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Freedom Of The City 2002

by London Improvisers Orchestra

  • Compact Disc (CD)

    2003 CD release, in jewel box with 12-page booklet.
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  • full score: Too Busy



A live orchestra set featuring seven pieces for improvisers, including contributions from Steve Beresford, Paul Rutherford, Philipp Wachsmann & Simon Fell (his Composition No. 64; Too Busy)

---------- press quotes ----------

"This album lives up to expectations and delivers a hearty 77 minutes of focused group improvisation to prove once more than this ensemble is unique (yes, the star-studded roaster speaks for itself, although it goes way beyond that) and that large-scale structured improvisation is possible after all. Simon H. Fell's Too Busy adds pre-recorded sounds to the orchestra, but the blend is seamless and the piece ranks as a highlight - thanks to the laboratory that is the LIO, Fell is becoming a first-rate composer for improvisers. Ruthless features an energetic Terry Day spitting out a poem about punk attitude and the temptation of fame. The piece gets almost violently eventful. Paul Rutherford's Phone In has stamina, movement and wittiness, all core qualities of the LIO. Dave Tucker's unusually quiet Giallo, essentially an 11-minute crescendo, also deserves mention: however simple the idea, Tucker leads the orchestra through it with brio, reaching a riveting finale." François Couture ALL MUSIC GUIDE

"A wonderful selection of great musicians, LIO is here captured warts and all during a live performance that's as good as you can manage to guess. There are a couple of fantastic moments that alone are worth this CD, the top being a fantastic Concerto for Paul Rutherford (conceived by Steve Beresford) where the master trombonist draws lots of beautiful sketches, his instrument indicating trajectories and concepts to the very few who will be able to reach such heights. Very nice segments come also from Phone In and the final Fanfare for LIO where audience participation is direct. What I'm sure I can affirm, the sound of these souls never retreats into a shell but strongly radiates warmth and technical prowess at the same moment." Massimo Ricci TOUCHING EXTREMES

"The London Improvisers Orchestra has a spectacular roster: it includes Lol Coxhill, Evan Parker, Simon H. Fell, Veryan Weston, Paul Rutherford, the brilliant Swiss violist Charlotte Hug and a couple dozen other excellent musicians. With a few exceptions, though, the listener isn't really supposed to be hearing any one part, so don't expect to actually hear much of any single musician. Freedom of the City 2002 instead spotlights seven composers who have devised various structures for the improvisers to work with. Paul Rutherford's excellent Phone In is the most successful piece here. The orchestra interacts with mobile phones, the ringing sounds of which are featured in the middle of the piece and then again at the end, following an urgent improvisation led by the squawking, slurred lines of a single saxophonist (Parker, probably, in one of the few solo-like passages here). We tend to hear cell phones most frequently in busy, crowded situations, like in city streets or trains, so Rutherford's use of cell phones to bookend a similarly busy, crowded texture works well. Simon H. Fell's Too Busy is another highlight: Fell wisely divides the orchestra into sections, allowing small groups to come to the fore, and nicely employs a wide variety of dynamics. Freedom of the City 2002 is an intriguing listen for fans of Rutherford and Fell's compositions." Charlie Wilmoth DUSTED

"The 2002 festival recording opens with Simon H Fell's Too Busy for orchestra and pre-recorded sound, a requiem for drummer John Stevens. The pre-recorded material includes church bells, electronics, applause and Stevens speaking and playing solo. In recognisable Fell style, the music embraces disparate elements that coincide or collide in rich simultaneity. There's a marvellous translucent quality to quieter passages, like hearing through fine veils of layered sound, something like the hazy evocation that Charles Ives created with The Housatonic at Stockbridge. The voice of Terry Day, a drumming contemporary of Stevens, surfaces to pay tribute near the end. Day's own Ruthless follows, a shrewd poetic weighing of fame and anonymity. He delivers a memorable performance, enacting the words, activating meaning, and the orchestra responds, repeatedly erupting into turbulence, the setting back into a light and agile percussive continuum. Steve Beresford's Concerto for Paul Rutherford is a 'conduction', with Beresford steering the improvising ensemble while trombonist Rutherford plays without external guidance of any kind. A tribute to Rutherford, Beresford's Concerto also acknowledges the springboard for LIO provided by Butch Morris. Mamosa, a highly disciplined listening percussion trio featuring Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo and Mark Sanders marks mid-point in the programme. Paul Rutherford's Phone In, for orchestra and mobile phones, follows John Cage's advice that if you find a sound really irritating you should incorporate it into a piece of music. A tapestry of timbral contrasts, including sumptuous bass clarinets, double basses, violins, vibes, clipped trumpet tones, drums, chattering saxophones and razor-edged electronics, suffers unseemly interruption from trite mobile ringtones. Electric guitarist Dave Tucker's Giallo is a highly effective ad hoc conduction that builds layers of sustained tones gradually and inexorably from hush to the brink of pandemonium. The set closes with violinist Philipp Wachsmann's Fanfare for LIO, alternating lean strings and ebullient wind instruments while making the audience participate in an exploration of shifting moods and spatial relationships." Julian Cowley THE WIRE

"Glance at the personnel on this record and the range of instruments they bring to bear. Expect a thing of great power and beauty and you won't be disappointed. Listen to the way that the softness of the strings follows the slabs of sound on Simon H Fell's Too Busy. Or how the strings, horns and electronics blur on Terry Day Ruthless to create new tone colours and shapes. On the latter, Day assumes the persona of the demagogue-preacher, as he howls his 'punk' poem as the orchestra thunders behind him. Steve Beresford contributes Concerto for Paul Rutherford to welcome the trombonist's return to health. Utilising Butch Morris' 'conduction' approach, it's most notable as a masterclass in bravura improvisation but the combination of strings and soprano saxes and later the lilting sound of the orchestra rising in unison behind Rutherford are as lovely as any composition. Rutherford's own Phone In sees him take on that 'bloody nuisance' of the modern world, the mobile phone. On this showing, the Luddites have it. On Mamosa, three of our most gifted percussionists unite in improvisation, and later Dave Tucker's minimalist piece Giallo evokes a quiet, brooding melancholia in tribute to a friend. Philipp Wachsmann's Fanfare closes with appropriate joyful majesty. It's a record that reveals the sound and robust health of London's improv scene, but also how improvisation and contemporary classical composition continue to inform and fertilise each other." Duncan Heining JAZZWISE

"With the orchestra's latest release and others, it's more about the sum of the individualistic parts that round out the base musical concepts. The artists' institute colorific musical scenarios, in a manner unlike the traditional jazz or symphonic orchestral implementations. Consequently, the element of surprise stands as an inherent attribute throughout, where various artists conduct the orchestra on a per track basis. On Concerto for Paul Rutherford - loosely conducted by Steve Beresford - the listener will notice booming accents, contrapuntal statements by the strings section and polytonal textures. Here, Rutherford weaves in and around his band-mates, via a sequence of thorny lines, interspersed with odd harmonic manoeuvres and more. Other highlights include, a delightful percussion trio improvisation by Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo, and Mark Sanders titled Mamosa. One of the entertaining aspects of this production is rooted within the listener's ability to hone in on certain sections of the orchestra. Sort of a mind-bending aural experience, strangely enhanced by a smattering of pre-recorded sounds, blithe vocals and use of mobile phones. No doubt, the creative process includes subtle stabs at humour to coincide with the interrelationships of the soloists' respective inventions. It's all integrated into a rather cohesive package. (Recommended.)" Glenn Astarita JAZZ REVIEW

"Offers a generous program of large-ensemble improvisation with the ghost of John Stevens looming large over the proceedings. The London Improvisers Orchestra set displays the variety of possible applications of that idea. The most striking pieces come at the beginning: Simon Fell's Too Busy starts with a burst of frenetic brass and moves through passages of sorrowful violins, Vareseian orchestral textures, and manipulated tapes of Stevens's voice and bell sounds, in the service of an homage to the late drummer, while Terry Day's Ruthless is a stormy brew of shouted poetry and ensemble swelling on the subject of punk. Percussionists Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo and Mark Sanders get nine of the disc's 77 minutes for a strikingly empathetic and sonically resourceful collective improvisation. Elsewhere, players such as Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill and Paul Rutherford are on hand, but this disc focuses on ensemble work rather than individuals, although Rutherford gets to muse at length on top of the orchestra in Steve Beresford's "concerto" conduction." Pat Buzby SIGNAL TO NOISE

"The first thing I like about this outfit is though perhaps they do not have the compositional tidiness of the often equally adventurous and late lamented London Jazz Composers Orchestra, their textures are all their own and after four years of existence they are about as far out as I have heard anyone get in a classical orchestra structure. This CD gives a very solid idea of what the LIO is capable of and how it maintains its uniqueness. Certainly the improvising talents of all the members are evident upon listening, to say nothing of how well they follow one another and react to performance motions that their fellows haven't yet made; in fact, many I've played this for refuse to believe that literally nothing here is written down, that the compositions really are 'group compositions' or 'conductions,' if you will. A musician with some cogent ideas will stand before the rest of the group and assist them in directing the improv through hand gestures, pre-recorded material and cues. The opening Too Busy here, a Simon H. Fell conduction, is typical of the group's more technical side. Dedicated to the late John Stevens, Fell's memoriam opens with a manic section for horns - an Irish funeral, perhaps, and you've never heard the like - and then cools down into a recitation for the fine string section, percussion, horns, and all in sequence, all beautifully phrased and executed. Funny how seamless it all sounds. Possibly having a fellow musician at the temporary helm gives all in the pit a confidence they may not feel otherwise, and an 'improvised conduction' can theoretically call on a wider palette of sounds anyway, as a classical conductor is channelling the thoughts of one person while at the LIO it's hardly a free-for-all - well, now and again, maybe - but neither is it a dictatorship. Thus, the possibilities for filigree and detail work are literally endless. Anyone will tell you that it doesn't matter how off-the-wall the composer thinks he's getting. If he or she did their job properly it will hang together in the ear. And this does, in its exquisite sense of segue and landscaping, especially in the closing pre-recorded digital rearrangement of the church bells. Beautifully done, and a fitting send-off for one of the mid-20th century's premier drummers. Vocalist Terry Day, in his liner notes about his own conduction Ruthless, has a right to talk about punk rock and how early on it refused the tyranny of technological prowess; Day himself has a brawling squawk of a voice not far off that of John Lydon or Kevin Coyne. Reading his poem about the horrors as opposed to the necessity of anonymity, Day banks down and tamps up the roaring furnace that is the LIO in full cry. Concerto for Paul Rutherford makes me think of how Duke Ellington would take a soloist in his band and write a ditty for him specifically. Steve Beresford wields a large slapping paint brush of a sound to display Rutherford's trombone against, and the result is a great heaving mass of eddies and smears, raindrops and floodtides. Against musical abstract expressionism at its most obvious, Rutherford's trombone blats and flurries, cycles and folds in on itself. Some definite moment-by-moment brilliance here. Mamosa is a treat as well, an improv for the three drummers: Louis Moholo, Tony Marsh and Mark Sanders. Voracious listeners all, it's clear: the snare and cymbal/gong work cascades, pitters and describes these patterns in the air I simply can't come up with a fancy simile for. Arresting, joyful and declamatory. Rutherford may have turned out to be the de facto star of this CD but it most probably wasn't planned that way; his Phone In is a lengthy wingding mainly for woodwinds that undulates and bounces like a suitcase full of snakes. Slowly the strings and brass meander in, and we're about to cross over into Robert Browning Overture territory - an evocative interlude for piano and clarinet aside - when a slow tidal wave of cell phone noises begins to overwhelm the proceedings. Interrupted at every turn, the instruments attempt to coexist with the intruders but as they have nothing to say (except the standard ring tone, Old MacDonald and Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring, all quite maddening in this atmosphere) - even the implacable bass clarinet, at the end, shrugs its shoulders and gives up. There's a humour here in how a vigorous conversation among programmatic and structural equals in this piece is purposely interrupted and decimated by technical gewgaws which we've come to think are so important, some of us won't switch them off when we go see a concert. Those who don't may imply by so doing that maybe art isn't as important to us as we think it is. Frustrating, but for a reason. Guitarist Dave Tucker's Giallo is diverting in that it begins in what Tucker in his liner notes refers to as a 'minimalist' state, grows slowly over ten minutes through added instruments and twists and shifts into a great swelling crescendo of a wavering drone. But as this is a 'conduction,' not a composition, and as a result there is a treat for the closely listening auditor: a wealth of tonal arrows moving within the envelope of sound created, you will hear a sense of detail within said envelope that few composers could write out in their music rooms. We end here with Philip Wachsmann's Fanfare for the LIO, a fun if messy close to the CD, which nicely rounds out this program with more tendrils and shoots Roman-candling in all directions." Ken Egbert TONE CLUSTERS

"A powerful and varied testimony to the LIO's artistry. The first track Too Busy is dedicated to pioneer free drummer John Stevens (1940-94). And what a roaring is here! Stevens would have been delighted and moved by the work's sheer audacity and exuberance." Chris Searle THE MORNING STAR


released June 1, 2003

Harry Beckett, Roland Ramanan: trumpets
Ian Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn
Robert Jarvis, Paul Rutherford: trombones
Børre Mølstad: tuba
Neil Metcalfe: flute
Jacques Foschia: Eb clarinet, bass clarinet
John Rangecroft: clarinet
Harrison Smith: bass clarinet
Tom Chant, Lol Coxhill, Evan Parker: soprano saxes
Caroline Kraabel, Adrian Northover: alto saxes
John Butcher: tenor sax
Susanna Ferrar, Sylvia Hallett, Phillipp Wachsmann: violins
Charlotte Hug: viola
Marcio Mattos: 'cello
John Edwards, Simon H. Fell, David Leahy: double basses
Dave Tucker: electric guitar
Steve Beresford, Veryan Weston: pianos
Orphy Robinson: vibraphone
Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo, Mark Sanders: percussion
Knut Aufermann, Pat Thomas: electronics
Adam Bohman: objects
Terry Day: voice

2002 (77 mins.) in jewel box
© Emanem 2003

full track listing:
01. Too Busy [16m21s]
02. Ruthless [7m04s]
03. Concerto For Paul Rutherford [16m47s]
04. Mamosa [8m48s]
05. Phone In [11m46s]
06. Giallo [10m44s]
07. Farfare For L I O [5m02s]


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Bruce's Fingers Saint Dizier Leyrenne, France

Bruce's Fingers is a record label founded in 1983 by bassist, composer & improviser Simon H. Fell.
The label's publications (which also include books and scores) are centred around free / contemporary jazz, improvised music & contemporary / experimental composition.
Initially focussed on Fell's own work, the BF project has since expanded to include many other things besides...
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