Eddie Prévost: Four CDs with different groups. (Album reviews by Tony Dudley-Evans).
ConcertOTO – Matchless Records MRCD 104. November 2012
Iklectik Live One – Matchless Records MRCD 103. November 2016
Bean Soup and Bouquets – Matchless Records MRCD 101. 17 February 2020
Nous – Matchless Records MRCD 102. 22 February 2020
Free improv – or improvised music as I prefer to call it – brings to mind an image of high energy and intense music, and the use of extended techniques. This perception, however, fails to do justice to the range of music that now comes under the improvised music banner. It can just as easily be gentle and contemplative as it can intense and extreme; it can be largely acoustic or make use of electronics; it can draw on features of other styles of jazz, or can be totally free of such features.
These four CDs with groups led by drummer Eddie Prévost provide excellent examples of the range of improvised music. Prevost was a founder member of the AMM group in the 1960s, and in that group developed an approach to drumming and percussion that focussed on sound and texture. However, in these recordings made between 2012 and 2020, Prevost’s approach to drumming seems to be closer to one that draws on his jazz roots without losing his sensitivity to sound and texture. In these four albums we have three trio sessions and a reunion of the late 1970s Eddie Prevost Quartet. The music ranges from more introspective improvisation to electronic interaction and more extrovert high energy playing.
This CD features a trio with Marilyn Crispell on piano, Harrison Smith on tenor and soprano saxophones and bass clarinet and Prévost on drums, recorded at Dalston’s Cafe OTO in 2012. Marilyn Crispell sets the tone for the session with beautifully melodic playing, which is matched throughout by Harrison Smith’s thoughtful contributions and Prévost’s sensitive drumming. This is the gentler, more contemplative side of improvised music – with some exquisite interplay between piano and saxophones, and some great swinging drumming, commenting on and punctuating the piano and saxophone in a free style – but one not totally away from Prévost jazz origins. As so often in free improvisation, the music moves between passages of three-way interaction, passages where one instrument takes the lead, and passages where one instrument plays solo while the other two drop out. Within all this a structure always appears, with each member of the trio respecting the right of the other two to take the music in a different direction, and knowing when to drop out and come back in. So often in improvised music the music develops through a number of upbeat passages with the occasional gentler passage; this recording is the opposite, it proceeds largely through meditative passages that lead into occasional more intense passages. All this makes for a fine recording.
Iklectik Live One
This is a trio recording made in 2016 at the wonderful Iklectik venue down by Waterloo Station in London. The trio has John Butcher on soprano and tenor saxophone and Guillaume Vitard on double bass.
This is the most abstract of the four albums and is definitely towards the improvised music end of the free jazz improv spectrum. The focus in the music is on sounds and textures with the use of extended techniques from Butcher and Vitard, and there are virtually no traces of jazz language. Prévost is much more to the fore as an equal partner in the improvisations, but also providing a pulse throughout.
There are four totally improvised pieces – Electric, Light, On and Click – which together make up Chinese Whispers. This title of the suite refers to the way the trio on each track take the music right down to an extremely low level and then gradually build it up again.
Butcher is in excellent form showing the range of sounds he can create from the soprano and tenor saxophones, and pulling them together to make a coherent statement. In this, he is complemented by the bowing technique of Vitard and Prévost’s use of the cymbals and various percussion techniques.
Bean Soup and Bouquets: Reunion Concert of the Eddie Prevost Band
This recording was made in February 2020 at Cafe OTO with Prévost’s late 1970s quartet featuring Geoff Hawkins on tenor saxophone, Gerry Gold on trumpet and flugelhorn and Marcio Mattos on double bass. This was the reunion of a quartet that mostly played round London, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and toured at different times to West Berlin and East Berlin.
Here the music is totally improvised. Both horns bring in hints of bop and the modal style of John Coltrane, but the rhythms and pulse created by the interaction between Mattos and Prévost take the music in a very different direction from those earlier styles.
There are two long tracks, Bean Soup at 41 minutes, and Bouquets at just over 24 minutes plus a 6-minute encore. I always find these long improvisations that go through a series of different exchanges and passages in which the different members of the group come in and drop out can work better than a series of shorter pieces. It requires a high degree of concentration on the part of the listener, which in turn contributes to the overall experience for both the musicians and the audience. On a CD it may require even more concentration from the listener, but it is worth it.
Nous is a recording made just a week after Bean Soup and Bouquets, but this time at The Vortex Jazz Club, also in Dalston, London. It features a trio led by Prévost with Jason Yarde on alto and soprano saxophones, and N.O. Moore on electric guitar and effects. N.O. Moore is a new name to me, but he is a fine improviser.
The concert develops through three relatively short pieces: Attunement at 12.21, Lorelei of Music at 6.24, and Between You and Me And at 6.42 that lead into a much longer improvisation, Impossible Meaning at 25.25, and a final shorter piece, A Tune Meant, at 7.35.
There is an enjoyable contrast between the acoustic sound of the saxophones and the effects Moore creates with the guitar. He creates a fascinating texture with a kind of bubbling electronic sound behind the saxophone on Attunement. Then on Impossible Meaning Moore takes an interestingly abstract guitar solo, and later on the track he and Yarde engage in an interaction in which they mimic each other’s phrases.
Which one would I choose if I could only buy one? Prévost is brilliant throughout so that doesn’t narrow down the choice. Marilyn Crispell is stunning on ConcertOTO, both in her solos and interacting with Harrison Smith, which would suggest choosing that CD. If you are into electronics and improvising electric guitar plus effects, Nous with N.O. Moore is the one. If, however, you really enjoy more abstract improvised music, then go for Iklectik Live One. Finally, if free jazz with some echoes of bop and Coltrane is your bag, then go for Bean Soup and Bouquets.
The CDs are nicely packaged and each one comes with a booklet that is clearly written and informative.
Categories: Album review