Album reviews

Elton Dean, Steve Miller & Pip Pyle – ‘Home Brewed’ (Rec. 1976)

Elton Dean, Steve Miller & Pip Pyle – Home Brewed

(British Progressive Jazz. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

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The aptly named British Progressive Jazz label has released this previously unavailable recording from 1976 by three musicians who worked at the intersection of jazz and progressive rock. Pip Pyle (drums) and Steve Miller (piano) had worked together in Hatfield & The North; Elton Dean (saxophone) was in The Weightwatchers, a trio with Keith Tippett and Pyle. All three of them played in various bands linked to the Canterbury scene. This is the only record of these musicians playing in together as a trio.

Originally recorded as a private session, “Home Brewed” nearly didn’t make it: it was scheduled to be released by Mike King, who passed away before the project could be realised. Fortunately BPJ picked it up; the four tracks contain some fine, exhilarating music.

Working from simple riffs, the music is relatively free, though the time is relatively constant. Within that framework, there is fervent improvisation, each player occasionally reaching back to the theme. Without a bass player, Miller does much of the work keeping the groove going.

Pyle provides the propulsive drive. His playing here does have a rocky edge, but he also has a subtle, relaxed fluidity to his playing. In the freer sections Pyle uses a lot of rolls to propel the music, but he also develops a real groove.

All four pieces feature some free sections, Pilgrim’s Hope and Crack Le Whip maybe more than Molly’s Mild and Tea, Kettle, Stout. The latter is perhaps the most conventional track. It starts as a slow, bluesy vamp, but develops some quite free sections, as if the musicians were breaking away from any constraints.

The freer pieces move at a pace, driven by Pyle. There’s a lot of energy in the music. They have an infectious energy. Both Dean and Miller have an intensity to their playing, each pushing the other to new heights. The result is powerful and entertaining. On Crack Le Whip, they solo simultaneously, Dean’s saxophone wails over pounding piano chords.

There are quieter, more reflective sections too, allowing both listener and, presumably, musicians to catch their breath.

This record might be nearly fifty years old, but it’s it full of exciting music.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. He is on Mastodon.

LINKS: Home Brewed on Bandcamp

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