LONDON IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA

PROCEEDINGS

EMANEM 4201

Currently out of stock


 

 

CHRIS BURN, MATT DAVIS, ROLAND RAMANAN, IAN SMITH trumpets,
GAIL BRAND, ALAN TOMLINSON trombones,
NEIL METCALFE flute, TERRY DAY bamboo pipes,
HARRISON SMITH, ALEX WARD clarinets,
JOHN BUTCHER, TOM CHANT, LOL COXHILL, CAROLINE KRAABEL, ADRIAN NORTHOVER, EVAN PARKER saxophones,
NIGEL COOMBES, MEE, JOE TOWNSEND violins,
PHILLIPP WACHSMANN viola, NIKOS VELIOTIS cello,
JOHN EDWARDS, SIMON H FELL double basses,
RHODRI DAVIES harp, JOHN BISSET guitar, STEVE BERESFORD piano,
ANSUMAN BISWAS, STEVE NOBLE, MARK SANDERS percussion,
ADAM BOHMAN, KAFFE MATTHEWS electronics
 

A1 - Concerto for Alan Tomlinson conducted by Steve Beresford featuring Alan Tomlinson - 8:24
A2 - Proceeding 1 improvisation - 14:34
A3 - On/Off conducted by Evan Parker featuring Kaffe Matthews - 5:38
A4 - Monster's Milk conducted by Dave Tucker - 21:40
A5 - Proceeding 2 improvisation - 17:54
B1 - Virus by Caroline Kraabel - conducted by CK & John Edwards - 10:01
B2 - Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85) by Simon H Fell -
conducted by SHF featuring Rhodri Davies, John Edwards, Steve Noble & Lol Coxhill - 10:48
B3 - Changing Places - Summer 99 by Philipp Wachsmann -
conducted by Adam Bohman, Chris Burn, Caroline Kraabel, Mee & PW - 6:32
B4 - Notes For Terry Day by Caroline Kraabel - conducted by CK featuring Terry Day - 5:56
B5 - Wstrws by Rhodri Davies - featuring Chris Burn & Matt Davis - 7:57
B6 - the barn by Chris Burn - conducted by CB - 8:24
B7 - Press Summary by Adam Bohman - conducted by AB - 12:05

Digital studio recording by STEVE LOWE
London (Gateway Studios) - 1999 JULY 23
Total time 131:18

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Improvising is normally a small group activity. However, there is often the temptation to explore the possibilities of larger ensemble improvisations. For instance, in London in the 1960s and 1970s, the were the free jazz type big bands of Mike Westbrook and Chris McGregor, the contemporary composition-oriented ensembles of Barry Guy and Paul Rutherford, and the more intuitive experiments of John Stevens. There were also purely free improvising large groups such as the Continuous Music Ensemble (which became The People Band) and the Alternative Music Orchestra. The London Improvisers Orchestra is thus part of a long and very varied heritage.

This Orchestra was put together for a Butch Morris "London Skyscraper" tour of Britain in the autumn of 1997, which left the participants feeling exuberant with the experience of improvising in a large ensemble. However, some of the musicians involved felt that there were other possibilities that had not been fully explored on the tour. A group (instigated by Steve Beresford, Evan Parker and Ian Smith, who were later joined by Caroline Kraabel and Pat Thomas) decided to keep the orchestra together, and see what could be achieved under the direction of some of the participating musicians.

By the time of this recording, after nearly a year of monthly concerts (and rehearsals) held at the Red Rose in north London, the Orchestra had become both successful and adventurous, musically speaking. The regular playing situations have resulted in the band getting better and better. (The orchestra has continued its monthly sessions since then.) A recent visitor to one of these sessions was amazed at how the musicians listened to each other, pointing out that such sensitivity was unlikely to happen in any other city.

Some of the musicians in the original "Skyscraper" project didn't continue with the exploration, while other musicians who weren't on the tour subsequently decided to join in. The personnel has fluctuated somewhat, depending on people's availability, but has always embraced a diverse mixture of ages and experience. When setting up a recording session, such a large grouping inevitably made it impossible to find a date when everybody (including the studio) was available. The date chosen was the one that suited most people - it is unfortunate that such leading Orchestra members as Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas could not be there. Even on the day, some musicians had to leave early to fulfil other commitments - Alan Tomlinson could only stay for the first two pieces recorded, while Lol Coxhill had to leave before the last two.

One may ask why an Improvisers Orchestra has composers and/or conductors. The two free improvisations go to show that they do not actually need them. However, various people have come up with different ways to shape and direct the music, without using any conventional musical scores. Thus Dave Tucker's "conduction" is an example of the conductor determining who should be playing with what intensity at any given time. But he in turn is influenced by the feedback of what is actually played. Steve Beresford and Evan Parker work the same way, except that in both the examples heard here, one musician is free to play in a sort of concerto situation. Chris Burn achieves something similar, but uses a pre-determined sequence of who should be playing with whom to explore some of the myriad of small combinations that exist in such an orchestra. Rhodri Davies investigates the potential quietness of a large ensemble, while Caroline Kraabel explores the organic processes of such a sensitive body. Simon H Fell's composition is perhaps the most controlled piece heard here, but even this leaves a considerable amount of freedom. Finally, there are two delightfully subversive attempts to produce random chance music - the antithesis of an improvising orchestra - by dividing the musicians into unrelating individuals (Adam Bohman) or independent sections (Philipp Wachsmann). All of the conductors and/or composers are members of the Orchestra, except for Dave Tucker who has performed with several of the musicians in other contexts as a guitarist.

The members of the Orchestra are a small percentage of the remarkable pool of improvising musicians based in London, which Evan Parker so rightly calls "the richest music scene in the world". (A few of the participants are normally involved in adjacent areas of music.) One could extol the virtues and achievements of all of the musicians, but that would make this booklet overly large. However, I must mention Terry Day - a pioneering improviser, who goes back to the Continuous Music Ensemble in the mid-1960s. For the last decade he has suffered from a debilitating illness which has made him virtually housebound. He has recently made a special effort to get out and about a bit, and the Red Rose gigs with the Orchestra have been his first public performances in several years. Unable to perform on his former principal instrument (percussion), he now plays home-made bamboo pipes that can be heard most clearly on Caroline Kraabel's Notes. Welcome back, Terry!

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2000)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"An improvising ensemble of this size necessitates special requirements among the participants - the kind of careful listening and interactive response for which British free improvisers are known. The pair of completely ad hoc performances here illustrate this, and suggest a true 'concerto for orchestra', where the details of design and direction are left solely to the spontaneous decisions of the participants.

Each of the remaining pieces is shaped in some part by the personality of the conductor(s) and the distinct strategies they employ. Several, such as the Concerto for Alan Tomlinson (conducted by Steve Beresford), Notes for Terry Day (conducted by Caroline Kraabel), and On/Off (conducted by Evan Parker), feature a particular soloist who is the focal point around whom the improvised accompaniment and residual clatter coalesce. In other cases, the amount of authority the conductor wields varies greatly, from simple 'start/stop' cueing to the 'wild, intense, compressed, shaped, but spontaneous' of Philipp Wachsmann's Changing Places - Summer 99, in which five conductors act as traffic cops for the various orchestra sections. The amount and style of predetermined direction range from John Zorn-type 'game rules' (Caroline Kraabel's Virus) to written instructions (Rhodri Davies' Wstrws) to a radical deconstruction of an unnamed (and possibly imaginary) Ellington/Strayhorn ballad (Simon H Fell's Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85)) to a score created from a scribbled-upon press release (Adam Bohman's Press Summary).

Musically, there are similarities and also vast differences from piece to piece. The instrumental vocabulary used by the participants includes extended sonorities, rootless free-jazz phrasing, and concise New Music intervallic relationships - sometimes all at the same time. The effect can be quite like some of Ligeti's or Xenakis' more adventurous, complex scores - a blur of merging sound masses; brief, violent explosions and then a sorting-out of sonic debris; sparse, pointillist colours; an exhilarating if indiscernible Tower of Babel. Such music may be an acquired taste. The point is, these musicians are participating in important and exciting activities, making discoveries and creating music that otherwise could not exist, and cannot be re-created. They're keeping the 'new' in New Music alive."

ART LANGE - FANFARE 2000

"The group employs Butch Morris's ideas of conducted improvisation, but broadens their scope somewhat: different members of the orchestra and invited guests take turns to conduct, and the conductions supplement the traditional manual cues with unusual visual aids: sheets of paper containing symbols or information, films projected on screens, and so on. The live shows always conclude with a group improvisation, thereby allowing a more satisfyingly full exploration of the sonic possibilities afforded by a group of this size.

The group has rapidly become a firm fixture on the London scene, and affords residents of the city who make the effort to attend a close-up glimpse of a musical medium - orchestral improvisation - which for financial and logistical reasons is otherwise infrequently viewable.

This number of players present would at face value seem unworkably large, but all participants play simultaneously only occasionally, and the recording allows as fair a representation as could be hoped for of the group's full acoustic range; in any case, those approaching PROCEEDINGS wanting to be able to identify individual instrumental voices have their priorities a bit confused. The first disc quickly demonstrates that LIO's playing - in two group improvisations (massed droning tides of chopping, squeaking, sawing sound which rise and fall with a slow but powerful pulse, inexorably building into massive crescendoes) and three conductions - is by and large less formal and noticeably more playful than Morris's slightly arch constructions. Steve Beresford's spiky Concerto showcases the antics of maverick trombonist Alan Tomlinson; Evan Parker's conduction sees Kaffe Matthews' sampler taking on the orchestra's collective might. Even guitarist Dave Tucker's Monster's Milk conduction, though utilising many of the characteristics that have annoyed me in the live context - grouping players into uninteresting instrumental arrangements, and employing trite compositional means (notably gradual rises in volume followed by sudden cutaways) - sounds pretty good in this company.

The nebulous conception of Caroline Kraabel's Virus - an envisaging of the players as an organism and the (two) conductors as regulating organs, with the players instructed "not to consciously choose what to play but just to let the simplest sound happen in response to the conducting" - gives rise to a startlingly organic and unpredictable momentum of playing; Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85), Simon Fell's elegy for the great band-leader, is re-presented in all its lilting nostalgia.

Phil Wachsmann's Changing Places - Summer 99 divides the orchestra into four sections, each with a different conductor, all overseen by a fifth, leading to clashing, crashing flourishes; Kraabel's Notes For Terry Day assigns each player one note, which they are entitled to either play or not play, with London improv vet Day soloing on bamboo pipes on top of them. The following two conductions limit themselves in their deployment of the orchestra's resources: Rhodri Davies's Wstrws, originally composed for IST, is a spacious, spare graphic score which sets two trumpets against a carefully considered succession of instruments; Chris Burn's the barn comprises a series of duos and trios of predetermined length, methodically working its way through the available musicians. PROCEEDINGS concludes with Adam Bohman's Press Summary, in which the musicians interpret - by reading aloud or playing in response to - edited press releases from Bohman's work place, resulting in a babbling tapestry of instrumental hubbub and random vocal interjections.

The playing is of a high standard throughout, and considered together, these conductions make for a commendably thorough exploration of the orchestra's not inconsiderable range and resources. Most of the conductions will be familiar to those who made it to a reasonable number of LIO's monthly gigs in 1999. For those not fortunate enough to have monthly access to large group playing of this quality, PROCEEDINGS is an essential purchase."

NICK CAIN - OPPROBRIUM 2001

"PROCEEDINGS is a double album, the first released by the label Emanem. Disc 1 contains five pieces, three of them over 14 minutes. There are three conducted and two free improvisations titled Proceeding 1 and 2, hence the title of the whole. Concerto for Alan Tomlinson opens disc 1 with brio, the orchestra providing a perfect backdrop for the trombonist to shine. Dave Tucker's leading of Monster's Milk must also be mentioned for the richness in the constrasts he can get out of the orchestra. Disc 2 contains shorter (seven, none breaking the 12-minute threshold) and conceptualized tracks. Caroline Kraabel's Virus has the orchestra acting as a living organism in which a virus infects one organ after the other - a very good idea that translates almost graphically in the music. Simon H. Fell's Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85) is the most written piece, taking 100 beats from an Ellington-Strayhorn ballad and stretching them on 10 minutes. The result is stunning. Also worth of note are Notes for Terry Day, a piece giving room to Day's bamboo pipes (Day was a percussionist until a degenerative disease forced him to quit; the Orchestra is his first musical venture out of percussion); Burn's the barn makes use of various subsections of the orchestra in duets and trios; Wachsmann's Changing Places splits the orchestra in four section, each with it's own conductor! All tracks were recorded at Gateway Studios in London on July 23 1999 and the session is presented in its entirety. Sound quality is impeccable. A 24-page booklet gives much details on the orchestra and the pieces performed.

On PROCEEDINGS, the listener is invited to discover the scope and the richness of the possibilities a large-scale orchestra can offer in an improvisational context. The broad palette covered here in terms of sound, dynamics and contrasts eliminates any chance of monotony. This record is firm statement that the London improv scene alive and kicking and still has plenty to say. A must. Very strongly recommended ****."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - DELIRE ACTUAL 2000

"PROCEEDINGS could also serve as a – comprehensive guide to large-scale improvisational deployment – or perhaps a nice composite glimpse of the current British Free-Improvisation movement. A 2-CD set featuring a Who’s Who of modern day stylists along with those who helped write the book, PROCEEDINGS is a grand exposition of loosely composed motifs based upon on divergent topics.

Led by various conductors, the compositions are often colourful, contemplative, playfully boisterous, witty and charming, as the musicians coalesce for a series of ambitious undertakings. Within the liners there is a detailed matrix referencing the personnel and conductors while each piece is annotated and provides the listener with comments and/or frameworks for the overall mindset behind the musical - proceedings. Hence, these folks construct themes around unorthodox subject matter yet delve into the music with theatrical sensibilities. Throughout, the music is marked by pre-set ideologies and motifs often conveyed in whimsical or investigative fashion as the players portray vital roles within the context of the ongoing developments. PROCEEDINGS is theatrical and quite animated yet more importantly, teeming with sly ingenuity and absorbing improvisation amid light-hearted doses of fun and frolic!"

GLEN ASTARITA - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2000

"The music is dense but never heavy or cluttered. It is mostly structured, in ways that allow for organic improvisations, and the old chestnut of composition versus improvisation is faced head on. If I enjoyed the totally improvised tracks most here, there is no doubt that the structured approach refreshes the tradition and leads to beautiful results. Some pieces are inevitably more successful than others. I love Dave Tuckerıs light touch on Monsterıs Milk and the typically complex ideas Simon H Fell brings to his Ellington tribute Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85). But, as Iım sure all the contributors would agree, itıs the playing that makes this one of this yearıs must-haves."

GUS GARSIDE - RUBBERNECK 2000

"PROCEEDINGS is a two-CD document of the London Improvisers Orchestra whose collective improvisations are much closer to the ideas and methodologies of contemporary classical music than they are to the mainstream traditions of big band swing. Even when that tradition is referenced by Simon H Fell's centennial tribute (Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85)), Fell stresses that the 18-piece ensemble is 'working without conventional written music of any kind, and with only the slightest links with the 'jazz tradition'. The beauty of this project is illuminated by the collective free improvisation Proceeding 1, a minimalist dirge that builds into a microtonal crescendo as elongated lines overlap to sustain an intensifying organic structure of anarchic lyrical cells.

The London Improvisers Orchestra proves that it is possible to expand the radical techniques of pioneers like Derek Bailey and Evan Parker and sustain them on a communal scale, a fantastic achievement.

PROCEEDINGS is a contemporary creative masterpiece that includes such triumphs as Virus by Caroline Kraabel, Press Summary by Adam Bohman, and On/Off an inspired spontaneous idea of Evan Parker's that utilises live interaction between a 28-piece ensemble and Kaffe Matthews on sampler."

DAVID LEWIS - CODA 2001

 

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