Teatime

EMANEM 5009

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GARRY TODD tenor saxophone
NIGEL COOMBES violin & low grade electronics
STEVE BERESFORD piano & toys
JOHN RUSSELL electric guitar
DAVE SOLOMON percussion
 

1 - IRRITATING TAPPING - 1:29
2 - EUROPEAN IMPROVISED MUSIC SHO' 'NUFF TURNS ME ON - part 1 - 8:34
3 - EUROPEAN IMPROVISED MUSIC SHO' 'NUFF TURNS ME ON - part 2 - 1:38
4 - EUROPEAN IMPROVISED MUSIC SHO' 'NUFF TURNS ME ON - part 3 - 3:33
5 - EUROPEAN IMPROVISED MUSIC SHO' 'NUFF TURNS ME ON - part 4 - 7:54
6 - DEADBEAT - 0:34
7 - I DIDN'T GET UP THIS MORNING - part 1 - 0:54
8 - I DIDN'T GET UP THIS MORNING - part 2 - 4:25
9 - I DIDN'T GET UP THIS MORNING - part 3 - 2:09
10 - I DIDN'T GET UP THIS MORNING - part 4 - 2:34
11 - GRAHAM SHOWS HIS TEETH - 11:19
12 - LOW-FI - 6:49

1 – 11: analogue gig recordings by Martin Davidson, London (Unity Theatre)
originally issued in 1975 as Incus LP 15
12: analogue gig recording by Dave Solomon, London (Little Theatre Club)
previously unissued

1: Solomon (+ Beresford & Russell) 1974 August 27
2 – 5: Coombes, Beresford, Russell, Solomon 1975 January 14
6: Solomon 1974 August 27
7 – 10: Todd, Beresford, Russell, Solomon 1975 February 25
11: Todd & Russell 1975 April 22
12: Russell & Solomon late 1973

Total time 52:35

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

I got interested in the London improv scene in 1970 at the age of 17 after seeing a gig with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Han Bennink and participating in activities led by John Stevens (who I later visited for drum lessons) and Trevor Watts. I attended the concerts given by the Musicians' Co-operative at Ronnie Scott's and was inspired to change the sound of and expand the modern jazz drum kit by drummer/percussionists like Terry Day, Paul Lytton, Tony Oxley, Jamie Muir, Frank Perry and visiting Europeans. From 1973, I started doing gigs at the Little Theatre Club and a whole crowd of us 'second generation' baby boomers became virtually resident there in the last year or so of that venue's life - the duo, included here, of John (Russell) and me was from that period.

After the Theatre Club folded, John (Russell) found a venue at the Artists' Meeting Place in Covent Garden. There was also a regular Monday night at the Engineer and regular Musicians' Co-op concerts at the Unity Theatre in the St Pancras area. It was here in 1974 and 1975 where Martin Davidson recorded the material for TEATIME.

I'd been used to playing in various combinations of the musicians on this disc - for example, I gigged for a while in a duo with Steve called 'Sorry' - so it seemed natural for us all to make a record together. After making the recordings for TEATIME, I remember gigs at the ICA in Pall Mall and a one-off 'new faces' type concert at the Wigmore Hall. All this happened in-between the folding of the Little Theatre Club and the subsequent founding of the London Musicians' Collective around 1976, a period that tends to be overlooked in the historical accounts of this music.

DAVE SOLOMON (2010)

My memories of the Unity Theatre are patchy: just little moments, really.
I remember that the bar sold one sort of food - bread and butter pudding. Luckily, it was excellent.
Evan Parker and Paul Lytton played there and deeply impressed me.
Because there were two pianos, my brother Pete and I played a trio with Derek Bailey.
A duo of Dave Solomon and Nigel Coombes ended with a long solo by Nigel. At a very salient point, Dave said, quite loudly, 'I seem to have finished before you.'

STEVE BERESFORD (2010)

At a Musicians Co-Op concert I met an old school friend called Robin Musgrove who introduced me to fellow John Stevens pupil Dave Solomon. My first improvised gig was in a duo with Dave at The Little Theatre Club where, over about a year, I met and played with Nigel and Steve and others. It was a period of trying things out. Many nights spent drinking tea and listening to music, discussing likes and dislikes. Derek Bailey said he got his idea to form Company from the way we kept changing personnel from gig to gig.

By the time we had gravitated to the Unity Theatre, and Dave, Steve and I had become members of the Musicians Co-Op, Garry had moved to London, and I had started organising concerts at the Artists Meeting Place in Covent Garden and elsewhere. When Evan and Derek offered us the opportunity to make an LP, Martin Davidson recorded a number of performances at the Unity Theatre and we had (as I remember) the long and laborious task of choosing what to put on the LP.

One particular record we enjoyed was ICP 005 with Derek Bailey, John Tchicai, Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg, and we used Misha's abrupt editing technique on TEATIME. We simply listened to a bit we liked and then got the razor blade out when we found it was becoming boring. It seemed to fit perfectly the music we were making back then.

JOHN RUSSELL (2010)

I moved to London from Leeds in 1974 to try to become part of the free music scene, which struck me as radical, new and exciting, as well as being good to listen to. My father was a jazz and dance band musician and a close friend of Derek Bailey, and it was probably this connection that brought free music to my attention in the late '60s. The music at the time, was vital and inspirational.

Within a week or two of moving to London, I was part of the very open and friendly burgeoning free scene, playing a kind of music where it seemed to me that anything was possible. I rehearsed with Dave Solomon and John Russell at their flat in Belsize Park, and went on to work in a trio with John and drummer Roy Ashbury.

I was in a duo with John for a while during and after the period when TEATIME was made, and, in 1975, I started to do solo tenor sax concerts on a regular basis. After one such solo at the Notre Dame Hall, Nigel Coombes and I hooked up to form a duo and, early in 1976, I played in the first ever Company gig, at the Soho Poly with Derek Bailey (of course), Barry Guy and Steve Beresford (Dave and John sat in at the end as I remember). This was a very exciting time. I was playing regularly, sometimes two or three times a week at the many and varied venues that existed then. The Unity Theatre, near King's Cross, where gigs were run by the London Musicians' Co-operative, and where TEATIME was recorded, was also a very good venue until it burnt down late in 1975.

This is just a rough sketch of what was happening circa 1974-6, but it is important to point out that the way we so-called 'second generation' improvisers worked was very ad hoc - there was a sort of loose pool of us from which various permutations would spontaneously develop, sometimes just for one or two gigs, and it seemed to us to be a very productive way of playing (a way that apparently influenced Derek Bailey to form Company).

GARRY TODD (2010)

In an obscure area close to Mornington Crescent and St Pancras, TEATIME was recorded in the Unity Theatre. I think this was the first of several times I performed at the Unity before its closure due to fire on 8th November 1975. From what I remember, there were no specific TEATIME sessions. The compilation, I believe, was made from recordings of four separate gigs and issued by Incus to represent 'second generation artists'. Although apprehensive about the release of TEATIME in 1975, listening to this music 34 years on, I now believe it a good representation of how improvisers of that generation were making music during the 1970s. Because of there being more venues available at that time we could experiment with varied casual combinations of many improvisers including the Teatimers and others.

NIGEL COOMBES (2010)

The Unity Theatre was a left-wing theatre club that had been based in a former chapel between King's Cross St Pancras and Mornington Crescent since 1937. The theatre did not function every day of the week, so the Musicians' Co-operative was able to use the space every Tuesday.

Incus decided to issue a record of some of the 'second generation' improvisers, and asked me to record some of their work. I can't remember if I recorded more than the four gigs that the musicians chose to use on the LP. Only two brief percussion codas were used from the earliest date.

The way the musicians treated the two quartet recordings resulted in my introduction to what I call brutal editing. I found it very shocking at the time (although Lol Coxhill had done something similar). Conversely, the duo was a complete performance.

The Wigmore Hall concert referred to above was organised by Albion Music run by Janice Christianson, who was Derek Bailey's partner throughout the 1970s. It was planned to feature eleven new improvisers, but one (Simon Mayo) was ill. Apart from the five Teatimers, the other performers in the four groups were Roy Ashbury, Peter Cusack, Terry Day, Herman Hauge and Roger Smith. (Alas, it was unrecorded.)

In addition to the contents of the TEATIME LP, this CD also contains a previously unissued cassette recording from that period. This slightly earlier duo of John and Dave may even appeal to critics who aren't generally keen on free improvisation.

The LP marked the published recording debut of all five musicians (except that Steve played a little toy trumpet on a Trevor Wishart LP released in 1973). Some slightly earlier recordings have subsequently been issued - for instance, Nigel, John and Dave are on the 1973 recordings by the Spontaneous Music Orchestra issued as MOUTHPIECE on Emanem 4039. However, TEATIME remains the earliest example of them creating their own music - to quote Dave Solomon: 'five friends with a common love of this music who wanted to be a part of it.'

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2010)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"'Five friends with a common love of this music who wanted to be a part of it' is how Dave Solomon sums up the performers on this very welcome reissue of spunky and anarchic mid-1970s free improvisation. When TEATIME initially appeared, the 15th LP release on Derek Bailey and Evan Parker's Incus label, it seemed like an endorsement of emerging young guns by the elders of the London scene. An earlier Incus album, BALANCE, had featured representatives of the so-called second generation, including brilliant violinist Phil Wachsmann, but TEATIME differs markedly in mood and manner to that set of poised chamber improvisations. BALANCE is about sensitive interplay, nuance and close-knit subtlety. TEATIME is rowdy, unruly, funny and melodramatic. BALANCE is concerned with finely crafted coherence. TEATIME is about performance, participation and boisterous congeniality.

There's no trace on TEATIME of the funk or blues archly suggested by the titles, but at a time when free music - despite declared intentions - was starting to codify its own terms and taboos, these younger musicians offered a more porous sense of what the music might involve. The new, evolving language could accommodate impurities.

In the various combinations of players captured on TEATIME, John Russell, who could sound introverted in those days, is wonderfully spiky and textural on electric guitar, although still lingering close to the protective shade of Derek Bailey's influence. Garry Todd plays gnarly tenor, terse and emphatic; Fire Music stiffened with millstone grit. Nigel Coombes is discreet and versatile, adding some fine lines, sharpness and savour. For me, though, Solomon's punchy, choleric approach and Beresford's exhibitionist absurdity remain the rogue elements on TEATIME, setting it apart in 1975 and keeping it off the well-beaten track today.

In a mid-70s interview with Kenneth Ansell, Beresford said, 'I can see exactly why Barry Guy, Derek, Evan and John Stevens - in fact nearly all the first generation - see it in terms of developing a technique on one instrument so that you can be spontaneous. But that's not what I want to do.' The older generation embraced elements of humour, if only to differentiate their approach from the earnest sobriety of the academic avant garde. But Beresford made musical jokes, visual gags and deliberate silliness integral components of his performances.

At gigs in those days, Solomon, darksuited and looking as though he'd had a shitty day at some desk job, would scatter his kit on the floor and set about it with cathartic intensity. Beresford, with the demeanour variously of a performance artist, music hall turn or character from The Beano would hammer tinny notes from a toy piano, wring squeals and farts from a balloon or upturn little canisters making bird and animal sounds. On full-scale piano, he'd throw some Romantic pastiche or snatch of cheesy 1930s ballad into the mix along with his own quirky take on Cecil Taylor or post-Webernian abstraction.

Beresford's affinity with the Dutch old masters - Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg - is unmistakable. Their influence can also be heard in the abrupt edits that occur on TEATIME - notably on track seven where, after only 54 seconds, proceedings are brutally terminated just as they seem to be coming together. For all its vigour, rough and tumble and disruption, TEATIME remains a thoroughly friendly listen. As Beresford said of the music in his interview with Ansell, 'If it's going to be interesting I think it has to keep elements of a fairly intimate relationship with the audience.' TEATIME is still interesting, and it's good to know that all five friends are still out there improvising."

JULIAN COWLEY - THE WIRE 2010

"An iconoclastic free improvisation record, highly entertaining. Its provocative stance has dulled with age, but it remains a stimulating listen. The musicians are having a lot of fun playing tricks on our expectations, successfully – Solomon and Beresford especially. The abrupt track endings - brutal razor-blade editing – are destabilising. Good recording quality. Makes me think of Alterations, still a few years away at the time. I had a ball listening to this."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - MONSIEUR DÉLIRE 2010

"This is a valuable and welcome reissue. TEATIME was originally released by Incus on LP in 1975. This release is its first appearance on CD. The five featured musicians were part of the 'second generation'. On this evidence, if there is one element that clearly distinguishes the second generation from the first, it is humour. Bailey, Parker and company never lacked humour, but on TEATIME it is all pervasive. European improvised music sho' 'nuff turns me on. But it is not jokes all the way - that same track develops into a prolonged collective improvisation for violin, guitar, piano and drums. On occasions, Beresford may stray close to hamming it up with his piano flourishes, but otherwise it is played straight.

The emphasis is clearly on the collective, with no-one dominating or leading. Across all the tracks the five players never all play together but are a pool from which are drawn solos, duos, a trio and two quartets - a set-up that John Russell writes gave Bailey the idea to form Company. The sound of the musicians fits Dave Solomon 's description of them: 'five friends with a common love of this music who wanted to be part of it.' And, incidentally, are all still part of it in 2010.

Some of the music makes the musicians unrecognisable compared to their later playing styles. Most extreme is Russell's electric guitar which is louder and more aggressive than his characteristic acoustic playing; it displays the influence on his playing of Derek Bailey, notably on the closing track, the previously unreleased Low-fi." "

JOHN EYLES - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2010

"There's a lot of gnarly stuff being put out there today, especially in the fields of Noise and neo-psychedelic New Weird post whatnot, but I doubt you'll find anything as out to lunch as TEATIME. Those familiar with John Russell's exquisite recent acoustic work (and mindful of David Keenan's rather daft description of it in a recent Wire as somehow lacking in spunk) will thrill at his wild electric guitar here. Donald Miller watch out. And get an earful of Todd's dirty spit, Coombes's scratchy fiddle, Beresford's inspired Associated Board Grade III plonking and Solomon's DIY drum kit (which included a motorbike saddle, an alarm bell and a saucepan, all of which got inadvertently chucked in the bin when he moved house a few years later). The brutal editing - inspired, according to Russell, by Misha Mengelberg's cut-splice-and-be-damned montage of ICP 005 - is perfectly in keeping with the divine artlessness of the endeavour."

DAN WARBURTON - PARISTRANSATLANTIC 2010

"With a free-spirited and infinitely creative mode of operations, the unit incorporates depth, calamity, and electronics into a frothy improvisational soundscape, complemented with abrupt detours. At various occurrences, the musicians inject a bit of polytonal mayhem, partly due to John Russell's scratchy guitar voicings and Garry Todd's edgy sax parts amid the collective's changeable motifs. In effect, they keep the listener at bay by instilling a tremulous flow. Track 12 Low-Fi is a previously unissued blowout and aptly titled jam, sparked by Russell's off-centre phrasings and distortion atop percussionist Dave Solomon's rumbling fills and accents. Besides the historical significance, this nicely-packaged relic is a joy to behold. It's new music/improvisation, underscored by a highly-entertaining form factor."

GLENN ASTARITA - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2010

"Every once in a while a reissue comes along that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of a particular scene, offering a glimpse of new ideas in flight but still not fully formed. TEATIME sets the time machine back to the mid-'70s in London when a 'second generation' of free improvisers were simultaneously building on what had come before while tossing in an anarchic, Dadaistic sensibility, a willingness to tear things apart and let non-virtuosity and ad hoc theatricality play as much a part as the tenets of collective, spontaneous playing pioneered by Bailey, Parker, Lytton, and John Stevens. The most recognisable names here nowadays are John Russell and Steve Beresford: even at this early stage, their unsettling sense of pacing, attack, and disruptive flow shine through. Violinist Nigel Coombes and tenor player Garry Todd are both original voices as well, adding timbral and textural grit to the raucous proceedings. But the real discovery here percussionist is Dave Solomon, who digested the work of Han Bennink, John Stevens, Terry Day, Paul Lytton, Tony Oxley, and Jamie Muir to come up with a personal take on both the jazz drum kit and the role of a drummer in improvised settings. Throughout, he is an instigator, upsetter, and genial agitator, goading the music along with clattering abandon. Solomon still pops up in collaborations with John Russell but has rarely recorded over the intervening years. The music surges and veers with tumultuous glee, accentuated by the album's jump-cut editing that hacks out fragments of improvisations or simply chops things mid-flow. Great to see this one make its way back into circulation."

MICHAEL ROSENSTEIN - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2011

"TEATIME is a precious document digitally reissuing a 1975 Incus LP in its entirety, with the addition of a boomingly grimy cassette. It is the aural testimony of the activities of a quintet of musicians who were intent in playing candidly, in the deepest acceptation of the adverb, halfway through the last fifty years' greatest decade as far as sonic significance is concerned. An evident lack of forethought is what defines most everything contained herein, performed - in various combinations. All is palatable with relative ease despite the absence of fashionable compromises and technical neatness, revealing principles of nonconforming artistry making an awful lot of sense in that period yet probably perceived today as naïve, to say the least. Producing diverting sounds via the atypical handling of an instrument was the spark for repeated moments of ironic mayhem and constructive tension.

Improvised music works when we cannot afford the comfort of an even vague predictability: Russell's jagged impoliteness, Coombes's lyrically tarnished openings, Solomon's overwhelming crushing of anything remotely recalling a regular pulse, Beresford's eternally amusing anti-academic joyfulness, Todd's drooly degradation of reed linearity mesh in barely plausible spurts. The outcome is unwilling to accept a hair-splitting description: 'collective' in the truest meaning, frequently amazing to observe. Like a car graveyard on a solitary road, but with the engines still chugging happily."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2011

 

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