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Sarah Gail Brand (trombone)

Regardless R03 [63:17]



Regardless R03 [63:17]

Sarah Gail Brand (trombone)

Steve Beresford (piano and electronics)

John Edwards (double bass)

Mark Sanders (drums and percussion)

Recorded live, 15 January 2018, IKLECTIK art lab, London

  1. a constant quantity

  2. this one

  3. ever tried

  4. letís do something while we have the chance

  5. be again

  6. for reasons unknown

  7. letís go

Drifting somewhere around the internet is a meme with a picture of a large Orangutan on a child's tricycle, apparently in pursuit of a distressed-looking little girl. The little girl is labelled, "People who say they listen to all genres", and the large menacing primate carries the words 'FREE JAZZ'. As with all such 'scary' genres of music there are die-hard fans on the one side, and people who will always refuse to believe that such sounds are in any sense related to what they perceive to be music on the other. For myself, I've dabbled in improvisation of various kinds over the years, admire those who have actually made this way of music making part of their professional lives, working with similar-minded musicians to excellent effect, but have to admit to currently occupying spectator status when it comes to the kind of music to be found on the tracks of this album.

'Spectator' is a useful term in this context, as the visual element in this kind of concert is always a significant part of the experience. With a recording we're left to our imaginations in this regard, though there is plenty to feed the mind's eye in the gestural techniques and interactions between the members of this tight-knit quartet. Layers of listening/accompaniment, leading/solo and the like are in evidence throughout this recording, but perhaps come to the fore most distinctively in longer tracks such as be again, which moves through intriguing contrasts of atmosphere and sonority, from dust-bowl Americana to wide nature-scapes and perhaps even some deep-sea whale-like call and response. Such impressions are of course highly subjective, and listeners will conjure their own associations. Rest assured however, your mind's eye will become very switched on indeed, if you let it.

Distinctive character between tracks with a consistency in style is a strong feature with this album. The musicians never 'sell-out' and lapse into easy tropes, but explore sound-worlds being created in the moment. The quietly ritualistic (or do I mean poetic) for reasons unknown is a contender for best track on the album in this regard, with some genuinely beautiful moments and allowing our ears a nice rest from the drum-kit. The final track let's go has some deliciously Monk-like piano playing to open with, developing into a collective improvisation with plenty of intensity and lyrical power.

As all too often happens, I've started actually commenting on the music more than halfway through, but the first half has its own highlights. a constant quantity has a nice exploratory quality, the musicians setting out their stall and flexing some chops in a bar-room conversation in which everyone has something interesting to say, and the subjects of discussion ebb and flow with a natural feel, ranging between amicable argument and reflective silence. To my ears, this one is another 'best track' contender, Sarah Gail Brand's duet with Steve Beresford's playfully eclectic kitchen of electronic gadgets all the more effective for its relative austerity of its sonic palet. ever tried starts as a tonal extension of this one, the ordering of tracks on the album carefully curated to make the most of these sorts of transitions. I love the surreal music-box piano effects in this one.

'Free jazz' may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as with many genres of new music its appreciation is a question of educating the ear and being prepared to take the time to actually hear what's going on. There is in fact no 'free jazz'. The choices of idiom, selection of notes and structural framework are all part of frameworks that are felt by musicians to be 'right'. This may not be music that is written down, but the art of improvisation and the adventure of creating in the moment is as old as music itself and runs through the veins of jazz like white blood cells. This album is further evidence that the health of this genre is very good indeed.

Dominy Clements

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