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JEB BISHOP trombone
LOL COXHILL soprano saxophone
MATS GUSTAFSSON tenor saxophone
FRED LONBERG-HOLM cello & electronics
KENT KESSLER double bass

1 - BOTTLING UP (Rutherford solo) - 31:44

2 - LOLILOQUY - 14:24
3 - BLUE BOTTLE - 19:41
4 - BOTTLE OUT - 11:18

Digital concert recordings made in Chicago (Empty Bottle)
by Malachi Ritscher - 2002 April 26 (1) & April 27 (2-4)
Total time 77:23

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

From the mid-1960s, Paul Rutherford and Lol Coxhill were two of the leading lights in the revolution that transformed Free Jazz into Free Improvisation. For the next decade, whilst these ground-breaking developments were being consolidated across the Atlantic, the USA seemed to be largely resting on its Jazz laurels. Then in the mid-1970s, a few young American musicians became aware of, and influenced by, what was happening in Europe: Eugene Chadbourne moved to New York where he met up with Polly Bradfield and John Zorn; Henry Kaiser and Henry Kuntz started improvising in the San Francisco area; and Ladonna Smith, Davey Williams and friends were into something new in Tuscaloosa.

The LP record was the main means of musical dissemination in those days. The (lack of) economics of the situation, combined with the horrors of trying to get the dynamic range of the music onto vinyl, ensured that there were not too many LPs of Free Improvisation at first. Rutherford featured on some of the most influential records in the 1970s, notably those by his trio Iskra 1903 with Derek Bailey and Barry Guy (reissued on Emanem 5311), and his first solo collection, THE GENTLE HARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (now on Emanem 4019). The latter was a particular ear-opener for those with openable ears - not just for trombonists - as it signified a fresh approach to using extended techniques in free solo performances. The magnificent solo performance on this CD shows that he is still a formidable soloist some 28 years later.

Nowadays there are numerous American musicians involved in Free Improvisation in several centres, notably Chicago, whose annual Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music has become a leading new music festival. Organisers John Corbett and Ken Vandermark decided that it was time that Rutherford and Lol Coxhill came to play at the Empty Bottle Festival, and an invitation was sent out accordingly. BOTTLING UP is Rutherford's complete solo performance at the festival.

The following evening, Rutherford was 'given' a group made up of three members of the Chicago scene, two visitors from Stockholm, and Coxhill. LOLILOQUY is a loose concerto (complete with solo cadenza) featuring Coxhill. For the rest of the set, Rutherford decided that it would be most interesting for the group to just improvise. BLUE BOTTLE and BOTTLE OUT are the result - the quiet linking section between the two halves was somewhat drowned out by applause, so it has been edited out.


I thoroughly enjoyed working with the musicians in this septet, and appreciated the attentive audience. I was already familiar with Lol and Mats, but had not come across Fred, Jeb, Kent and Kjell before - finding them was a real treasure. I would also like to thank John Corbett and the other Empty Bottle Festival organisers for inviting Lol and me over to perform our own music, and for organising our trip. I would also like to thank Malachi Ritscher for recording the concerts.



Excerpts from reviews:

"Free Improv albums rarely come as satisfying as this one. The occasion was special (Paul Rutherford's American appearances are rare and far between), the line-up a premiere and the menu varied. This CD is a celebration of the trombonist's music and the impact the British improvisers that came of age in the late 60s & early 70s had on the younger American generation. First up is an unedited 32-minute solo. Rutherford is still in very good shape: inventive, resourceful and absolutely capable of keeping an improvisation interesting for that long. Perhaps his most seductive feature is the fact that he doesn't mind pausing to catch his breath or change mute, using silence as a source of expectation. Loliloquy is a structured improvisation in the form of a loose concerto for Lol Coxhill, who accompanied the trombonist for this trip. A bit weaker but only because the improvisers are getting accustomed to each other, it serves as a prelude of sorts to Blue Bottle, a fantastic 20-minute group improvisation. The latter features stunning interplay, a wide exploration of dynamics and colours (including an electrical episode from Lonberg-Holm when he hits the distortion pedal), and an unmatched level of excitement. It sounds like seven of the finest improvisers trying to inject meaning into the chaos of the universe by contributing more chaos to it and itıs one of the finest pieces released in 2002. Imperfect sound balance results in the two trombonists being squeezed into the same stereo channel, but thatıs a very minor flaw considering the quality of the music. Highly recommended."


"This recording begins with an inimitable half-hour monologue in the course of which his instrument ventures freely across a broad spectrum of expressive possibilities, from pensive musing to vibrant chatter. Lol Coxhill and his soprano also made the journey and on three further substantial tracks the British veterans are heard in cahoots with Chicagoans and visiting Swedes. Though recording conditions were less than perfect, shifting alignments within this unusual group result in some exceptional music. It's good to hear Coxhill successfully negotiating terms in unfamiliar company, and Rutherford's solo should not be missed."


"Rutherford opens the disc in solitary stance, guiding an extended litany of breath through every crevice and canal of his instrument. It's a demanding excursion, but well captured in the sometimes oppressive acoustics of the club. Perhaps in recognition of the relevance of his surroundings, Rutherford even incorporates an empty bottle as a mute for his horn. Moving from moist legato lines to staccato firecracker bursts, the performance largely rivals his other solo recitals on record. The three ensemble offerings are even more interesting. Loliloquy gets off to a shaky start, but quickly stabilises into a feature for the eponymous saxophonist who jockeys cloven tones with piquant sliding note streams. Lonberg-Holm's dour cello saws away beneath, matching harmonic mettle with the hummingbird buzz of Coxhill's cantankerous horn. There's a looseness to some of the sections that betrays the group's nascency, but by and large the interplay stays highly engaged. Blue Bottle and Bottle Out continue the fun along similar avenues of detailed dissonance marked by surprising detours into near lyricism. All three tracks prove the prospect of a reunion gig as more than warranted."


"The solo track here, Bottling Up, lasts for over half an hour. In that time, at his own pace, Rutherford demonstrates his strengths; a variety of tones (not least his beautiful, vulnerable, human tone), his use of the full range of his instrument, his lucid, flowing phrases, his focus, his energy. As Spring Heel Jack's Ashley Wales said of Rutherford's solo playing recently, 'He is playing beautiful notes, notes you recognise, sequences you recognise. Some of it sounds like Vaughan Williams'. Rutherford's sense of occasion and sense of humour also shine through as he quotes a phrase from Strangers in the Night (no, I didnt believe it either!) - maybe there was some essence of Sinatra in the Chicago air that night...

The first of three septet pieces, Loliloquy, is a showcase for Coxhill. It slowly gathers momentum and has a melancholy air to it until an unaccompanied solo feature for Lol midway through. But it's the final three minutes of the piece that really kickstart the septet and set the pulses racing, as all seven players engage in a bout of full-tilt all-out blowing - the kind of stuff that gets people hooked on improvisation (or, yes, totally alienates others!) On the other two septet pieces, Blue Bottle and Bottle Out, Rutherford himself is more prominent, but the level of intensity and whole group interaction is consistently maintained. It may be unfair to single out particular players, but Gustafsson's raw, throaty tenor and Lonberg-Holm's use of electronics and distortion both grab the attention. Thrilling stuff."


"The first piece, which clocks in at more than thirty minutes, is a solo feature for Paul Rutherford, one of the few trombonists capable of sustaining interest for so long. Rutherford's technical skills have advanced considerably since his seminal THE GENTLE HARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, which was recorded decades ago. Still Rutherford's forte is not his technique but his extraordinary concept as a free improviser. You'll notice a fair amount of multi-phonics and some double tonguing (or something resembling it), but what always distinguishes Rutherford is his uncanny ability to keep the listener enthralled for minutes on end. The first track is a near-classic, a good example of his unaccompanied playing.

The second three tracks were recorded with an impressive mix of musicians, most of whom Rutherford had never performed with before. Not surprisingly, Loliloquy features Lol Coxhill on soprano sax, with Rutherford playing second fiddle (figuratively, of course). Part of the fun is hearing Coxhill fronting an all star group with such luminaries as Mats Gustafsson and Jeb Bishop, not to mention Rutherford. The piece slowly unwinds , displaying some gorgeous and exotic scenery.

The last two tracks are more egalitarian, bringing all the members of the collective together to freely improvise. The expected sparks ignite, with the results unsurprisingly impressive, each of the horns logically weaving in and out. Considering that there are four winds (including the sometime boisterous Jeb Bishop), this is surprisingly subdued fare, though it never lags and the results give a sense of four horns and rhythm listening closely to each other. Pure pleasure from a relaxing though demanding live set of British-style free improvisation."


"I just love Paul Rutherford. It's almost impossible to find a more natural voice on the trombone: his techniques are awesome but - as it goes with the greats - never overwhelming the real essence of the act of creating music on the spot. The septet raises moments of 'heavenly hell' through doubling voicings (particularly effective in the case of the two trombones by Rutherford and Bishop) and absolutely anarchic, dynamic interplay; but the solo set by Paul is so outstanding and utterly beautiful, his human treatment to the instrument being the key to a fusion between a soul and the surrounding air, washed and refined by a strange, beautiful fat bird chanting and chattering."


"Paul Rutherford is a past master of his instrument's extended vocabulary. The half-hour solo concert that kicks off his CHICAGO 2002 is marked by his hair-raising gowls, eerie breazes and carefully sculpted phrases. But even more impressive is the way he functions within a group situation; sometimes leading, sometimes nudging, he marshals a half-dozen players to improvise a vividly coloured, elaborately contoured concerto that serves as a showcase for the venerable Lol Coxhill."


"CHICAGO 2002 is a generous program documenting trombonist Paul Rutherford's two-night appearance at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music. It opens with a 31-minute solo improvisation, with Rutherford forming a compelling narrative without attempting to deny the lumbering joviality that characterizes his instrument. For the remainder, Rutherford steps to the side (both figuratively and in the stereo spectrum) to join a one-off ensemble. Bottle Out could appear on a sampler as an example of the spontaneous empathy this group achieved; it starts with Coxhill rhapsodizing over extended drones from the other players, then works from quiet to a boil with remarkably-timed gradual entrances from each member before subsiding to a resigned conclusion, with Coxhill and Gustafsson ending in unison. Also included is Loliloquy; with Coxhill 'leading' the ensemble in a manner similar to the way soloists 'led' each section of Ornette's Free Jazz (though, of course, unlike the Ornette set, there is no hint of a fixed tempo). Lonberg-Holm's occasional electronic noises and Gustafsson's Coltranesque shrieks raise tension here and there, but subtle atonal and sonic exploration is the idea rather than vitriol. This CD allows the listener to re-experience these nights differently with each listen."


"Paul plays a tremendous 30-minute solo, and that's followed by a septet where he and fellow Briton Lol Coxhill met up with local guys and two (regular) Scandinavian visitors. The group pieces aren't so much tentative as surprisingly deferential, with noted power-players Bishop and Gustafsson often throttling back to give clearer space to the visitors. An enjoyable blow."

RICHARD COOK & BRIAN MORTON - The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition 2008


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