LOL COXHILL sopranino saxophone (1-4), soprano saxophone (2,3,5-7)
STEVIE WISHART violin (1,3), hurdy-gurdy (2)
MARCIO MATTOS cello & live electronics (5)
1 - FIRST RARE DUET - 6:09
2 - SECOND RARE DUET - 10:58
3 - THIRD RARE DUET - 5:45
4 - A RARE SOPRANINO SOLO - 9:36
5 - LES FOLIES D'OSSETTE - 12:51
6 - THE FESTIVAL SOLO - 22:29
7 - A LITTLE BIT MORE - 1:48
Digital London concert recordings
1-4: 1991 OCTOBER 11 at The Music Box by MARTIN DAVIDSON
5: 1996 APRIL 14 at Dolly Fossett's by IAN VICKERS
6-7: 1999 MAY 28 at The Queen Elizabeth Hall by XENTOS
Total time 70:13
All previously unissued
Lol Coxhill has been performing unaccompanied improvisations for over 40 years. He was one of the very first saxophonists to perform extensively in this manner, and was probably the first one to do so on soprano saxophone. He has continued to work solo over the years (as well as performing in a multitude of other settings), so it should be no surprise that his solo performance at the 1999 LMC festival was superlative - another highlight in his already very distinguished career. The main part of this is presented here as THE FESTIVAL SOLO - an extended tour de force of invention. As this wasn't quite long enough to fulfil his contractual obligations, Coxhill went on to perform A LITTLE BIT MORE.
Coxhill started off his mature life as a tenor saxophonist (after a brief immature flirtation with an alto), and still from time to time uses saxophones other than the soprano. A fine example of this from 1991 is A RARE SOPRANINO SOLO, which is very different from the aforementioned 1999 soprano solos.
As well as performing solo, Coxhill has the ability to play well with just about anyone in just about any situation. The rest of this CD presents a couple of examples of free improvisational duets that were recorded in the 1990s.
When Garry Todd ran his Music Box series in 1991, one of his aims was to put together musicians who normally didn't work together. This resulted in, among other things, the only occasion that Lol Coxhill and Stevie Wishart have performed together. The whole of their exceptional set is heard here - three RARE DUETS indeed!
Wishart - another musician with a wide range of activities - is probably best known as the director of the mediaeval music group, Synfonie, and as a member of the contemporary multi-media ensemble Machine for Making Sense. She married a musician from the other side of the world a dozen years ago, and since then they have spent about half of each year living in their respective countries - aiming to live in a perpetual summer. Her work here on violin (modern rather than mediaeval) and hurdy-gurdy shows her to be a free improviser of the first order.
Unlike the other musicians on this CD, Marcio Mattos did originate in the Southern Hemisphere. However, he has been a leading light on the London music and pottery scenes for the last 30 years. Coxhill and Mattos have performed together on other occasions, both as a duo and as part of larger groups, so it is not surprising that they fit together so well. The very fine duo performance LES FOLIES D'OSSETTE heard here comes from a gig in which four musicians played in various combinations, with Mattos using some electronics to enhance his cello.
So here we have three very different days in the life of Lol Coxhill - all examples of him at the top of his (or any one else's) game.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (1999)
"Here's another trip down the rabbit hole with Lol Coxhill - the saxophonist with the most unlikely career in improvised music. Coxhill's giant talents crush genres the way we crush anthills underfoot. Who else has played with Canterbury-school progressive rockers; improvised with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Veryan Weston (to name a few); and recorded the themes from Star Trek and The Flintstones? Perhaps because of this wide range, his free improvisations sound absolutely without precedent or influence; Coxhill sings in his own voice and there is no other like it. Coxhill's soprano and sopranino vocabulary of flutters, trills, pops, slurs and finely controlled moans seem especially well suited to Stevie Wishart's violin and hurdy-gurdy in their 1991 duets. Coxhill's distinctive sense of rhythm and time creates marvelous tensions within the music, while the closeness of their timbres give the duets an appealing intimacy. The duet with cellist Marcio Mattos likewise covers a wide spectrum of sound and feeling. The 1996 meeting is littered with deliberate disconnections in narrative flow, yet the two remain brilliantly intertwined, offering funhouse mirror distortions of the other's playing. Coxhill's playing is rich in detail-dainty at times, gruff with rude clucks, tormented with hollow moans, and carefree with sing-song linear passages. Mattos parallels and breaks away from his partner, blending at times with Coxhill's timbre (especially when he electronically modifies his instrument) and at others offering contrasting textures and independent lines. Perhaps the highlight of the album is a long inventive solo recorded in 1999. On his own, Coxhill chases down any errant thought, vents his anger, indulges his whimsy. The 23-minute excursion remains resolutely in the moment, thumbing its nose at conventional structure and logic in favour of the unimpeded flow of immediate thought and feeling. Tea kettle whistles, twittering bird song, smoothly contoured waves of notes, cramped sputtering, leisurely strolls, dead panic, dark laughter, abysmal grief, all flicker through the improvisation in unpredictable succession. It's a commanding performance by one of the music's least acknowledged masters."
ED HAZELL - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2000
"Lol Coxhill has come a long way since Joni Mitchell saw a 'one man band by the quick lunch stand' and felt touched by the sincerity and integrity, which free improvised music has always represented. Today he has an international reputation, and his position in the history books seems assured. Although he can be overshadowed by the massive presence of Evan Parker, to whose music his own bears a superficial resemblance, Coxhill's playing is distinctively different from the younger man's and it would be a crime to under-value it. This disc compiles several sessions too short to be released independently: three duets with Stevie Wishart, one with Mattos and the entirety of Coxhill's performance at the 1999 LMC festival.
This latter is surely the centrepiece of the release, a twenty-two-minute extemporisation on soprano, the member of the saxophone family with which he is most closely associated. Far from the nods to Lacy which soprano specialists usually find themselves making, Coxhill's music seems to take Sonny Rollins's motivic style and bring it up-to-date with a wonderful fluidity and a tendency to embrace multiphonics, high harmonics and other "extended" techniques as a part of the melodic flow. It's an impressive, virtuoso performance which, however, doesn't over-egg Coxhill's technical prowess, which he hardly has to prove at this late stage. The festival solo is jazzy, but it is above all lyrical. At times it can touch on harsher territory, but always in the service of the line, a line that Coxhill spins out with enormous invention over a long period, something which is extremely hard to do but which this veteran solo performer seems to carry off with ease. The other extended solo on this release forms the last track from the session at which the Wishart duets were recorded way back in 1991, this time on sopranino. His voice on the instrument is thin and reedy, without the penetrating tone of the larger horn, but his musical imagination is very much intact, again taking a linear approach, following the notes and embellishing them with sometimes rather squeaky timbral effects.
Wishart's hurdy-gurdy greatly dignifies one of their duets; it makes a wonderful sound, and her development of a variety of articulations means she is able to provide droning backdrops and incisive commentary at the same time, something which benefits Coxhill no end. It's a beautiful and very unusual track; the two featuring violin are more spikey but no less musical. Here, Wishart's styrofoam timbres often coax Coxhill - who's locked into a pinched tone anyway - into less melodic waters, pushing the percussive and gratingly nasty sounds of the sopranino to the fore. That said, he never abandons note-based playing entirely, and Wishart's fiddle, although it certainly doesn't sound pretty, has a quick intelligence, which keeps the music rushing along. These performances are faster moving and more rooted in the conventions of free improv than the others on this album, but there's no loss of clever, thoughtful interplay.
Mattos only appears for one, thirteen-minute track. He's spectacular on either bass or cello, one of the fastest, most furiously restless players in London, and his time with Coxhill is extremely well spent. The electronics work well, and overall this track has something approaching an ensemble sound. Exciting, fast-talking improvisation that is completely accomplished and realised with fearsome precision. "
RICHARD COCHRANE- MUSINGS - 2000
"Coxhill is such a versatile player; when he turns his efforts to serious free improvisation, he is one of the two leading practitioners of the genre on soprano saxophone. For this recording, Coxhill offers seven cuts from three different performances. Each track has its highlights, and each listener is bound to have his or her own favourite. Wishart is a particularly effective partner on violin, as her scratchy lines wrap around the saxophone sounds. Coxhill shows spectacular depth with an endless stream of abstract ideas. His unique style effectively subverts tradition while embracing advanced techniques."
STEVEN LOEWY - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2000
"Lol Coxhill is little-known but he is actually one of the first saxophonists to perform solo, and this disc contains the twenty-two minute Festival Solo, a piece for soprano - Coxhill's saxophone of choice - that shows his range, imagination, and architectonic power.
But there is much more here as well. The discs begins with Coxhill on sopranino, or Eb soprano saxophone, playing a solo and three duets with Stevie Wishart, who plays violin on two and hurdy-gurdy on the other. With Wishart on violin for First Rare Duet and Third Rare Duet, Coxhill explores the sopranino as a percussive instrument and squeaks, sputters, and squawks in remarkable congruence with the violin's upper registers. With Wishart on hurdy-gurdy for the Second Rare Duet, Coxhill spins a fragile and idiosyncratic melody while the Wishart provides a creaking drone.
A Rare Sopranino Solo swirls and shrieks, flashes across the sky, and creates in its very disjunction a conjunction of space and time held together by Coxhill's peculiar but undeniable magic. Back on soprano for a duet with Marcio Mattos (cello, live electronics), Coxhill returns to the same sputtering, mewling strategy he pursued with Wishart. This track's success comes from Mattos' sensitivity to Coxhill's lead, and to the contrast in instrumental timbres. Late in this track comes one of Coxhill's melodic outpourings, which are always effective.
On The Festival Solo Coxhill makes full use of his considerable bag of tricks, from the highest extremes of the upper register to the most ducklike squawks and, yes, fragile melodic tendrils. A tour de force."
ROBERT SPENCER - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1999
"Coxhill's soprano (and his sopranino, although to a somewhat lesser degree) can growl, squeak, and gibber, and then suddenly turn the corner to a passage of astonishing richness and fullness of tone. There are moments during his duets here with Wishart that he approaches the sound of the violin. At other points he accents the strings of both Wishart and Mattos so expertly that it's surprising to think that these performances are indeed spontaneous - but Coxhill's reputation for foolery perhaps unfortunately overshadows his great musical abilities.
The centerpiece of this disc is the twenty-five minute The Festival Solo on soprano. Its bird-whistle beginning section places him immediately at the top rank of soprano improvisers, and he shows here a talent for unexpected melodicism, coming accompanied by astonishing command of his instrument and a well-conceived use of noise effects. This solo travels miles, and never palls for a step. Recommended."
ROBERT SPENCER - CADENCE 2000
"Lol Coxhill is a true master! ALONE AND TOGETHER speaks for itself as the saxophonist continues to pursue fresh, invigorating ideas whether as a truly remarkable soloist or along with some beneficial help from his friends. Lol Coxhill is a most important and vital force in this ever evolving genre as ALONE AND TOGETHER drives that point home in complimentary fashion. * * * *"
GLENN ASTARITA - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2000
"The big difference here is that for the first four tracks Lol doubles on the toughest of all the saxophones; A Rare Sopranino Solo confirms that it holds no terrors ... three of these four are duets with Wishart, who brings along her hurdy-gurdy as well, creating a witch's kettle of bagpipe drones. The duet with Mattos is characteristically thoughtful and again constructed over a drone background, this time using live and gently responsive electronics. The remainer of the set consists of a delightful 20-minute solo soprano recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall."
RICHARD COOK & BRIAN MORTON - The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition, 2008
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