ALAN TOMLINSON alto & tenor trombones
STEVE BERESFORD electronics & objects
ROGER TURNER drum set & percussion
1 - E1 - 3:21
2 - N1 - 4:02
3 - E2 - 2:43
4 - N2 - 8:55
5 - E3 - 1:09
6 - EC3 - 9:34
7 - E4 - 1:45
8 - W4 - 12:16
9 - N5 - 1:58
10 - E5 - 12:27
11 - W7 - 3:54
Digital studio recording made in London
by Mike Dailey - 2002 July 24
Total time 62:58
All previously unissued
Is this a record? As the first full-length documentation of Alan Tomlinson since his 1980 solo LP issued by Bead and the 1986 FERALS (with Hugh Davies, Phil Minton & Roger Turner) on Leo, it must be. Most of you will know about Roger Turner, who has appeared on several recordings, and about Steve Beresford, who has appeared on even more. But Alan Tomlinson might be a less familiar name - though you should check out the Emanem CDs of THE ALL ANGELS CONCERTS (4209) and the London Improvisers Orchestra's PROCEEDINGS (4201) for more. (He has also been recorded with John Stevens, Kahondo Style, Peter Brötzmann, and the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.)
If this IS a record, it's a varied one. Try N1, for example, where someone trapped inside a trombone is pleading to be let out - a kind of demented speaking in tongues. Or EC3, which at times sounds like the Sabre Dance remixed by Xenakis. Or N2, a subdued and faintly unhappy track, where the sounds blend so closely that it's hard to know who's to blame.
On other tracks, AT can invoke the lugubrious dignity of English brass band music, he can move instantaneously from a murmur to a howl and back again, he can play off the acoustics of the room by whirling round on one heel and spraying sounds in all directions, he can play tunefully and with immense power. He is as alert to the comic potential of all that sliding about as he is to the most advanced techniques.
If I mention AT particularly, it's only because of his rarity value. The recording is a group creation - all three appear on all tracks. It's intriguing that when three such strong players are given their freedom, the music is often so quiet and subtle. This is not a music which tries to pass off stamina as inventiveness, and you never feel that time is being filled up for the sake of it. All the same, it's edge-of-the-seat stuff, really.
If you're not familiar with the group's music, you have some catching up to do. Get on with it, then - you won't regret it. And if you come across a copy of AT's Bead record, don't hesitate. He was excellent then, and he has persisted in his folly in the decades since. A reissue is called for - but in the meanwhile there's this, and the other Emanem CDs. Things are looking up.
RICHARD LEIGH (2003)
"TRAP STREET offers what for some will be a first glimpse of the trombonist's technique, which is not so much extended as elastically stretched. He conjures a vast range of sounds from his instrument, few of them conventionally associated with brass playing. There are clicks, whistles and long, flatulent tones; more rarely, he explores the trombone's vocal properties with what sounds like rarefied speech. Beresford is a brilliant pianist and arranger, but here he concentrates on tiny electronic effects, while Turner largely gives his drum kit the day off and contents himself with a grab-bag of sound-producing objects. Like label-mate Paul Rutherford (also grievously under-recorded as a solo artist), Tomlinson has managed to combine abstract improvisation with genuine drama and feeling."
RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2004
"Although active since at least two decades, London trombonist Alan Tomlinson was keeping a very low profile. TRAP STREET reveals the width of his talent to a generation of free improv fans who never crossed his 1980 solo LP. But despite the fact that Tomlinson¹s name comes first on the bill, this is a trio session and Beresford (on electronics and objects, no piano) and Roger Turner (drums) are crucial to the resulting music. All three like to explore small, unusual or accidental sounds. The trombone becomes an extension of the human body: it moans, farts, grumbles and screams. It can sing too, but it seems to be reluctant to do so. The electronics are quirky, playful, constantly on the move. Even when they stand relatively still, you can feel that they're just waiting to respond to a sound from the other instruments. Buzzes answer moans, soft bleeps intertwine with spitting sounds. Turner spends as much time handling tiny percussion instruments than playing the drum kit and loudness has little to do with the type of activity he chooses. Acute listening is the key aspect of this trio¹s music. The quieter it gets, the more gripping it becomes, as can be witnessed in N2 and the last third of E5. Seven of the 11 tracks are short, four minutes and under, which gives the album a pleasant fast pace. Shortness is not always a good feature in free improv, but this trio makes it sound convincing. E3 (one minute nine seconds) and N5 (one minute 58) say all they have to say, instead of sounding like fragments. This is excellent free improv of the more abstract kind."
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003
"Once again Britain's Emanem label has provided us with an essential document of that country's renegade improv scene. For those unfamiliar with the label, think of Knitting Factory with a lot more attitude and less irony.
The sound of Tomlinson's trombone is unlike that of any other player. In one of his more peculiar techniques, he imitates the animal kingdom - apes, tigers, elephants, a kitten's purring, it's all there. Notice the monkey laugh that permeates E2 amidst the scattershot percussion and xylophone sampling. N1 provides another angle on Tomlinson's unique attack, here ascenting to a violent speech-like impediment that dissolves into a free jazz structure, fusing with Beresford's electronics and producing a whirlwind jumble of sonic abrasiveness that only Turner's insistent percussion can calm. Refusing to settle into a particular groove, several of the pieces on TRAP STREET are surprisingly quiet - both N2 and W7 are not afraid to play within the confines of both lower decibels and silence.
Though all three musicians work as equals throughout the disc, the exploratory trombone work of Tomlinson acts as the focal point, with both Turner and Beresford providing varying moods. The improvisations within TRAP STREET follow an almost inscrutable logic in which every sound, note, progression, and angle leads to a foregone conclusion. Nothing feels out of place and likewise nothing feels excessively daring. The three gel together as one, refusing to upstage one another, instead choosing to focus on a cohesive end result."
EVERETT JANG PERDUE - DUSTED 2003
"This is trombonist Alan Tomlinson's first full-length album since long out-of-print offerings on Bead & Leo, and the fact that his work on the alto and tenor instruments seems to have gone unrecorded for so long is to be regretted, as it's outstanding. On TRAP STREET he's joined by the ever surprising Steve Beresford (electronics and objects) and the ludicrously inventive Roger Turner (percussion) in a fine example of what the London scene is particularly good at: strong personalities meeting and playing together without feeling any need to upstage each other. Beresford's objects might be pocket sized, but he can easily match Turner's seemingly limitless energy and Tomlinson's lungpower. At time raucous and ebullient, at times introvert and ghostly, TRAP STREET is another terrific outing from Martin Davidson's excellent label."
DAN WARBURTON - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2003
"Alan Tomlinson has been active on the London improvising scene for over 20 years, and we're so accustomed to his presence that it's always assumed that he's been well recorded. Thankfully, this studio session is a suitably impressive summation of hid 'boning prowess.
There's a barely controlled tension from the outset, a sense of compressed action that's obsessed with minute detail. Only rarely do the three players release themselves from this self-imposed bondage. Steve Beresford has deliberately limited himself to primitivist electronics, setting up pulses, tiny wrenches and singing tones, often operating on the level of what sounds like sensitive lead-waggling. Roger Turner rarely moves to his full kit, but his rare outbursts with bass and floor tom hold more power in their scarcity. Beresford appears to leave the clowning to Alan Tomlinson. Even though we can only imagine his antics, the alto and tenor trombones are clearly hoisted up towards the studio ceiling, or swept in a circular motion, burbled, grumbled and slavered into, and muted with loose metal as they ramble garrulously.
N1 is a buzzing nest, with Turner gathering clumps of low strung skin, shifting from busy density to a near stillness. N2 opens with tiny scraping and fiddling sounds, and by this time the session's major characteristic is clear. It conjures images of forest animal dialogue, with each of the trio favouring chatter, cackling and covert leaf-mulch activity."
MARTIN LONGLEY - THE WIRE 2003
"Here we have a cracked trio that is firmly 'in the tradition'. Of course the tradition at hand is that particularly crazed, conversational notion of spontaneous collective interplay honed in the London improv scene; a tradition that Tomlinson, Beresford, and Turner have been poking and prodding at for three decades now. This is freewheeling improvisation that tosses subversive humour, situationist theatricality, and rough-shod abstraction into a blender and punches the puree button with glee. Tomlinson's trombone smears and blats are thrown up against Beresford's jangled sprays of cheap electronics and Turner's driving percussive clatter. This is electro-acoustic improv of a whole different sort. Nothing restrained or 'reductivist' here. That is not to say that this is music without subtlety or intricacy. They can drop to tiny gestures and quiet detail. But those sections are then used as launching pads to caterwaul off into antic bluster and hyperactive ruckus. In lesser hands, this kind of thing can fall apart quickly. But these three have lightening-quick reflexes, keen ears, and commanding presence.
Tomlinson is a particular star, whether whispering the quietest of breaths or braying with feisty abandon. Though a long-time, active player, he hasn't recorded much. Between this and his imposing solo on the recent compilation THE ALL ANGELS CONCERTS he is making up for lost time. Turner is a master at these sorts of settings, darting around his extended kit with pinpoint attack as he moves from agitated sheets of rattling percussion, bells and cymbals to thundering drums. Beresford's electronics fill in the cracks, gluing things together with whirring buzzes, reverb-heavy oscillating tones, madcap swoops, and snapping clicks and static. As the improvisations surge along, focus is constantly shifted around the group, whether through muted interchange or bounding counterpoint. Extended explorations are interspersed with compact interludes, developing a dynamic flow to the set. Through it all, it is their boundless energy and prickly invention that keeps this tradition fresh."
MICHAEL ROSENSTEIN - THE SQUID'S EAR 2003
"This is a record you have to catch on at the very beginning - no thinking too much, no analysis or excess of words. Though it's a perfect team work, it also represents the single musician's touch very evidently and it's a demonstration of how abandoning conventions with class. The trombone-propelled creativity of Alan Tomlinson is one of the most engaging and inventive you can get these days, only comparable to the very geniuses (like Paul Hubweber or Paul Rutherford, just to name a couple). His sound is in such a great shape, it's projected everywhere in the stereo image and says 'go to hell' to any usual method of playing. Steve Beresford's 'electronics and objects' are a constant, intelligent and evocative presence from top to bottom, painting beautiful contrasts and adding more than a stratus of pluri-dimensional ambiences to the set. Roger Turner is a drummer who defies any categorisation; his complex artistry could easily rack the brains of the unprepared, but those who know will find his contribute to TRAP STREET positively gorgeous."
MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003
"From chaotic percussion patterns to spontaneous and original trombone sounds and phrases (there is even some speaking through the trombone in tracks like N1), here we have eleven original and experimental compositions where the three musicians show their talent and their quest for new sounds. It is really good to listen to Beresford creating a basement for the tracks with the electronics, and then listening to Turner´s twisted rhythms followed by Tomlinson´s demented sounds. This is pure experimentation where the sound of the trombone is essential to achieve the sound range that the musicians have imagined."
FEDERICO MARONGIU - MUSIC EXTREME
"Finally, an ensemble which understands the atmospherics of free music. TRAP STREET launches into unmetered and deliciously masterful cognizances of how abstraction has its roots in delirious, sometimes sacred, fully fleshed nightmares. Too often, as we all wincingly know, just any asshole spitting into a mouthpiece, maniacally plucking a string, or slamming a hamfist down on a keyboard or drum kit has come to be rapturously beatified by various inky brickbrains in the print world, hence the bad rap this crucial genre has come to be burdened with. The CD's liner notes are fey and impart no sense whatsoever of the magnitude of the release, settling merely for some rattling prose about nothing. The unutterably elegant dementia of the 11 songs here is impossible to describe - the only time the thing even vaguely approaches normalcy is in the final few seconds of N5, where a brief rock guitar passage is quoted, then dumped in the trash. Tomlinson handles the winds so beautifully that he brings his instruments once again into an elevated setting rarely modernly heard; Beresford emits electronics behind the trio but also interjects a constant foreground presence, flattering, contrasting, berating, dawdling; Turner's all over the joint on drums and percussion, not a rhythm segment but fully invested in the conversation, as alive as his compeers.
There's an intelligence imbuing this gig that's simultaneously dazzling and grotesque. Too, the plethora of subtleties is astonishing in terms of offsetting quietudes, interplay, and individual voicings. TRAP STREET is so far off the scale that it reinvents hope for this exceedingly difficult genre."
MARC S. TUCKER - EI MAGAZINE 2003
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