Album review

Alex Paxton – ‘Music For Bosch People’

Alex Paxton – Music For Bosch People
(Birmingham Record Company BRC011. Album review by Fiona Mactaggart)

Not a lot causes this writer to laugh out loud, but this album did, repeatedly. For improvising trombonist, prolific composer and band-leader Alex Paxton’s new electro-acoustic album Music For Bosch People is a witty and exhilarating kaleidoscope of musical ideas, with a stew of references ranging from musique concrète to Frank Zappa. Still only in his early 30s, Paxton has already composed for orchestra, opera, film, theatre and, perhaps most impressively of all, for children.

For Music For Bosch People he engages a cast of similarly spirited fellow improvisor-musicians, in variable configurations across the seven tracks; check out the impressive list of names at the end of this review.

The first, title track is the longest at over 15 minutes and is a tour de force. Paxton reportedly left ample space in his score for each musician to improvise, and all of them certainly rise to the challenge. The cavalcade of cheeky brass blurts and squawks, strange vocalisations and hyperactive electronics doesn’t detract from the clearly evident compositional chops and musicianship. The contrasting next track, Londonglum, has Paxton improvising solo on screaming/groaning/farting trombone and voice: a fury-laden outcry.

The remaining five so-called Prayer tracks are if anything even more free, yet more complex, so bear repeated listening. According to the liner notes they “began life as layers of recorded improvisations on a simple little stylophone and a small cheap MIDI synth, which were then written over with notation and orchestrated for a live band of drums, saxophone, guitar and trombone, electronics and tape elements”. They evoke images of an anarchic opera, samples from TV and film adding to this rich and borderline frantic mêlé. Though I’m unaware of Paxton’s influences, many other associations were triggered, Sun Ra Arkestra and Anna Meredith being perhaps the most prominent, whilst in the visual art world and particularly in the nightmarish Prayer In The Darkness, Hieronymus Bosch of course.

This album is cutting-edge neo-classical with more than a touch of downtown New York-style jazz improvisation and, what’s more, it’s tremendous fun, so it comes as no surprise to hear that Paxton has recently received the compliment of a commission from US multi-instrumentalist John Zorn.

Alex Paxton – trombones, leader; Christine Buras – soprano; Harriet Burns – soprano; Mike De Souza – electric guitar; Alyson Frazier – piccolo; Matthew Herd – saxophone; David Ingamells – drums; Felix Josza, Rob Luft – electric guitars; Emma Purslow – violin & viola; David Zucchi – saxophone.

Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh and writes about music on

LINKS: Birmingham Record Company

Alex Paxton’s website

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