LOL COXHILL & VERYAN WESTON

BOUNDLESS

EMANEM 4021

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LOL COXHILL soprano saxophone
VERYAN WESTON piano
 

1 - SCHOOL TEST - 1:37
2 - SLURRY - 5:09
3 - FLYING BY ST FRED'S - 5:53
4 - STRAIGHT ON - 4:19
5 - BLUES IN SUSPENSE - 4:39
6 - COXHILL'S MAJOR DEMAND - 1:38
7 - JABS & RINGS - 6:05
8 - GREY DAY AT MUMBLES - 6:13
9 - DIFFERENT FROM THE REST - 5:43
10 - SHOULD FIT IN WELL WITH THE REST - 5:07
11 - SNEEZE - 4:37
12 - WESTON LINGERS LONGER - 4:04
13 - JAUNTS & MEANDERS - 4:31
14 - SLIGHTLY TIPSY TURVY - 4:07
15 - EPILOGUE - 5:59

Digital recording made in Welwyn Garden City
by VERYAN WESTON & MARTIN DAVIDSON - 1998 JANUARY 28
Total time 70:15

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

The duo of Lol Coxhill (b. 1932 d. 2012) and Veryan Weston (b. 1950) appeared on two LP records in 1978. Since then there has been nothing, even though they have continued to work as a duo, as well as working together and separately in many other contexts. Once again, Emanem steps in to fill an outrageous gap in the documentation of vital music!

They first met at the Little Theatre Club in 1972, shortly after Weston had moved to London from the only county of England that does not consider itself to be part of England. However, they did not make music together until a few years later, when they were both artists in residence at Digswell House in Welwyn Garden City.

For some considerable time previously, Coxhill had been making forays from Aylesbury into London, becoming a moveable fixture on the jazz and rock scenes. He was already making a name for himself as a free improviser, as well as a free spirit.

Coxhill had also justifiably acquired a reputation as a comedian and actor. For some people this has distracted from his real musical talents. Hopefully, this CD (among others) will help to counteract this misconception, for there is virtually no overt humour here. The smile on your face should simply be caused by the joy of listening to excellent music.

As well as being one of the stalwarts of the London improvising scene, Weston also has been involved (a) in playing jazz, (b) in writing and performing composed music (you know, the legitimate, serious, straight type), and (c) working with Phil Minton which means crossing all known musical boundaries. For several years he supplemented gig earnings as a part-time lecturer on university music courses, and several of the younger musicians on the scene have passed through his courses, benefiting from his guidance and breadth of musical knowledge.

For this recording, Weston, long a resident of Welwyn Garden City (about twenty miles north of London), arranged to borrow a local room with a good piano for a few hours, thanks to Peter Twichin who runs the Mid-Herts Music Centre. Fifteen of the twenty pieces recorded are presented here in the order they were performed. All but three are complete as played. Coxhill and Weston reveal themselves to be very different to each other, and yet they fit together like the closest and best of duos. The end result is so fine, that one wishes that there had been more recordings of this duo since 1978.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (1998)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

Among the Lone Wolf Indie 100 chosen in PULSE! - the magazine of Tower Records USA 1998.

"I've been listening with great pleasure to Lol Coxhill improvise in various settings live and on record for perhaps 20 years now, roughly the same amount of time this sporadic duo has been playing together. As a soprano saxophonist, Coxhill has developed a musical language that, remarkably, avoids the influence of two of jazz's most notable practitioners of the instrument, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, in favour of two other significant sopranoists, Sidney Bechet and Steve Lacy, though there's certainly little audible evidence of this in his playing, outside of a subtle adaptation of Bechet's amazing tonal qualities and an occasional pattern of steplike phrases loosely reminiscent of Lacy. More likely is the subtle influence of iconoclastic clarinetist Pee Wee Russell's non-sequitors of tone and temperament. Actually, Coxhill has created a unique vocabulary of orthodox and microtonal pitches, slurs, glisses, breaths, bites, squeals, whistles, whispers, and undefinable sounds, to be linked into long melodic narratives or curt commentary.

Pianist Weston is a suitable match for Coxhill in this context. He often props up the saxophonists circuitous phrasing with a wry atonal understructure; the rhythmic emphasis of his playing, however, may range from phrase fragments interrupted by pauses, letting the saxophone seep through the cracks, to longer segments of choppy, wavelike clusters or flurries of cascading notes. Thus the piano may alternately support or distort the saxophone's role. Together, the duo's intention is to shatter any conventional sense of continuity in favour of a kaleidoscopic web of details - sometimes fragile, sinewy, or tough - that allows for spontaneous, surprising shifts of direction and mood.

The 15 short pieces here essay free-associative strings of melody that deny strict thematic development or variation but suggest a wealth of allusions and voices, some grumbling, some soothing, some flinty, jittery or melancholy. This is not music that works as backgrounds for other activities; it's hard listening at times, challenging but rewarding in equal measure."

ART LANGE - FANFARE 1998

"This is an unassuming recording which gradually gets a hold on you. If it makes any sense to talk about emotions, you could say that the playing moves between melancholy and exasperation, with lyrical interludes. That should be enough for anyone.

This CD gives us a chance to hear Lol Coxhill without the jokes. Some people might be tempted to dismiss him as merely a humorist, but what humour there is on this CD is an integral part of the music.

There are fifteen separate tracks listed, but I think it's best to regard this as a single performance with pauses for reflection. Throughout, this music is duo music, and the balance favours that way of hearing it. There's hardly a second where the two musicians are not both playing.

There's an oddly low-key feel to much of it, as if two people are discussing something quietly - no histrionics, though the later tracks are somewhat more intense than the earlier.

The piano sound is very good, with Veryan Weston's playing sounding a bit like Messian on Jabs and Rings. Apart from that, and a brief evocation of Steve Lacy on Grey Day at Mumbles, the music is not reminiscent of anyone else's.

Such music could be overlooked amid the general uproar of new releases. Don't make that mistake."

RICHARD LEIGH - RESONANCE 1998

"A celebration of the quarter-century partnership of two stalwart members of the British free music community. Over his 40-year career, Coxhill has earned a reputation as a surreal clowner (and his one vocal moment, which gives the record its name, on Coxhill's Major Demand, is a tiny taste of his wit). But in this duet setting he leaves more overt vaudevillian tactics on the shelf and shows why he should be regarded as one of the major figures of saxophone improvising: dry, skittering flourishes run into extreme harmonic long-note forays into rapid-tonguing sputters into ripe full notes slurred in a way that's drawn reasonable comparison with Pee Wee Russell. On Sneeze, shattered remnants of a bebopper's rhythmic vocab show up in the askew lines. As well as having an incredible ear for harmonic possibilities amid tone-centreless free play, Weston locks in with Coxhill's time feel with uncanny precision: in places they create phrases together, with joint little pauses between sounds, aligning the way two people walking astride might subconsciously adjust their gait to step in tandem."

JOHN CORBETT - DOWNBEAT - 1999

"Like Lol, Weston is a brilliant miniaturist and the combination of the two is exquisite. Not that many of these 15 tracks are particularly short. The longest are over six minutes and are developed in the saxophonist's familiar jazz-based style. Weston is no less lateral a thinker, but his resources are very different, and part of the joy of the session is the combination of two seemingly unlike personalities who find huge areas of common enthusiasm, almost against the odds. Great stuff and further reminder of Coxhill's improvisational skills."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 1998

"Good production highlights the clarity of ideas, sense of space and the unhurried quality of the music. These two have worked together for two decades now and the ability to follow each other's changes of direction makes for fascinating listening. A sense of quiet lyricism prevails and the constant invention and confidence of Coxhill's vibratoless and slurred delivery, and Weston's capacity for precise harmonic and rhythmic extension, make this yet another fine one from the estimable Emanem."

GUS GARSIDE - RUBBERNECK 1998

"Lol Coxhill has had a long and varied career on the English jazz and improvisation scene, and has worked with a bewildering variety of musicians. As well as being a fine soprano sax player, it has to be said he is one of the most distinctive characters in the English improv world, with a talent for comedy almost as great as his talent for music.

Veryan Weston is a very different musician, with a background in composition as well as improvisation, and his piano playing often reflects the influence of Messian as much as Cecil Taylor. However, he and Coxhill play together beautifully with the kind of rapport that comes from twenty years' experience as a duo. This CD consists of 15 fairly short duets recorded in one session. The mood veers rapidly between brief lyrical passages and high-register squeals and squawks, and the playing from both musicians is never less than brilliant. To some degree Coxhill's humorous abilities have led him to being taken less seriously than he deserves as a musician, but this fine recording should help to set the record straight. More. please."

DAVE RAMSDEN - OPPROBRIUM 1998

"Lol Coxhill has to be one of the most underrated musicians on the planet. It's hard to believe since he has one of the most individual and identifiable sounds on soprano sax. His underrated status is probably the result of a varied and sometimes seemingly haphazard recording career. No two albums of his sound alike. Some early albums change styles and music from track to track, which is great for the adventurous listener. But in this era of market segmentation, it's not the way to win fans and influence people.

BOUNDLESS (maybe it should have been called boundaryless?) is relatively straightforward. It's a set of freely improvised duets with pianist Veryan Weston. They're a good match. Weston's hyperactive runs and unexpected leaps act as both a mirror and complement to Coxhill. Coxhill's soprano, which has seemed to grow ever more graceful with age, takes the listener on a chutes and ladders ride through these fifteen tracks. While it may seem a little stringent sonically, the continual outpouring of ideas never lets the listener down."

ROBERT IANNAPOLLO - CADENCE 1998

"The saxophonist is an extraordinary technician and stylist, as he proves in this stunning set of duets with classically trained pianist Veryan Weston. There is rarely a dull moment, as Coxhill's pleasantly quirky sound snakes through fifteen original pieces. At one moment intense, at the next deceptively slippery, the saxophonist's awesome command of his horn takes in the whole tradition of improvised music, curling and bending notes like putty. His wild romp is ably shared by Weston, who follows the leader through treacherous domain, never losing a beat. While 70 minutes of soprano may be difficult to absorb in one session, the duo does its best to alter the pace."

STEVEN LOEWY - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2000

"BOUNDLESS is the first album to document the music of the Lol Coxhill / Veryan Weston duo since 1978. Needless to say then that this CD rights a wrong. These two improvisers start on quite opposite positions, but manage to meet marvellously. Soprano saxophonist Coxhill tends to be melodious, elevated, lyrical (even though counter-examples exist, such as his jagged playing on Should Fit in Well with the Rest. On the other hand Weston's approach is often percussive, tormented, overwhelming. Their years of duetting together allow them to find a common ground without having to compromise their identities. This music results from the complicity of long-time friends and artistry of masters of free improvisation. When Coxhill strikes an instant melody, one immediately thinks of Weston's other regular partner, singer Phil Minton. Humour always waits around the corner, peaking through the track titles, the joyous feel of the music and that loud sneeze serving as an introduction to the track Sneeze (yes, the titles are a bit descriptive). Beautifully recorded and stronger than the 1978 albums, BOUNDLESS is a recommended listen for fans of either of these fine musicians."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2001

"Lol Coxhill is quite the case, eh wot? He can gibber on his soprano saxophone with the best of them (cf. the brief opener, School Test), but he can also play acidly lyrical lines (which may be why the second track is named Slurry). Coxhill is an original who can play inside and out, as this collaboration with pianist Weston amply illustrates.

Weston himself is a sensitive pianist, whose support of Coxhill's lines is telepathic. His playing is something like what Herbie Hancock might sound like if he dove off the deep end and abandoned changes, conventional form, and any recognisable scale once and for all. In other words, he favours pointillist, occasional droppings-in on Coxhill's wanderings, rather than a steady Cecil Taylor approach. He is very much the accompanist to Coxhill's lead.

Coxhill is a largely unacknowledged master of the soprano saxophone. His quirky lines are indebted to no one: not Bechet, not Lacy or Parker (with both of whom he has famously duetted), not even Kenny G. He chirps and mutters sometimes (Coxhill's Major Demand, Should Fit in Well with the Rest, School Test, etc.) like Parker on tenor (not an effect that Parker indulged on soprano). Lol can weave long hypnotic lines (Straight On) or declaim with an admirable architectural sense (Blues in Suspense). He and Weston spar (on the aptly-named Jabs & Rings). They commiserate (Grey Day at Mumbles). And they play games (Different from the Rest).

Sneeze begins with one, but is otherwise the setting for some dot-to-dot work by Coxhill and his partner. On Weston Lingers Longer, our heroes creep into some heretofore uncharted territory. Jaunts and Meanders and Slightly Tipsy Turvy are aptly named. Coxhill is under-recorded. All saxophonists can learn from him. And any lover of free music will find much to love on BOUNDLESS."

ROBERT SPENCER - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1998

"Coxhill and Weston seem almost by coincidence to assume the traditional roles of soloist and accompanist, but the music is none the worse for that. Coxhill has great fun displaying his penchant for meandering melodic lines, all bent notes and blind alleys. His playing has always worked well in this context, such as in his duets with Dave Holland (the other one), Steve Miller and, of course, in his long history of encounters with Weston, who manages to be both eager and accommodating. The high production quality - good room, good piano - is a joy."

ROGER THOMAS - GRAMOPHONE 1999

"On this disc, the longstanding duo of Lol Coxhill and Veryan Weston largely forgo the atomised abstractions favoured by many of their peers on the British free improv front, instead engaging in playful, conversational discourse that skirts the edges of idiomatic play. Where many of their contemporaries studiously avoid even fleeting references to established genres, the Coxhill/Weston duo at times veer into not-quite-jazz, submerged blues, and tipsy melodies, not surprising given Coxhill's history of involvement in jazz, progressive rock, and theatre.

The soprano/piano pairing inevitably invites comparison to Steve Lacy and Misha Mengelberg's meetings, though Coxhill's phrasing is much less measured, and his tone far more tart and astringent, than Lacy's. Coxhill has long been the quintessential British eccentric, and despite the liner note's claim that "there is virtually no overt humour here," even at its most rarefied the music possesses a (not inappropriate) comic element.

Since their first recorded meeting in 1978, Weston and Coxhill have developed an empathy bordering on the telepathic, each shadowing or anticipating the other's moves with uncanny perspicacity. In the course of fifteen concise improvisations ranging from one to six minutes in length, the duo cover wide tracts of musical territory, engaging in nimble rabbit chases, slippery lyricism, brittle pointillism, and more. Though rarely straying into anything resembling conventional tonality, the players tend to improvise with notes rather than with raw sound, the odd whirr, hiss, and rumble notwithstanding. All in all, an exemplary demonstration of the art of the duo."

DENNIS REA - THE IMPROVISOR - 1998

 

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