Album review

Alex Paxton – ‘Illoli-pop’

Alex Paxton – Illoli-pop

( nonclassical. nonclss054. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Alex Paxton is a young composer and improvising trombonist who mostly works with contemporary classical ensembles, but whose music is, I believe, of considerable interest to followers of contemporary jazz. It is full of quirky changes of pace and mood, and includes Paxton’s improvising trombone within the compositions

This album features the five part Illoli-pop piece originally commissioned by the Ensemble Modern, but here performed by the Dreamusics ensemble.  It appears to be a through composition divided up for the album into five separate tracks which are between 3 and 7 minutes in length. 

The music is built around layers of sound with dramatic leaps and changes of pace into which Paxton’s improvising trombone enters at certain points.  The music is composed apart from the trombone solos, but has the sound and rhythmic energy of a totally improvising ensemble.  It is all somewhat manic, but always great fun.

There are also four smaller scale pieces: Corn-Crake Dream features trombone plus electronics and percussion, Mouth Song is an extended solo trombone piece.  On both pieces, Paxton’s sound impresses with its mixture of New Orleans style growls and more contemporary improvised lines. 

Sometimes Voices is presented both in its extended form and a mini-version released as a single, and  features Paxton on keys accompanied again by electronics and percussion.  This works less well than the pieces with trombone and the quirkiness goes just a little far.

Overall, this is an album full of interest, and one hopes that the UK and European contemporary jazz scenes will embrace Paxton’s work both as composer and as improvising trombonist.  

Illoli-pop is on Bandcamp

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