PHIL MINTON solo singing
1 - ORDERS FOR THE PALS - 4:40
2 - "I FOUGHT" - 1:53
3 - WREATH - 0:48
4 - CENOTAPH - 0:45
5 - THE TWO LIES - 2:09
6 - NOTES ON AVARICE - 5:38
7 - BURNT MEMORIES - 2:22
8 - WOOD SONG ONE - 2:34
9 - WOOD SONG TWO - 2:57
10 - WOOD SONG THREE - 2:41
11 - WOOD SONG FOUR - 2:12
12 - TOO MANY DOUGHNUTS MAKE YOU ILL - 1:37
13 - TRUE STORY - 4:05
14 - WOOD SONG FIVE - 1:55
15 - TO EMMA GOLDMAN - 0:44
16 - EXTRA - 1:21
17 - BLASPHEMY - 3:21
18 - WELL - 1:52
19 - A GOOD SONG - 2:00
20 - PSALM OF EVOLUTION 1 - 4:47
21 - PSALM OF EVOLUTION 2 - 4:18
Analogue studio recordings:
8-16: 1975 August 15 in Bracknell by Doug Gleave
1-4 & 20-21: 1980 in London by David Vorhaus
5-7 & 18: 1980 in London by Paul Crawford
17: 1981 November 22 in Bresse sur Gromes by Jacky
19: 1982 in London by Paul Crawford
Total time 56:06
1-15 originally issued in 1981 as Rift LP 3
16-21 previously unissued
In the first full flowering of the free improvisation era, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, several musicians radically extended their ranges, to make sounds not envisaged by the designers of their instruments. This was usually achieved by finding new techniques or by adding amplification or by devising new instruments. Perhaps the most remarkable of these extensions was that of Phil Minton (b. 1940). In most other cases, one could work out how the new range was achieved, even if one did not have the originality to invent it. In Minton's case, any investigation as to how he managed to extend his voice in so many directions, merely left the investigator with a sore throat.
For much of the 1970s and 1980s, Minton's main activity was a mixture of interpreting songs and improvising in the Mike Westbrook Band. A freer mix was heard in a vocal group called Voice with Brian Eley, Maggie Nicols & Julie Tippett. More recently he has continued the mixture of songs and freedom in his duo with Veryan Weston and in his quartet. He has also been involved in free improvisation without words, as can be heard on most of this collection. Perhaps the freest examples of his improvising can be found in his recent duos with John Butcher, John Russell and Roger Turner.
The first fifteen tracks on this CD comprised his first solo album, which came out on Fred Frith's Rift label in the USA. Most are free improvisations exploring one or more aspects of his remarkable chops. One or two are based on his tunes that he has used elsewhere. The titles of the 1980 pieces reflect that he was then reading books and articles about the First World War. (Incidentally, his second solo album recorded in 1996 (not 1998) was recently released as A DOUGHNUT IN ONE HAND on FMP CD 91. One wonders what his subsequent ones will be called!)
To expand the collection to CD length, some additional tracks were added, mostly from the same sessions that produced the LP. Amongst these are two very free interpretations of Lou Glanfield's poem PSALM OF EVOLUTION .
Some of the tapes were not in pristine condition, alas. I have done as much as possible to clean them up, with additional work done on some items by Peter Cusack and/or Dave Hunt. However, there are still a few sounds left that not even Phil Minton made, but not enough to seriously detract from these examples of the glory of the human voice at its most creative, extended and varied.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (1998)
"Let us all now breathe a brief prayer of thanks for Martin Davidson's Emanem discs. The catalogue not only stays abreast of current British free improvisation, but rescues from oblivion past classics of the field, as with this reissue of Phil Minton's landmark 1981 Rift Records vinyl release, here extended by six pieces, four from the original sessions and two from a little later. In nineteen improvised nonverbal inventions and two free treatments of a text, Minton unleashed a prodigious outpouring of formal and technical invention that still gives cause to marvel. Barely audible back-of-the-throat peeps, full-voiced roars in a bel canto vein, reedy constricted-throat multiphonics, spluttery, crackling, full-cheek effects, and a host of other radical mouth sounds are deployed in the service of Minton's abstract expressionist sonic creations."
PAUL DUTTON - CODA 1999
"The eight tracks released as side 2 of the LP (plus one Extra) come from an August 1975 session. Here Minton tends to sing lyrically, playing with his volume capacity and expressive range, but staying confined to rather 'standard' vocal techniques, especially in the Wood Song series. All other tracks were recorded between 1980 and 1982. Now Minton explores extended techniques: strange multiphonics, tongue, cheek and throat sounds, quacking, etc. Each one of these short pieces (from 45 seconds to five minutes) concentrates on one aspect of his singing. Put together, they form an impressive tapestry of vocal possibilities. The last two tracks on the reissue, Psalm of Evolution 1 & 2, are improvised following a poem by Lou Glandfield. Discarded for the original LP in favour of the 'wordless' concept, they are essential additions as they point to the vocalist's future works involving literature. And this album was one of the most influential contributions to free singing or, as Paul Dutton calls it, sound-singing. "
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2001
"Minton's a one-man band in voice; he can even produce two harmonic tones at once, not only singing but squeezing out grunts, wheezes, belches, Donald Duck sounds, and generally wringing strange and tortured wails from the walls of his larynx as though he was twisting forty yards of wet towelling with his bare mitts. Although this very physical and human music can occasionally verge on the comic, a few spins should convince you of the genuine and heartfelt nature of Minton's personal explorations into improv. There's humanity here, like solid lumps of pink plasticine. Compare the gnarled and knobbly texture of this record to an utter smoothie like Bobby McFerrin, and you'll be glad you made the right choice."
ED PINSENT - THE SOUND PROJECTOR 1999
"This is a new release from the venerable Emanem label which, categorically specialises in Free and Improvised music. The legendary Phil Minton has been a mainstay of the British Free Jazz movement for decades. Here, Emanem has reissued tracks which originally appeared on Minton's first solo effort for guitarist Fred Frith's now defunct, Rift label and other tracks emanating from the early 1980's.
Phil Minton gained considerable attention working with the famed Mike Westbrook Band. His unorthodox phrasing, improvisations and abstract vocal inventions were a perfect match for a burgeoning British avant-garde jazz scene. Minton's first solo recording A DOUGHNUT IN BOTH HANDS is a fitting testament to the unique capabilities and approach of this often misunderstood artist. The opening track Orders For The Pals suggests the forthcoming chain of events. Here, Minton incorporates a plaintive cry utilising the upper register of his voice. Minton will not ordinarily stay within one motif or theme. He often starts, stops, alters the intensity, changes the mood and resumes his fascinating improvisational abilities. Minton stretches his vocal chords to almost unimaginable leaps and bounds; however, the mindset is that of an improviser. Perhaps Minton parallels the great free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker regarding improvisational technique and ingenuity. Granted, A DOUGHNUT IN BOTH HANDS is not for everyone and will rarely enjoy any long-term exposure via radio airplay; however, the conceptual approach is unique and perhaps revolutionary. Minton frequently changes course during the course of 21 songs. You will hear traces of operatic librettos, yodelling, garbled speech, screeching, folksy humour and just about anything he can envision supplemented by an astonishing set of vocal chords. Phil Minton documents the history of anything and everything that can be produced by the human voice."
GLENN ASTARITA - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1998
"What is this, "Solo Singing 1975-1982"? Well, I put this disc on, and Phil Minton started yelling at me: "Heheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyooooooooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeh!" I thought, great. Fifty six-minutes of this? But in a second he was making the slightest, most delicate sound, then going back to the yell, then some lower register sounds, and high register whinnies and whoops, all punctuated by the yell. The second track, "I Fought", sounds like an electric razor, or a gargle, or a man gargling an electric razor. The third, Wreath, is a slowly-building squeal or cry; the fifth, Cenotaph, is a doubled cry/scream, undoubtedly achieved not by double tracking, but by his mastery of the self-harmonising techniques of central Asia.
What's going on here? Simply an extension of the sonic possibilities of the human voice, as the sonic possibilities of instruments have been extended in the last thirty years by a band of hearty improvisers. Minton has worked with Julie Tippett, and she shares his propensity to work in areas of pure sound; at the same time, Minton incorporates less of the conventional sounds of the human voice making music. He is staking out his own territory on these tracks.
Some of it is wrenching to hear; it sounds like a man in pain. Some of it is funny. There is no denying Minton's audacity or inventiveness. How lasting all this will be remains to be seen, but he is certainly exploring territory that will be further explored by others. A jarring, unique disc."
ROBERT SPENCER - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1998
"I'm delighted that Emanem have chosen to put out this gem, originally issued in 1981 on Rift, with additional material from the time. Minton by the early 80s was best known for his work with Mike Westbrook, most notably the moving renditions of Westie's settings of the poems of William Blake. But here he found release for what was to become his trade mark - wild improvisations that draw on a range of dramatic devices and vocal techniques. We all have voices so we can recognise what he does and, for the most part, have some idea of how - though how he does it without getting a sore throat defeats me. It's this recognition that makes his work so intimate and raw. Even if we could we wouldn't do this in public. So, while most singers present peace and love, cloned individuality or gothic melodrama, Minton stands on the edge and wails, whispers, grunts and groans from the pit of human emotion with the matter of fact immediacy of an improviser.
Overtones, yodels, gargles are all thrown into the pot and at the centre are the Wood Songs. The first is reminiscent of plainsong, another of a muezzin, and it's this balance of spirituality against the visceral vulgarity of much of the rest that gives the album depth."
GUS GARSIDE - AVANT 1999
"Minton's debut solo LP has been reissued by Emanem with nearly 20 minutes of previously material, including two memorable interpretations of Lou Glandfield's poem Psalm of Evolution. Minton's earthy mix of abstract vocalising and occasionally audible words sounds like primeval man's first linguistic eruptions; strangely moving they are too. The other improvisations here are not textually orientated. Wood Song One has an almost sacred ambience, close to plainchant, while the keen tome and decorative phrasing of Wood Song Three suggests a rare (to this listener's ears) excursion into Balkan and possibly Indian vocal territory. Blasphemy is an astonishing example of the physicality of Minton's vocal art, combining Donald Duckisms and high-pitch multiple-voicings (achieved without overdubs) with repulsive snorts and strangulated throaty cries. Don't try this one at home"
GUS GARSIDE - RUBBERNECK 1999
"A collection of 21 mostly short etudes by Minton. He's fond of guttural groans, somewhat after the manner of the Tibetan Oum, and he also produces multiphonics in abundance. The lease pleasant of these exercises involve wet, catarrh-inspired gurgles. The best, like the hilarious The Two Lies, are simply indescribable. We've all heard that scat is an example of the human voice imitating musical instruments (which may of may not have originally been made to imitate the human voice). With Minton, there's also imitation of balloons, lawnmowers, and operatic scenes on Mars involving both Samurai warriors and very silly ducks. Some of the best stuff involves "conversations" between - or among - wildly different characters. The listener experiences quite a bit of "how the hell is he doing that", but it does not come off as a boring demonstration of vocal effects. It's simply too much fun."
WALTER HORN - CADENCE 1999
" Minton growls, gnashes, gargles, moans, spits, intones, roars, wails. And while Minton's non-verbal expressions might seem a little too raw for some people, the best way to think of his work is to remember that he is also an accomplished trumpeter. So that the unadorned sounds you hear are what he would normally squeeze out through a mouthpiece. Minton's solos have a compelling sense of rhythm and a spectacular sense of dynamic flow that veer from a veritable percussive orchestra to a lonely melodic line."
RICHARD MOULE - EXCLAIM 1999
"Mintonīs singing has now replaced his trumpet playing. He is a stunning vocal improvisor, with a tonal and timbral range that seems quite uncanny. Most of the material on this remarkable record was released in America years ago as a Rift LP. Its concentration is extreme, both technically and emotionally. Seemingly inspired by the literature of the First World War, which (if Paul Fussell is to be believed) is definitive of many 20th-century attitudes and obsessions, Cenotaph and Wreath are only three quarters of a minute apiece, but overflowing with pain and pride, anger and redemption. A group of five Wood Songs arenīt quite as compelling, but a tiny dedication to German revolutionist Emma Goldman and the stunning Notes on Avarice and Blasphemy demand frequent recourse to the repeat button. Blasphemy is one of half a dozen additional tracks not included on the original album."
RICHARD COOK & BRIAN MORTON - The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition, 2008
Return to Emanem home page or go to CD releases or musicians