LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA

freedom of the city 2002

EMANEM 4090

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HARRY BECKETT, ROLAND RAMANAN, IAN SMITH trumpets,
ROBERT JARVIS, PAUL RUTHERFORD trombones,
BØRRE MØLSTAD tuba, NEIL METCALFE flute,
JACQUES FOSCHIA, JOHN RANGECROFT, HARRISON SMITH clarinets,
JOHN BUTCHER, TOM CHANT, LOL COXHILL, CAROLINE KRAABEL,
ADRIAN NORTHOVER, EVAN PARKER
saxophones,
SUSANNA FERRAR, SYLVIA HALLETT, PHILLIPP WACHSMANN violins,
CHARLOTTE HUG viola, MARCIO MATTOS cello,
JOHN EDWARDS, SIMON H FELL, DAVID LEAHY double basses,
DAVE TUCKER electric guitar, STEVE BERESFORD, VERYAN WESTON pianos,
ORPHY ROBINSON vibraphone
TONY MARSH, LOUIS MOHOLO, MARK SANDERS percussion,
KNUT AUFERMANN, ADAM BOHMAN, PAT THOMAS electronics,
TERRY DAY voice [on 1 & 2 only]

 

1 - TOO BUSY conceived & conducted by Simon H Fell - 16:21
2 - RUTHLESS conceived, conducted & featuring Terry Day - 7:04
3 - CONCERTO FOR PAUL RUTHERFORD conducted by Steve Beresford, featuring Paul Rutherford - 16:47
4 - MAMOSA percussion trio improvisation by Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo & Mark Sanders - 8:48
5 - PHONE IN conceived & conducted by Paul Rutherford - 11:46
6 - GIALLO conducted by Dave Tucker - 10:44
7 - FANFARE FOR L I O conceived & conducted by Philipp Wachsmann - 5:02

Digital concert recordings made in London
at the Conway Hall by Paul Brogden - 2002 May 5
Total time 77:22

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

The London Improvisers Orchestra has been performing on the first Sunday of the month (except December & January) at the Red Rose in Holloway, for over four years now. The May concert now takes place at the Conway Hall as part of the FREEDOM OF THE CITY festival. This CD contains seven of the eleven pieces performed at the LIO 2002 festival concert, in their order of performance. All of the pieces are presented complete, except for the percussion trio that had to be shortened to fit on the CD.

One reviewer of this concert was frustrated at seeing so many fine improvisers but not being able to hear most of them as individuals. But then the main point of the orchestra is to use the skills of the musicians to create fine orchestral improvisations. (I personally get frustrated with orchestras coming out of the big band jazz tradition that mainly feature individuals and small groups - I'd rather hear the individuals and small groups without the orchestra!)

Several of the pieces on this CD have unusual or atypical features about them. SIMON H FELL has conducted enough of his compositions with the LIO to ascertain that there is no such thing as a typical one. However the use of pre-recorded sounds (on a CD controlled by the conductor) makes Too Busy different again. TERRY DAY had previously performed his poem Ruthless with the LIO at the Red Rose, but the PA available at the festival meant that his voice was not drowned out by the orchestra. Concerto for Paul Rutherford is another in the ongoing series of STEVE BERESFORD's concerto conductions in which he directs the orchestra (with no pre-composed elements) while 'the soloist(s) can play whatever and whenever they like'.

Mamosa is a free improvisation by the three drummers - TONY MARSH, LOUIS MOHOLO & MARK SANDERS. PAUL RUTHERFORD has conducted the LIO a few times, but has a conducting history going back over thirty years with his own orchestras as well as the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. All he is prepared to say about Phone In is that he regards mobile phones to be 'a bloody nuisance'. DAVE TUCKER is a regular conductor of the LIO, although Giallo is unusual for him. PHILIPP WACHSMANN's piece involves the audience as well as the orchestra - the audience is more prominent in Fanfare for L I O than it was at the 2001 festival.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2003)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"The 2002 festival recording opens with Simon H Fell's Too Busy for orchestra and pre-recorded sound, a requiem for drummer John Stevens. The pre-recorded material includes church bells, electronics, applause and Stevens speaking and playing solo. In recognisable Fell style, the music embraces disparate elements that coincide or collide in rich simultaneity. There's a marvellous translucent quality to quieter passages, like hearing through fine veils of layered sound, something like the hazy evocation that Charles Ives created with The Housatonic at Stockbridge. The voice of Terry Day, a drumming contemporary of Stevens, surfaces to pay tribute near the end.

Day's own Ruthless follows, a shrewd poetic weighing of fame and anonymity. He delivers a memorable performance, enacting the words, activating meaning, and the orchestra responds, repeatedly erupting into turbulence, the setting back into a light and agile percussive continuum. Steve Beresford's Concerto for Paul Rutherford is a 'conduction', with Beresford steering the improvising ensemble while trombonist Rutherford playes without external guidance of any kind. A tribute to Rutherford, Beresford's Concerto also acknowledges the springboard for LIO provided by Butch Morris.

Mamosa, a highly disciplined listening percussion trio featuring Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo and Mark Sanders marks mid-point in the programme. Paul Rutherford's Phone In, for orchestra and mobile phones, follows John Cage's advice that if you find a sound really irritating you should incorporate it into a piece of music. A tapestry of timbral contrasts, including sumptuous bass clarinets, double basses, violins, vibes, clipped trumpet tones, drums, chattering saxophones and razor-edged electronics, suffers unseemly interruption from trite mobile ringtones.

Electric guitarist Dave Tucker's Giallo is a highly effective ad hoc conduction that builds layers of sustained tones gradually and inexorably from hush to the brink of pandemonium. The set closes with violinist Philipp Wachsmann's Fanfare for LIO, alternating lean strings and ebullient wind instruments while making the audience participate in an exploration of shifting moods and spatial relationships."

JULIAN COWLEY - THE WIRE 2003

"The seven pieces presented here have been taken from the performance at the 2002 Freedom of the City festival. Not strong enough to top the studio set THE HEARING CONTINUES, this album still lives up to expectations and delivers a hearty 77 minutes of focused group improvisation to prove once more than this ensemble is unique (yes, the star-studded roaster speaks for itself, although it goes way beyond that) and that large-scale structured improvisation is possible after all. Simon H. Fell's Too Busy adds pre-recorded sounds to the orchestra, but the blend is seamless and the piece ranks as a highlight - thanks to the laboratory that is the LIO, Fell is becoming a first-rate composer for improvisers. Ruthless features an energetic Terry Day spitting out a poem about punk attitude and the temptation of fame. The piece gets almost violently eventful. A bit disappointing is the Concerto for Paul Rutherford, part of Steve Beresford's ongoing series of improvised 'conductions' with featured soloist. The trombonist develops a nice parallel discourse, but somehow the piece lacks some spirit. Rutherford¹s own Phone In is much more interesting, and not only because it takes a bite at the existence of mobile phones by using them - actually, the short phone episode two-thirds in is its weakest feature. The piece has stamina, movement and wittiness, all core qualities of the LIO. Dave Tucker's unusually quiet Giallo, essentially an 11-minute crescendo, also deserves mention: however simple the idea, Tucker leads the orchestra through it with brio, reaching a riveting finale."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003

"Glance at the personnel on this record and the range of instruments they bring to bear. Expect a thing of great power and beauty and you won't be disappointed. Listen to the way that the softness of the strings follows the slabs of sound on Simon H Fell's Too Busy. Or how the strings, horns and electronics blur on Terry Day Ruthless to create new tone colours and shapes. On the latter, Day assumes the persona of the demagogue-preacher, as he howls his 'punk' poem as the orchestra thunders behind him.

Steve Beresford contributes Concerto for Paul Rutherford to welcome the trombonist's return to health. Utilising Butch Morris' 'conduction' approach, it's most notable as a masterclass in bravura improvisation but the combination of strings and soprano saxes and later the lilting sound of the orchestra rising in unison behind Rutherford are as lovely as any composition. Rutherford's own Phone In sees him take on that 'bloody nuisance' of the modern world, the mobile phone. On this showing, the Luddites have it. On Mamosa, three of our most gifted percussionists unite in improvisation, and later Dave Tucker's minimalist piece Giallo evokes a quiet, brooding melancholia in tribute to a friend. Philipp Wachsmann's Fanfare closes with appropriate joyful majesty. It's a record that reveals the sound and robust health of London's improv scene, but also how improvisation and contemporary classical composition continue to inform and fertilise each other."

DUNCAN HEINING - JAZZWISE 2003

"With the orchestra's latest release and others, it's more about the sum of the individualistic parts that round out the base musical concepts. The artists' institute colourific musical scenarios, in a manner unlike the traditional jazz or symphonic, orchestral implementations. Consequently, the element of surprise stands as an inherent attribute throughout, where various artists conduct the orchestra on a per track basis. On Concerto for Paul Rutherford - loosely conducted by Steve Beresford - the listener will notice booming accents, contrapuntal statements by the strings section and polytonal textures. Here, Rutherford weaves in and around his band-mates, via a sequence of thorny lines, interspersed with odd harmonic manoeuvres and more. Other highlights include, a delightful percussion trio improvisation by Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo, and Mark Sanders titled Mamosa.

One of the entertaining aspects of this production is rooted within the listener's ability to hone in on certain sections of the orchestra. Sort of a mind-bending aural experience, strangely enhanced by a smattering of pre-recorded sounds, blithe vocals and use of mobile phones. No doubt, the creative process includes subtle stabs at humour to coincide with the interrelationships of the soloists' respective inventions. It's all integrated into a rather cohesive package. (Recommended.)"

GLENN ASTARITA - JAZZ REVIEW 2003

"A wonderful selection of great musicians, LIO is here captured warts and all during a live performance that's as good as you can manage to guess: in fact, the big problem of this kind of setting is that many of the nuances present in the music run the risk being lost in the instrumental mass - and the theatre reverberation doesn't help, of course. That said, there are a couple of fantastic moments that alone are worth this CD, the top being a fantastic Concerto for Paul Rutherford (conceived by Steve Beresford) where the master trombonist draws lots of beautiful sketches, his instrument indicating trajectories and concepts to the very few who will be able to reach such heights. Very nice segments come also from Phone in (and the mobile phones, the great idea for the piece, are barely audible...here's what I meant before) and the final Fanfare for LIO where audience participation is direct. What I'm sure I can affirm, the sound of these souls never retreats into a shell but strongly radiates warmth and technical prowess at the same moment."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003

"The most striking pieces come at the beginning: Simon Fell's Too Busy starts with a burst of frenetic brass and moves through passages of sorrowful violins, Vareseian orchestral textures, and manipulated tapes of John Stevens' voice and bell sounds, in the service of an homage to the late drummer, while Terry Day's Ruthless is a stormy brew of shouted poetry and ensemble swelling on the subject of punk. Percussionists Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo and Mark Sanders get nine of the disc's 77 minutes for a strikingly empathetic and sonically resourceful collective improvisation. Elsewhere, players such as Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill and Paul Rutherford are on hand, but this disc focuses on ensemble work rather than individuals, although Rutherford gets to muse at length on top of the orchestra in Steve Beresford's Concerto conduction."

PAT BUZBY - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2003

"Leaderless but hardly rudderless, a massive entity which takes over a London pub once a month, the London Improvisers Orchestra is an ensemble which has limitless resources of talent and thanks to their method could probably do a CD a week for the foreseeable future if their fans had the money to buy them. This is a quick overview of their most recent CD release, FREEDOM OF THE CITY 2002, and an appreciation of their willingness to keep on in the rapidly diminishing arena where new music is welcome. The first thing I like about this outfit is though perhaps they do not have the compositional tidiness of the often equally adventurous and late lamented London Jazz Composers Orchestra, their textures are all their own and after four years of existence they are about as far out as I have heard anyone get in a classical orchestra structure.

This CD gives a very solid idea of what the LIO is capable of and how it maintains its uniqueness. Certainly the improvising talents of all the members are evident upon listening, to say nothing of how well they follow one another and react to performance motions that their fellows haven't yet made; in fact, many I've played this for refuse to believe that literally nothing here is written down, that the compositions really are 'group compositions' or 'conductions,' if you will. A musician with some cogent ideas will stand before the rest of the group and assist them in directing the improv through hand gestures, pre-recorded material and cues.

The opening Too Busy here, a Simon H. Fell conduction, is typical of the group's more technical side. Dedicated to the late John Stevens, Fell's memoriam opens with a manic section for horns - an Irish funeral, perhaps, and you've never heard the like - and then cools down into a recitation for the fine string section, percussion, horns, and all in sequence, all beautifully phrased and executed. Funny how seamless it all sounds. Possibly having a fellow musician at the temporary helm gives all in the pit a confidence they may not feel otherwise, and an 'improvised conduction' can theoretically call on a wider palette of sounds anyway, as a classical conductor is channelling the thoughts of one person while at the LIO it's hardly a free-for-all -well, now and again, maybe - but neither is it a dictatorship. Thus, the possibilities for filigree and detail work are literally endless. Anyone will tell you that it doesn't matter how off-the-wall the composer thinks he's getting. If he or she did their job properly it will hang together in the ear. And this does, in its exquisite sense of segue and landscaping, especially in the closing pre-recorded digital rearrangement of the church bells. Beautifully done, and a fitting send-off for one of the mid-20th century's premier drummers.

Vocalist Terry Day, in his liner notes about his own conduction Ruthless, has a right to talk about punk rock and how early on it refused the tyranny of technological prowess; Day himself has a brawling squawk of a voice not far off that of John Lydon or Kevin Coyne. Reading his poem about the horrors as opposed to the necessity of anonymity, Day banks down and tamps up the roaring furnace that is the LIO in full cry. Not a technician, he knows how to get out of the group what's needed anyway. Good silly fun.

Concerto for Paul Rutherford makes me think of how Duke Ellington would take a soloist in his band and write a ditty for him specifically. Steve Beresford wields a large slapping paint brush of a sound to display Rutherford's trombone against, and the result is a great heaving mass of eddies and smears, raindrops a nd floodtides. Against musical abstract expressionism at its most obvious, Rutherford's trombone blats and flurries, cycles and folds in on itself. Some definite moment-by-moment brilliance here.

Mamosa is a treat as well, an improv for the three drummers: Louis Moholo, Tony Marsh and Mark Sanders. Voracious listeners all, it's clear: the snare and cymbal/gong work cascades, pitters and describes these patterns in the air I simply can't come up with a fancy simile for. Arresting, joyful and declamatory.

Rutherford may have turned out to be the de facto star of this CD but it most probably wasn't planned that way; his Phone In is a lengthy wingding mainly for woodwinds that undulates and bounces like a suitcase full of snakes. Slowly the strings and brass meander in, and we're about to cross over into Robert Browning Overture territory -an evocative interlude for piano and clarinet aside when a slow tidal wave of cell phone noises begins to overwhelm the proceeedings. Interrupted at every turn, the instruments attempt to coexist with the intruders but as they have nothing to say (except the standard ring tone, Old MacDonald and Jesu Joy of man's Desiring, all quite maddening in this atmosphere) - even the implacable bass clarinet, at the end, shrugs its shoulders and gives up. There's a humour here in how a vigorous conversation among programmatic and structural equals in this piece is purposely interrupted and decimated by technical gewgaws which we've come to think are so important, some of us won't switch them off when we go see a concert. Those who don't may imply by so doing that maybe art isn't as important to us as we think it is. In which case, why not stay home, because if we don't, Phone In may be the result. Frustrating, but for a reason. After all, Old MacDonald is puerile enough. When it interrupts Evan Parker it's practically an actionable offense.

Guitarist Dave Tucker's Giallo is diverting in that it begins in what Tucker in his liner notes refers to as a 'minimalist' state, grows slowly over ten minutes through added instruments and twists and shifts into a great swelling crescendo of a wavering drone. But as this is a 'conduction,' not a composition, and as a result there is a treat for the closely listening auditor: a wealth of tonal arrows moving within the envelope of sound created, you will hear a sense of detail within said envelope that few composers could write out in their music rooms.

We end here with Philip Wachsmann's Fanfare for the LIO, a fun if messy close to the CD, which nicely rounds out this program with more tendrils and shoots Roman-candling in all directions.

As I may have implied, I apologise for not being able to single out many of the players in the group, but since it is an Improvisers Orchestra, as opposed to an Improviser's, unison passages are almost always the rule. The LIO's a freight train with many moving parts, and sometimes it slows down to let you admire the scenery. Just not always. See you at the Red Rose the next time I'm in London!"

KEN EGBERT - TONE CLUSTERS 2003

 

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