Sunday, 26 August 2012

LOL COXHILL : A CD Retrospective

After hearing the sad news that saxophonist Lol Coxhill had passed away in July, it was only fitting that a return to some of his recordings would be an appropriate way to pay respects to a truly original musician, and a genuinely nice person.

This is a review that I wrote in July 2003 for the original Jazz Views website, that still retains it validity and prompts one to revisit the music once again.


Lol Cohill/Howard Riley: Duology                                 

(SLAMCD 249)                                                                                               

A meeting of musical minds in what appears to be the first full CD recording of the pair, although they have played together many times over the last quarter of a century; and therein lies the crux of this CD. A collaboration that shows just how far both men have travelled in that time span, and yet how atuned they are to each others playing.

Riley has in some respects taken a more circuitous route from composition based playing to finding his way to free improvisation, and recently a return back to more structured environments. However, if variety is indeed the spice of life, the pianist shows every intent of keeping a foot firmly in both camps and exploring the grey areas in between, whilst keeping his debt and admiration to Thelonious Monk very much in the mix. Lol is Lol, and plays himself. If perhaps the changes and methods employed by the saxophonist over the years seem less dramatic, he has a recorded body of work that is remarkable in its consistency and sheer variety of contexts in which the Coxhill sound has been not just accepted but readily embraced.Both players have a long history and wealth of experience as solo players, and it is with this very much in mind they approach the music on this disc. Not so much a musical dialogue, but two separate monologues that cross paths and occasionally meet in the most unexpected places.

Split into two distinct halves, the first seven improvisations were recorded at a private session in the afternoon prior to the gig, and tracks 8 to 12 recorded at the evening performance, the music follows a logical path and sequence from one session to the next. On this outing it is perhaps Riley who follows the straighter path, with the soprano exploring the range and timbres of the horn, and the natural acoustics of the room, and this is demonstrated on the longer ‘live’ pieces recorded at the evening session. Both ‘Two Timing’ and ‘Hearing Is Believing’, at 17 minutes and 11 minutes respectively, allow the interplay to develop over a longer time span without ever meandering, whilst the shorter cuts ranging between 3 and 7 minutes certainly help to focus the mind. A fascinating glimpse into the creative processes of two master musicians.

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