|Founder: Len Mullenger|
The Edge Of The World
Cornelius CARDEW (1936-1981) Mountains (1977)*
Christopher HOBBS (b.1950) Seventeen One-minute Pieces for Bass Clarinet and Casio MT750 (1992); Why Not? (1994)
Dave SMITH (b.1949) Off-peak Single from Symi (1998)
John WHITE (b.1936) A Little Souvenir from Costa Mijas (1989)
Barney CHILDS (1926-2000) The Edge of the World (1981)
Ian Mitchell, bass clarinet
Christopher Hobbs, keyboards
Recorded in Leicester, England (St. Mary de Castro Church, 1999 except * De Montfort University 1995).
BLACK BOX BBM1052 [59.03]
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Ian Mitchell's record of "cutting edge contemporary works for bass clarinet" represents a crucial release for this repertoire, featuring five world premieres and reminding me in many places of my introduction to the instrument through the recordings of the great John Surman and other luminaries of the ECM label, as well as the formative influences of, say, Marion Brown's sax playing on Harold Budd's beatific Eno-produced Pavilion of Dreams. None of this music is incredibly immediate or particularly easy to listen to but concentration will reward the determined with some revelatory passages. The fact that two pieces feature the sounds of, on the face of it, rather dated Casio keyboards, detracts little from an overall listening experience that compares with the very best that recent intersections of the European jazz, minimalism and improv traditions (ECM, Andriessen, Fitkin, Turnage(?) etc.) has to offer.
Cardew's Bach-inspired Mountains is an immense
set of variations which tends to dwarf some of the other music included
and can be readily appreciated without necessarily sharing any enthusiasm
for (or even knowing about?) its secondary origins in revolutionary political
thought (the mountains of the title come from Mao Tse Tung!) However,
Christopher Hobbs (who also accompanies Mitchell on the disc), Dave Smith
and that incomparable veteran of the British avant-garde, John White,
despite much more modest intentions, manage to turn up some gem-like miniatures,
in two cases inspired by Mediterranean locations. The last word is left,
appropriately enough, to the piece that gives the disc its title. Barney
Childs’ Edge of the World proves to be the most jazz related and,
unsurprisingly, most left-field work included here, yet emerges as an
apt and moving tribute to its late composer. For those who might have
some apprehension about purchasing a release like this, rest assured that
the (excellent) booklet notes’ references to the aforementioned Bach and
to Percy Grainger, alongside jazz great Eric Dolphy, are totally in keeping
with the spirit at work here, at one with the great musical traditions
while displaying a positive, if iconoclastic, attitude to their transformation
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