PAUL ROGERS

LISTEN

EMANEM 4078

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PAUL ROGERS double bass
 

1 - LISTEN 99 - 38:56
2 - LISTEN 99 BIS - 3:40
3 - LISTEN 99 TER - 4:55

4 - LISTEN 89 - 19:07

1-3: digital concert recording made in Le Mans (Collégiale Saint Pierre La Cour)
by Jean-Marc Foussat - 1999 May 1
4: analogue concert recording made in London (Sir Walter Scott)
by Andy Isham - 1989 October 8
Total time 66:57

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

I never have much to say about what I do, other than listen to the music.

In the concert in '99, I used a five-string bass, plus sticks, a small hand cymbal, a small drum, and a small penny whistle. In the concert in '89, I used a four-string bass.

PAUL ROGERS (2002)

The first time I saw Paul Rogers play (following my return to England in 1988) was an amazing (unamplified) duo concert with Evan Parker, which unfortunately went unrecorded. I think the second time was the earlier of the two performances included on this CD. Fortunately, Andy Isham did record this pub gig, and recently sent me a copy of the recording, which went to show that it was as sensational as I remembered it to be. In the next few years, before he relocated to France, I often saw and heard Rogers performing brilliantly with Evan Parker, usually in the trio with Mark Sanders.

About the same time I received the 1989 recording, Rogers sent me a copy of his 1999 Le Mans festival solo performance, which he considered to be his best solo performance to date. It certainly is as good as anything I've heard. So it seemed to make sense to combine these two magnificent performances, and the end result is LISTEN.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2002)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"Rogers stands squarely in a formidable tradition of European bass improvisers, enormously skilful with or without the bow. This set opens with almost 40 minutes of unflagging invention in a single piece recorded at a French concert. Rogers makes the bass sound as it is, a big resonant, capacious instrument. He isn't shy of melodic patterns or conventional timbres, although he makes these elements part of a rushing flow which evolves so quickly that it asks the listener to be very alert, and there's a notable skill in avoiding prearranged figures. Two smaller pieces, encores possibly, spin off into smaller orbits. Then comes music from a London pub gig of ten years earlier: same man, but a four- rather than a five-string instrument; less well-recorded, but here the musician engages in an abrasive, even violent monologue. This can stand with the best solo-bass albums."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2004

"Rogers considers himself a musician first and creates an album that, while displaying an astonishing range of method, compels the listener with its completeness as a musical statement. LISTEN contains two live performances, one on five-string bass and accoutrements from 1999 and a straight 4-string recital in 1989. The development of a musician in his prime over ten years makes the difference between the two segments striking. Listen 89 is the brasher, less introspective of the two. Listen 99, the meat of the album, may be one of the most thorough solo bass statements ever recorded, no mean feat considering the competition. The 39 minutes are completely fluid and conceptually consistent. The number of different approaches included (pizzicato, arco, percussive, harmonic) all contribute to the whole and, as in spontaneous improvisation, are even more astonishing. His work in groups is marvellous, but his solo thinking is so advanced to silence any potential detractor."

ANDREY HENKIN - ALL ABOUT JAZZ NEW YORK 2003

"Paul Rogers should be well known to anyone with even a passing interest in British free jazz. His ability to swing hard, sing sweetly and get down, dirty and abstract has made him bassist of choice for top improvisers like Evan Parker, John Stevens and Keith Tippett.

Rogers' vocabulary is huge and his facility pretty incredible. The 38 minute Listen 99 opens with a blistering display of pizzicato playing before moving though soft harmonic ripples, bowed drones and episodes of scratchy abstraction, returning to just fingers and strings for lengthy, sometimes bluesy solos where he worries away at little phrases, repeating, embellishing and eventually dismantling them before moving on. Occasionally he plays whistles, cymbals and drums for extra colouration (part 3 of the 99 gig is pure texture), but it's the note based stuff (reminiscent of Barre Phillips at times and undoubtedly drawing from 'jazz' harmony) that really sticks. His tone is rich, punchy and resonant, and the lovely recording gives the bass a warm, physical presence that still has ambience.

The 19 minute solo from '89 is more in classic free improv mode. Though there are some sweet moments, there's a much more episodic feel than the later material, which has a beautifully rounded shape to its structure, almost compositional in its precision and economy.

LISTEN is a tour de force of the first order; highly recommended to any fan of solo bass, but for those who simply enjoy hearing a master improviser at work, there's much to savour here."

PETER MARSH - BBC 2002

"The first three tracks on this generous gathering of solo performances are the result of a '99 concert in Le Mans. Rogers employs a specially augmented five-string double bass for the foray, along with a small clutch of little instruments including sticks, hand cymbal, drum and penny whistle. Listen 99 sprawls over nearly two thirds of an hour and it's a wild ride. Opening with a pizzicato foray that alternates between violent thickets of strummed energy and delicate, almost harp-like, lattices of notes Rogers sets the bar impossibly high from the start. Each change in direction signals yet another surpassing of expectations as he pushes both his limbs and strings past the limits. Splaying fingers up and down his fingerboard with blinding speed he creates striking juxtapositions of pitch, tempo and density. Carpal pressure and digital dexterity come into play in startling ways and it's easy to get lost in the sheer physicality of the performance.

Drawing bow from leather scabbard seven minutes in Rogers scares up a scintillating pattern of harmonic shades and hues. Pivoting comfortably into a swathe of Classically tinged sonorities, he etches sudden crevices of dissonance into otherwise mellifluous surroundings. Soon an Aurora Borealis of tonal pigments radiates outward peppered by pizzicato pockmarks. It's almost possible to smell the acrid odour of smouldering rosin on strings during such passages, so vivid is the conjured aural imagery. Holstering bow for another lyrical interlude, his fingers once again take on the tensile properties of tempered steel in a mercilessly detailed manipulation of the strings. The only lapses come when Rogers divides his time between his bass and the handful of peripheral accoutrements. Dampened by strategically placed sticks, his strings take on ghostly new tonal incarnations that mimic the whispering of wind-laced pines. Even under the endurance-sapping length of the piece, Rogers' shrewd imagination rarely wanes and the overarching structure that evolves becomes something to ceaselessly marvel at. Two far shorter addenda follow, each one delivering a brusque blend of further arco and plucked pyrotechnics.

Succinctly titled, but still quite lengthy at almost twenty minutes, the disc's final piece Listen 89 originates from a decade earlier. Rogers holds court on a regular four-string bass in front of a London audience and the sparks are nearly as plentiful and combustible. Fidelity isn't quite so crisp, but the slicing strength of Rogers' strings surmounts the low level surface static. Starting with a sparsely deployed series of chirruping bowed drones, the piece moves into closely compacted harmonic architectures. Switching to broad snapping finger strokes, Rogers plummets back to subterranean registers for the remainder of the piece. T he entire disc is one that will almost certainly leave mouths agape and ears in want of more. A coveted signifier like 'virtuosic' almost seems like a pittance when applied to a talent as towering as Rogers."

DEREK TAYLOR - DUSTED 2003

"Listen 99 is almost 40 minutes of unflagging invention, the bass plucked and bowed and strummed to make the music come out, but for all its extremity the music is very much celebratory of its source. Rogers makes the bass sound as it is, a big, resonant, capacious instrument. He isn't shy of melodic patterns or conventional timbres, although he makes these elements parts of a rushing flow which evolves so quickly it asks the listener to be prodigiously alert. Bass solo situations can be often lulling or ponderous. Rogers evades that by thinking and moving electrically fast.

Perhaps it's a kind of approval-cliché to call this 'real improvising', as opposed to any kind of musical contrivance. Still, the musician's obvious virtuosity is matched with a skill at avoiding prearranged figures. In some ways it's a slight disappointment that around the 25-minute mark he starts to introduce distortions via some spontaneous 'preparations' of the bass, since the naked instrument was producing so much extraordinary sound up to this point. But he does find a great ending. The two encores, if such they are, spin off into smaller orbits.

Ten years earlier, Listen 89 runs for a whisker under 20 minutes. The recording quality is poorer, and that manifests how important hi-fi is to this most sensitive of musics. But Rogers is still terrific. This is an abrasive, even violent monologue: heavy wood music, perhaps."

RICHARD COOK - JAZZ REVIEW 2003

"Order, invitation, imprecation, supplication? A little of each may find its way in the title of this album, but upon completing your listening, you will agree that there is an imperative to listen to Paul Rogers' music. Not that he is driven by a particular sense of urgency. Yes, the music remains on the edge throughout these two performances, the bassist taking risk after risk in order to find beauty where others don't, but there is no showcase of manly power, no foretelling of the end of mankind, no Don Quixote rushing to battle critic-headed windmills. Rogers is a gentleman, totally absorbed in the Now as he squeezes out of his double bass an improvised song. The first three cuts were recorded live in Le Mans, 1999. Listen 99 clocks in at 39 minutes and simply is a gigantic performance. Rogers has a round sound, abstract (think Barry Guy, Peter Kowald) yet very seductive, non-idiomatic but still irradiating the warmth of a seasoned jazz player. In the second of the two shorter pieces, he blows into a pennywhistle while producing a rich drone, providing a surprising coda. To complete the program, Martin Davidson has added a 19-minute solo recorded in 1989. This one is a bit more abstract as the improviser focuses on specific techniques instead of the previously heard all-encompassing approach - surely interesting, but not as fully matured. Don¹t let that prevent you from acquiring this album, recommended especially to fans of Mujician. When Paul Rogers plays, the Earth stops turning to listen. I¹m sure of it."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2002

"The 1989 track begins with a long section of sonorous bowing that's beautifully paced and projects a huge sound. Out of this charismatic opening Rogers takes quite a trip - one moment he's digging in with the slapping funk of a Charles Mingus introduction, then he floats mysteriously into the ether with a halo of sul ponte bowings, and the next his bass is twanging like a Muddy Waters guitar solo. The main section of the 1999 gig is a vast 38-minute performance that's no less fascinating. Rogers transforms his bass into a sitar at one point, and at the end colours his playing with a selection of toys. The formal control he shows while keeping this mammoth duration vivid and alive is masterful - a rigorous and fresh direction for improvised music."

PC - INTERNATIONAL PIANO AND DOUBLE BASSIST 2003

"If you have music that speaks for itself, there's nothing more to say; the same is affirmed by the author in the liner notes of this beautiful CD. Speaking through double bass solos is not easy, though; Paul Rogers - bassist extraordinaire and deep musician - creates acoustic paintings so austere and at the same time melodically engaging, immediately you detect a full concept in them, instead of just going after more or less notes played. When the main geometry of this project becomes a vivid, lightly warm entity through Rogers' hands and mind (he also plays small percussion and penny whistle in some instances) you're right amidst a torrent of lively ideas, offered you by a master of the instrument. Without knowing, Paul himself is your guide to clear your personal access to his art, just... listen."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2002

"Paul Rogers creates an active dynamo throughout the nearly seventy minutes of recorded solo performances on, about, and around his double bass. Rogers applies equal amounts of arco bowed intensity and finger pluck. The shear physical output here at times overshadows the precise aspects of his playing. When not scattering rays of energy, he has reconfigured his instrument utilising a small cymbal, sticks, a drum, and a whistle to great effect. Rogers' focus and his music relies on the ability to seamlessly piece together new approaches to music making on his four and five-stringed bass. The disc nicely balances two lengthy performances around a couple of brief (under five minutes) statements of intent. Listen 99 Bis for its bluesy traditional approach and Listen 99 Ter, an outward perspective on the open-ended nature of the bass."

MARK CORROTO - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2002

 

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