 135 (+41,63,96), 136 (+96), 108B (+86,96),134 (+96) are composed by Anthony Braxton. Recorded at the Taktlos-Festival, March 27, 1988, Rote Fabrik Zürich, Switzerland. Engineer: Peter Pfister. First released on Intakt LP 004/5, 1988. Released on CD 1995. Executive production: Patrik Landolt. Produced and published by Intakt Records
Catalogue: 50 Years London Jazz Composers Orchestra on Intakt Records