Friday, April 29, 2016

early 2016: others' musical exploits - Free Range

This Free Range season all took place at Water Lane Cafe, tucked away between the bikeshop on Stour Street and the river. Unfortunately I missed organiser Sam Bailey's Free Range Piano album launch on 7th January. The next week was a poetry event featuring short readings from a large number of poets, some who'd traveled from afar, with no time spent on introductions or explanations. This worked really well, and the three sets were punctuated by short improv sets from Bad Teeth (Panos Ghikas on percussion/violin and Jennifer Walshe on extreme vocals).

I missed the next three (although stopped to watch a few minutes of the excellent Gufo through the window when hurrying past), but made it along on 11th February to see Ron Geesin (eccentric Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist) and Brian Hopper (once of Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine) who put together a wonderfully eclectic set: there was some of Hopper's teenage poetry, read mock-bombastically by Geesin while Brian improvised on baritone sax, random percussion on the walls and furniture, jazz standards like "Ain't Misbehavin'", wildly original solo piano pieces and, to finish, the thing Geesin's best known for, the final movement of Pink Floyd's 1970 "Atom Heart Mother" suite, which he'd co-composed with Roger Waters.

The next week we were over at St. Gregory's Music Centre (a deconsecrated church, now part of CCCU) to hear the Leon Quartet play pieces by Dimitri Scarlato and Sam Messer (who also played some keyboard). This didn't really feel like a Free Range event, for whatever reason — more like a formal classical musical event. Musically, it was all very abstract. A lot of non-traditional sounds being generated by the strings. In constrast, the Leon's started playing something strongly melodic, anthemic and vaguely familiar as people were leaving, kind of a joke, as it turned out to be a Coldplay tune (they get asked to play a lot of weddings)!

25th February was free improv sax legend Evan Parker backed up by John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums). Edwards managed to break a string and replace it as part of the overall improvisation! Some incredible stuff from this trio, as you can hear here:

That was an altogether excellent evening. Evan approached me (I was surprised he even remembered me), extremely keen to buy my Secrets of Creation trilogy of books, so I was delighted to oblige. Also, I saw Joel from Syd Arthur who arranged to send me the final masters of the tracks from their new album Apricity the next day. And there was an excellent support set from Ian East, the wind player in the last Gong lineup that Daevid and Gilli toured with (he lives locally):

On March 10th, Raph Clarkson's 8-piece band Dissolute Society squeezed into the Water Lane Cafe to provide some spirited youthful jazz energy. The Welsh jazz pianist Huw Warren was part of the band, as well as Clarkson's father Gustav on viola and emerging trumpet talent Laura Jurd. Laura was back the next week to end the season with her own superb four-piece, Dinosaur (she played trumpet and electronics — the event was slightly weird due to someone in the audience collapsing, the band stopping, no one knowing quite what was going on...but it was all OK in the end.) Recordings of those sets haven't yet shown up in the Free Range audio archive.

There was a brief period during which a "Free Range Presents" programme was going out on local community/student station CSR FM on Wednesday evenings, but that got shelved for various reasons. I put together two episodes of this (the second wasn't broadcast due to "technical issues", apparently):


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