LOL COXHILL soprano saxophone
VERYAN WESTON piano (chamber organ on 3)
1 - THE FIRST DUET OF WORMS - 27:33
2 - THE SECOND DUET OF WORMS - 14:15
3 - ORGAN INTERLUDE - 8:03
4 - THE FIRST ARCHDUKE DUO - 17:14
5 - THE SECOND ARCHDUKE DUO - 11:35
All digital concert recordings:
1-2 Rotterdam (The Worm) by Pierre Verbee - 2001 March 17
3 London (Red Rose) by Dave Hunt - 2000 August 21
4-5 Brussels (L'Archiduc) by Michael Huon - 2001 March 18
Total time 79:07
All previously unissued
This is a jubilee year for this writer, as I first saw this particular duo perform as a duo in the summer of '77 (in the upstairs room of a pub, which is not unusual for creative music in Britain). Recordings over the years have been few and far between - but then can we not say that of an enormous number of groups and soloists? Earlier progress reports include parts of the LPs THE JOY OF PARANOIA and DIGSWELL DUETS, now on CDs (Ogun 008 and Emanem 4052), bits of the remarkable Coxhill retrospective SPECTRAL SOPRANO (Emanem 4204), and the more recent BOUNDLESS (Emanem 4021).
Each of these players is renowned for his ability to operate within a variety of contexts - quite a bewildering variety in fact - yet each is rightly acclaimed for his duo work: think of Coxhill and the late Steve Miller, or Pat Thomas; or Weston with Phil Minton, or Caroline Kraabel, or most recently (and magnificently) Trevor Watts. When Coxhill and Weston come together their empathy is translated into a sense of confidence, and one of almost limitless freedom.
The three venues themselves differ considerably, and the music contained here is typically free-ranging, but the music is all reliably, consistently strong.
It is significant that there are two larger chunks of music on this CD, and that these are excerpts from full performances: the musicians have been careful in selecting their choices from the concerts in question. The sequence with the remarkable chamber organ (please refer to Ian Smith's DAYBREAK, Emanem 4059, for further details) makes for an intriguing contrast to the sax / piano sound.
The Worm in Rotterdam was previously known as the Dodorama, and it's a delightful record shop / café / concert venue. I confess to never having heard any concerts there, but knowing the space, it's easy to picture it as being ideal for intimate music of this sort. The recording presented here is of a high quality; and the music itself is exceptional. The first piece sets quite a serious tone; there's a melancholy, slightly eerie feel. As it develops, the piece rambles a little, but never straying too far from the initial mood. It's a good showcase also for Veryan Weston's solo virtuosity: anyone who has seen him live can picture Weston, fingers flying at the keyboard, but with precise, clear articulation - and can also picture Coxhill, head cocked to one side, the horn held close, listening intently. He too has a chance to end the piece with a solo, a particularly rhapsodic outing. The second, shorter, Rotterdam piece maintains the quality level - it's sparky, playful, and a nice contrast to what went before. In the old days the Worm recordings alone would have made a splendid LP.
Personal involvement prevents me saying too much about The Red Rose in North London, but those who know more about these things say the large Hall has a very fine acoustic. The Coxhill / Weston duo, part of a wide-ranging concert that took place after the recordings for Ian Smith's DAYBREAK, and similarly benefiting from Dave Hunt's engineering skills, demonstrates Weston's ability to wrestle all sorts of tonalities from the chamber organ: bassoon squawks, accordion wheezes, gothic wails. All in all, a brief chance to recall a splendid evening.
L'Archiduc is apparently a small Art Deco building near the centre of Brussels. The various things I have recently heard about the building, and the food and drink on offer, suggest a visit is in order - especially if they regularly present music of this calibre. The sequences featured here begin in quite a serious vein, Coxhill kicking things off with an exploration of some of the more extreme tonalities that can be wrenched from his horn.
GERARD F.TIERNEY (2002)
"This pair could very well be the most versatile, unpredictable free improv duo in England. Thanks to Lol Coxhill's extensive background in jazz, Veryan Weston's classical studies, and both musicians' decision to fully embrace their past instead of restricting their playing to one specific aesthetic, the music can leap and bounce, from non-referential 'pure' improv to swinging interludes or bombastic passages. Only Steve Beresford matches this level of pan-stylistic scope - and excitement. By 2002, Coxhill and Weston had been playing together for over 25 years and yet the only previous album completely devoted to this duo is the 1998 Emanem CD BOUNDLESS. WORMS ORGANISING ARCHDUKES is not a redundant document, to say the least. The album features pieces from three different concerts. We begin at The Worm in Rotterdam for two pieces of 28 and 14 minutes. The Second Duet of Worms opens with a delightfully soulful solo from Coxhill. If his soprano sax playing has grown immediately recognisable, the man is not sitting on his laurels. He pushes and stretches his playing, exploring microtonal possibilities in the high register during The First Archduke Duo, one of two pieces recorded at L¹Archiduc in Brussels. The second one stands as 11 minutes of pure delight and one of the strongest improvisations by any artist this reviewer has heard in 2002. Between these two concerts a cut from a Red Rose (London) set has been squeezed in. It features Weston, who plays piano in the four longer tracks, on the same chamber organ he used during the sessions for Ian Smith's album DAYBREAK. This Organ Interlude brings a pause and an element of strangeness - a welcome addition to a CD clocking in at 79 minutes. Highly recommended."
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2002
"Lol Coxhill and Veryan Weston have been playing partners for a quarter of a century, and it shows. These are riveting duo performances, full of surprise and tender beauty. The Second Duet of Worms features some of Coxhill's best playing on record, an expressive, jazzy introduction that builds into something genuinely capricious. Weston's piano style is best described as romantic and although these titles are almost always added after the fact, he must have been aware of the historical resonance of an Archduke Duo. Both these pieces are virtuosic, with Coxhill exploring the upper range of his saxophone and his repertoire of multiphonics and other effects. This is a valuable documentation of a creative friendship, accessible and intimate."
RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition' 2008
"Two of Britain's finest improvisers. Coxhill will be 70 a few days after this review appears, but he still plays with all the fresh-faced enthusiasm of youth. The First Duet wends for 27 epic minutes through atmospheric abstraction, savouring the variety of colours and textures that Weston and Coxhill coax from their instruments, and punchy rhythmic and melodic melees to an edgily determined conclusion. Its half-length companion piece has a more upbeat feel, though it is no less angular, no more over-accommodating. About halfway through there's a splendid Coxhill cadenza which shows off his rich tone, followed by Weston's sparkling, liquid solo outing. The First Archduke Duo contains some of the most precise, sharply-focused and assertive music on the album (Weston is particularly good here). The second tends to the more plaintive and reflective but is no less enthralling, with Coxhill coherently exploring almost every saxophonic timbral possibility and Weston dropping in a little something for Doris Day fans."
BARRY WITHENDEN - JAZZ REVIEW 2002
"What can I do, other than reporting about the pairing of a bionic pianist - the always improving, ever exhilarating and technical man-machine Weston - and a soprano voice in a class of its own since decades, the cliche-free Lol Coxhill? What Lol is following when he thinks into his instrument is anyone's guess; I can only say that his forms and sketches are maybe the most unforeseeable in the improvisation area, while Weston confirms his own high place among the best keyboard engineers on the planet. This record has no category to fit in; it's just fresh playing at its best."
MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2002
"Coxhill's soprano saxophone skitters through and around Weston's piano like a happy mouse in a cheese-lined maze. When Weston switches to organ for one track, Coxhill also similarly alters his approach to playing, with his slurs and trills mirroring the more elongated notes and chords of the organ."
DAVID GREENBERGER - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2003
"Needless to say, there’s a certain magic that permeates this outing, as the duo’s intuitive exchanges come as no surprise. Essentially, they methodically reconfigure motifs, amid counterbalancing statements and a great deal of expansive thematic occurrences. Whether Coxhill is soaring to the heavens via upper register tonalities, or when the musicians tone matters down in spots, they generate gobs of interest. The real oddity of this production lies within Weston’s use of a chamber organ on Organ Interlude. Here, the keyboardist casts an ethereal absurdity to the solemn implications of religious music. He uses the instrument as a vehicle for implementing strange choral voicings and a skittish single note attack. Weston and Coxhill dart and dance among interweaving call and response manoeuvers and generally playful discourses. In addition, the musicians venture off into various microtonal skirmishes and humorously enacted opuses. Recommended."
GLENN ASTARITA - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2001
"It starts with both players on tiptoes, like they were afraid of drowning each other out. Yet it's hardly a cautious record. When Coxhill's sax eventually blusters into Weston's keyboard skitter on Worm Duets and Archduke Duos, the results are magical. Organ Interlude is even better, with Coxhill liberating an aviary of sax chirrups that soar and dive around Weston's erratically fingered Gothic organ grind."
EDWIN POUNCEY - THE WIRE 2002
"Weston commands the piano both in terms of raw technique and variety of pianistic devices. He also has ears the size of Alaska, and the quick musical reflexes to act on what he hears. Lol Coxhill revels in his support.
On The First Duet of Worms he and Coxhill range far and wide from tweety bird sounds to some near-Bop. Coxhill exercises the full range of his horn. On the middle track, Organ Interlude, Weston demonstrates his ability to eke odd and interesting sounds from a chamber organ. It sounds like an old pipe organ, rather than an electronic instrument, but then with Weston at the keys delving into its possibilities, that's hard to say. What I can say is puts most synch players to shame with the textures he wrests from this traditional instrument.
Textural exploration dominates the final two tracks. Coxhill focuses on split tones in his extreme upper register in an extended exercise in post-Cool anxiety. Coxhill sounds like he is playing old Konitz licks that have been compressed into a few strangled high notes. I prefer the duet's more wide-ranging work, but their interaction and pianist's jabs keeps this from reverting to mere noodling."
DAVID DUPONT - CADENCE 2003
"The long opening piece, The First Duet of Worms, demonstrates the duo's strengths. Funny as they are on occasion, they can establish and sustain a serious mood, and do so here. Weston is as technically impressive as ever, a restless source of ideas. Coxhill maintains a dialogue not only with the piano but also a call-and-response dialogue with himself, reacting to his own rather melancholy melodic fragments. The Second Duet of Worms is shorter, more upbeat, and makes a good contrast with the opener.
Organ Interlude is exactly that, a playful eight minutes, in which Weston extracts an impressive array of sounds from the chamber organ, with apposite responses from Coxhill. It is something of a novelty piece, but does not outstay its welcome.
The two duos from Brussels mirror those from Rotterdam, giving a pleasing symmetry to the album. At the start of the first, Weston's rippling backdrop gives the piece a romantic setting that evolves but is never lost. In the second, Coxhill takes control early, with some quiet but sustained, high pitched blowing. From that opening, which introduces a deliberate, funereal tempo, the piece slowly unfolds and picks up. By the end, without any forced changes of gear along the way, we narrowly avoid a full blown climax of Secret Love!
This is, quite simply, an object lesson in duo improvising, from two masters of the art."
JOHN EYLES - BBC 2003
"It is always amazing to listen a recording where Lol Coxhill takes part. And on this one he plays with another great musician as Veryan Weston is. These incredible duets of piano and soprano saxophone are an amazing experience. The good thing about Coxhill and Weston playing is that despite experimenting a lot they always achieve a certain melodic quality to all their tracks. It is like a stop and go process ...you have experimentation, then melodies, then experimentation again. And this type of experimentation brings a lot of different sensations to the listener and paint different pictures of this duets music. It amazed me how Coxhill achieves all the dynamics that he does on this CD: in fact he goes from extremely soft phrases to stronger ones, to almost thrashing his instrument (listen for example to The Second Duet of Worms to see what I am talking about). The good thing about listening to great musicians like Coxhill and Weston is that you always find something new in their music to learn from."
FEDERICO MARONGIU - MUSIC EXTREME 2002
"The gregarious Coxhill seems to be sticking with the soprano saxophone these days with its (actually his) distinctive sound. Weston, for his part is coaxed from outwardly classical lines of thought to the impulsive nature of Coxhill's music But this isn't just about mischievous music making. The pair turn sombre, occasionally mining the darkness for all its significance. While THE SHOW is outwardly Coxhill, Weston supplies counterpoint throughout and his skip through modern piano trends on The First Achduke Duo establishes his independent voice here. The highlight here is surely the Organ Interlude with all of its wacky 'special' effects via the chamber organ."
MARK CORROTO - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2002
Return to Emanem home page or go to CD releases or musicians