VERYAN WESTON piano
JOHN EDWARDS double bass
MARK SANDERS percussion
A1 - GATEWAY ONE - 13:09
A2 - GATEWAY TWO - 11:59
A3 - GATEWAY THREE - 11:15
A4 - GATEWAY FOUR - 15:24
A5 - GATEWAY FIVE - 15:33
A6 - GATEWAY SIX - 9:55
All previously unissued
The logic of free improvisation could be summed up as follows: the music could at every moment be other than it is, and yet at every moment it is what it seems it should be. This means merely a state of balance, in itself only the point between ascent and fall, where they slow each other down without any of these moments having an absolute value. Neither the first, appearing in a movement born of silence, already snatched forward by becoming; nor even the last, which here often depends, and with such coherence, on a consummate art of suspense.
In this game, all the qualities of interplay are not quite enough. It is also necessary that nothing be played without remaining always in play. So that each person's playing makes all play, and the collective playing creates the stakes in this game. Playing and making play. Playing the game means being faithful to what is at stake but also discarding - digressing and stepping aside. The game is to make others play.
On this trio's stage, many parts are often being played at once, panels are sliding, moving false perspectives into the centre and leaving the real passage to a mirror in the corner; one will recognise it only later when the next hand has already been dealt. From the art of those who built the pyramids our musicians have borrowed the colossal energy required to construct these solar mountains of simple and perfect forms, but especially they've retained the genius for labyrinths, these tortuous shadow-mazes which lead to the obscure secret heart. Heart of silence, that staggering end of adventurous exploration, the hollow cast of a mobile, its negative, here reached and opened several times. Nothing conceptual about this silence: it is a heart.
The surface pantonalism of Weston which is at once fluent and laconic conceals no end of melodies in its crosshatching, a proliferation of furtive cells, a saturation of ladders coming and going between the levels of a veritably Escherian mill, driven by its own falling. This music evaporates as magically as it condenses, spreads out its coral innards, digests or rejects constantly all the materials to hand. Mark Sanders produces such materials in abundance: brassy whistlings, puddles of sheet-iron, bundles of sticks, piles of logs, outpourings from many sources. John Edwards lights up the scene, makes edges glow, absorbs the flat tint and gives a profile to the shadows scanned by undulating pulses. And underground, the roles are exchanged. For here, men, music, are all one: the brains and the hands, thought, action and sonic transaction are but different states of matter organising itself. Mobile and labyrinth are just two images of this changing of distribution of energies and densities. Each listener may discover these models whenever they manifest themselves most clearly.
The music of this trio is continuous. It folds in on itself, loosens, folds again, vanishes then bursts out. Sometimes it seems to deny itself, to erase itself the way that when a flock of lapwings makes a flight turn their dark multitude shines suddenly, brightest white, mirroring like a shoal of fish. It pursues itself between these reappearances: life has neither end nor form. Its forms end unceasingly in it, indifferent to these abandoned shells. Given off by duration. The wonder - this is the uniqueness of the ensemble - is that this happens within a kind of stylistic limbo which in today's musical topography accumulates handicaps: a piano, tempered instrument, black keys, white keys, fixed keys; a piano trio (litany here: from Earl Hines through Cecil Taylor, and the rest…) etc. Trapped in this network of references, our three 'Machine-men' flow like water through the nets. Mobile mirror of the Great Mobile. The water of life. Free, the source of all the stories. Of universal memory, the unfindable memory of time.
PHILIPPE ALEN (2004)
Translated by CAROLINE KRAABEL
"This has to be a record of the year."
PETER STUBLEY 2005
"A recording as grand as GATEWAY TO VIENNA, by such talented improvisers as pianist Veryan Weston, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Mark Sanders, invites hyperbolic prose of epic proportions. How does one guarantee, halfway through the year, that an album could be 'one of the best of 2006'? Should a critic risk clichés like 'redefines the piano trio'? Can a writer even hope, in a few hundred words, to evoke anything about a recording so enigmatic, non-idiomatic, uncontrived and wholly satisfying as this?
The fact that the record will live on in the collections of those wise enough to buy it while the review will be soon forgotten is small comfort. In truth, all a reviewer can do is provide some brief context and then sit back and feel happy for whatever nameless souls might end up with one of the little pearls buried in the sand dune of new compact discs. Perhaps the writer had some influence over some few people in purchasing the disc, but that's of no consequence as long as they get it.
Solos and extended technique are kept to a minimum, with precedence given to group-think. The first disc is more focused, with six tracks from a 2003 studio session that fall in the 10- to 15-minute range. The second is a 2002 concert recording of two 30-minute-plus pieces and so has more of the wide ranging feel of free improvisation and a sound quality impressive for a live date."
KURT GOTTSCHALK - ALL ABOUT JAZZ NEW YORK 2006
"Pianist Veryan Weston has never been content being what Lester Young once called a 'repeater pencil'. Whether solo, in groups, or on keyboard instruments of all descriptions and from multiple eras, his playing continually bears the fruits of intense study and absorption in tandem with a relentless desire to explore and express. Bassist John Edwards and percussionist Mark Sanders are perfect foils for such an approach, and this epic double-disc set, their second release for Emanem, is one of the finest albums I've heard so far this year, in any genre.
By design, the two discs are simultaneously polarized and unified, the first comprising six medium-length pieces, all recorded in a London studio in 2003. On one level, they are exercises in moment-to-moment disunity, as if Weston's multivalent musical rhetoric is being presented in summary. Every gesture is supported and enhanced by Sanders and Edwards, Weston's miniature two-part invention midway through the first piece with Edwards' arco work filling out the texture forming only one referentially interactive instant.
Such topoi abound throughout the six-part cycle, and while I am certainly reading imaginary compositional elements into improvised structures, introspectively sustained tones or chords are often complemented by wonderfully transparent and infinitely varied percussion and bass, unifying what I hear as timbral explorations that thrive on diversity. The opening minutes of part Five, some of the most beautifully and quietly introspective moments of the set, are nevertheless suffused with the bristling energy born of ceaseless sonic investigation, Edwards' arco work often in dizzyingly high registers, Sanders' bowing and tinkling often unidentifiable but mesmerizing.
While Gateway is just that, a portal into the trio's constantly morphing sound world, the two epics on disc two, express similar concerns in the extreme, each track being well over 30 minutes in length. The 2002 live recording is a shade less immediate, but the group dynamic is often more intense, the concert environment facilitating an even higher level of engagement. Each gesture, in whatever rhythmic or tonal language and however articulated, becomes fodder for group interplay of the highest calibre.
The stuttering brush-thumped percussion and piano duet that brings the first piece to an abrupt but impeccably timed conclusion might well be put down to luck, but Edwards' lightning-fast adoption of every tonal device in Weston's arsenal speaks to years of interactive listening. Weston veers convincingly between post-Bergian arpeggiated sequences and obsessive Monk-like hammerings, fully examining each ramification of each minute sonic block before discarding it and moving effortlessly on to fresher, deeper-down things. When Edwards takes the lead with buzzes, pings, thuds, and sudden pops followed by unbelievably long sustains, Sanders always discovers another of his seemingly infinite but perfectly gauged array of rustles, groans, clatters, and scrapes while Weston is content to provide a momentarily polyrhythmic backdrop.
In the end, it is each player's willingness to mould and be moulded by dialogue that makes GATEWAY TO VIENNA such a powerful and rewarding experience. Friends of 'free' jazz, contemporary classical, and of the piano trio, not to mention those wishing to investigate any of the above, should not miss out!"
MARC MEDWIN - ONE FINAL NOTE 2005
"If I'd heaped any more praise on GATEWAY, they'd have edited it out - I can't say too many positive things about it. What a masterpiece!"
MARC MEDWIN - private email 2005
"Veryan Weston likes to take a butterfly-flight path around the keyboard, nudging chains of notes into shape across a series of whirling repetitions. He's intensely alert to nuances of rhythm - the placement and weight of every note matters, even though most are light as flyspecks - but he nonetheless avoids percussiveness: instead, his touch is calm and spidery. Disc A, recorded in Gateway Studios in 2003, is occasionally hushed and almost painfully hesitant, but more typically offers a skittering three-way dialogue that upends the hierarchies of the conventional piano trio. Often it's Edwards who seems to be the lead voice, while Sanders' drumming emphasizes scuttling, tactile sounds that tend to rise to the music's surface: clicks, taps, rattles, pokes and scuffs. Disc B, recorded at a Viennese concert the year before, often finds the three musicians falling into the more traditional roles of piano-plus-rhythm-section. The music is more narrative in feeling, the trio lingering longer on the component episodes and letting the improvisations stretch out luxuriantly (there are only two pieces, each over half an hour long). Emanem has done Weston proud by releasing both these sessions at once: GATEWAY TO VIENNA is essential listening for anyone interested in contemporary piano improvising."
NATE DORWARD - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2005
"The trio's first CD, MERCURY CONCERT, was recorded in 1998, so it's a long-standing ensemble. The initially arresting thing about the group is that it looks just like the traditional piano trio of jazz, the instrumentation identical to the form defined by Bud Powell, Bill Evans, and a host of others. That resemblance is part of the delight, for the three manage to work from deeply within that tradition - whether in sonority, role, or relationship - at the same time that they're dedicated free improvisers.
What distinguishes Weston immediately is an etched clarity of line, a brilliant, rapid-fire articulation that recalls the very best bop pianists - Powell, Eddie Costa, Sonny Clark, et al. - but which has been aligned to an open-ended invention. Edwards is as apt to assume the lead, often with bowed passages in the extreme upper register, while Sanders' vocabulary of sounds extends from thunderous drumming to whistling bowed cymbals and a delicate clatter of bells.
The Gateway pieces may have the sharper edge - they're razor-honed exercises in simultaneity and dialogue, the group style consisting in each member generating lines that tangle with one another in ways that simultaneously address both chance and deliberated response, ultimately presenting a thick weave of sounds in which the listener can follow the threads of a hundred dialogues. In the longer pieces of the Vienna concert, passages expand, spreading out to achieve ever greater depths of meaning and cumulative significance. While these are improvisations, the three musicians concentrate on a continuous pulse and polyrhythmic layering to generate a tremendous momentum that is fed in turn by the level of individual invention, the contrapuntal improvising creating the illusion of a larger ensemble. When the energy ebbs, there are moments of the greatest, delicacy, Weston's vocabulary alive with the harmonic suggestion of Bartok or Schoenberg and Stevens' percussion suggesting the clarity of a monastic ceremony. This is 'state of the art' for the improvising piano trio, circa 2005."
STUART BROOMER - MUSICWORKS 2005
"MERCURY CONCERT had been recorded in 1998 and released in 1999, so this generous update on the Weston-Edwards-Sanders trio is very much welcome. GATEWAY TO VIENNA is a packed 2-CD set showcasing this vivid trio in both studio and live settings. Disc one was recorded at Gateway Studio and presents pianist Veryan Weston, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders in one of their finest hours (one hour 20 minutes, actually). First of all, sound quality is excellent. Most of all, the level of synergetic interplay is exemplary throughout the session. The trio explores a wide range of dynamics stretching from flooring outbursts of energy to extremely delicate conversations with silence (in Gateway Five, a highlight). The pianist has been diversifying his techniques over the past few years and, as a result, his playing has grown into something as unique and identifiable as Steve Beresford's, while eschewing any form of pigeonholing - his resourcefulness is staggering in Gateway Two and Gateway Four. The studio set consists of six medium-length pieces in the 10 to 15 minutes range. It is more focused and listener-demanding than the live set featured on the second disc. Recorded at the Porgy & Bess in Wien (Austria), this performance consists of two 35-40 minute improvisations. The approach is considerably different. The trio sounds more playful but also less intense. Weston and Edwards occasionally engage in jazzier exchanges, and the trio often locks up in a more common form of energetic free improv that, as exciting as it may be (and they do make it exciting), feels a lot more 'comfortable' than the essential material heard on disc 1. It still makes a fine recording - and not a redundant one at that, considering the trio's very short discography. And disc one is alone worth the price of admission, as one of Weston¹s best sessions of late."
FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2005
"When this trio released their previous Emanem CD MERCURY CONCERT in 1999, Veryan Weston was described as 'underrated' and John Edwards and Mark Sanders were described as 'younger, unacclaimed players who are regulars on the London improv circuit'. In the intervening years, Edwards and Sanders have advanced in acclaim, to the point where they are now both much in demand, together or separately, and are the first choice bassist and drummer of many players, including Evan Parker, Spring Heel Jack, and Tony Bevan, as well as Veryan Weston.
Their frequent associations with each other - including their own duo CD, NISUS DUETS - mean that they know each other inside-out and that they spark off each other, endlessly throwing out ideas, most of which are picked up and developed.
However, Veryan Weston is still cruelly underrated. But he continues to produce music that is beautiful, thought-provoking, stimulating, and challenging - usually all at the same time. The reasons for his being underrated are good ones, in my book; he is eclectic, inquisitive, and exploratory rather than ploughing a straight furrow; he is a team player, a collaborator (he works a lot in duos); he might steal the show but he never hogs the limelight.
Considering Edwards and Sanders separately from Weston does overlook the most important aspect of this album; they are a great threesome. They play with the knowledge of and confidence in each other that good football teams develop over time. They are not tentative or hesitant; they seem to know what the others will do next because, in a sense, they do. To see or hear it in action is sure to bring a smile to one's face.
Sometimes - as on Vienna One - the threesome is a lot closer than you might expect to being a jazz trio, except there is no hierarchy, no sense of lead plus support, no background and foreground, just three equals. Weston is not obviously influenced by any jazz antecedents; he has absorbed and assimilated his influences, making them his own. However, much of his vocabulary and syntax is clearly rooted in jazz piano. At other times - say on Gateway Two or other of the studio tracks - they are less jazzy, far more clearly rooted in improvised music, breaking up the rhythm, exchanging short staccato phrases. And while it may be less jazzy it is no less exciting to listen to.
There is a treasure chest of fine music here, and it will take a lot more listening to give a considered judgment. I would recommend you to join in with that enjoyable venture."
JOHN EYLES - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2005
"In this 2-disc set, the Weston/Edwards/Sanders trio is featured both in studio and live setting, with the same scintillating results; five of the six Gateway tracks, recorded at the namesake facilities in London, are orchestrated articulations splintered into unembodied molecules of kindling musicianship while Gateway 5 is a splendid acoustic meditation. The murmurous fecundity of John Edwards' playing is the most impressive colour of the first record: he mainly relegates gossamer weaving to other occasions, using the full body resonance of his bass, dividing the tough bread of pure artistry with Weston's spastic reincarnations of Monkian phraseologies, both looking for salubrious contrapuntal oxygen; meanwhile, Sanders' impassible extemporisations of spanking jauntiness keep up the overall pulse, so that his percussive arsenal sounds like a termitarium on fire. The live episode, recorded in Vienna, discloses more unresolved tensions in a music that springs from the rejuvenating collision of styles ranging from Cecil Taylor's trios to the collectedness of 70's English jazz. Veryan, John and Mark fuse their spirits throughout, almost giving up their distinct traits to create an acoustic mainframe in an unexplored sonic underwood; here, varieties and species are generated by the dozen, with the trio ready to systematise even the most accidental event without losing immediacy and ability in freehand drawing."
MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2004
"Veryan Weston and Mark Sanders play like if they share the same mind. As an improvising percussionist, Mark Sanders plays the closest to the piano that I have heard in my improvised music's listening experience. I guess that some connoisseurs will tell you that it could be a bit boring. Indeed, it needs more concentration to listen to, because Mark doesn't make diversions. Veryan's fingerings have as much precision and delicacy as much as his fingers and hands are energized by the very quick movements of his partners. John Edwards' bass brings wood and strings in this percussive metallic web, giving more elasticity and vibrations to the proceedings. His vivid arco work is at the heart of these symbiotic constructions. He adds a deep soulful human vibration to the webs of resonances from the skins, wires and cymbals. These three are playing like the fingers of the same hand in a glove. Their way is absolutely unique for that reason. The feeling you get is a bit austere: there is no diversion in their playing. Mark was never contrasting with the flow, the angles, the curves and the controlled flurries of the westonisms. He plays with them and they are following him. More than a conversation: both are reading the same text written with different words maybe. Sanders and Edwards never go over Weston's paradoxical strong lightness of touch. They enhance the refinement of each others. I think that it is new in improvisation and what they do could inspire very different sort of players, even some reductionnists.
The two very long tracks from Vienna are a real tour-de-force. Thus, as far as the piano is concerned for me, you can write Weston's surname in the Pantheon of Improvised Piano with the Taylors, Bleys, Van Hoves and Schlippenbachs, and this GATEWAY TO VIENNA is the proof of it. VW has in himself something that nobody else does and his two colleagues are playing in the same league. With this issue and all the preceding output of Veryan Weston, Emanem hits big!"
JEAN-MICHEL VAN SCHOUWBERG - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2005
"The interplay between the three is immense, and Weston palpably listens to what his colleagues are doing, moment by moment. The record has a richness of detail and intensity that recommend it; as always with Weston it's interesting to follow the development of a creative relationship."
RICHARD COOK & BRIAN MORTON - The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition 2008
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