Vertigo 1971 / Esoteric 2013
The full-form crystallization of British jazz-rock, where hyphen is a bridge and fusion an undesirable mirage.
If there’s a fault line on both this ensemble’s debut and second album but, while “You Are Here… I Am There” suggested a clear division between two parties, its follow-up signals an approachment. The record’s title might be taken from a SOFT MACHINE piece – with no less than three current and future machinists, Robert Wyatt among them, playing here – yet shortening the titular composition to an energetic quote delivered by Elton Dean’s sax and Marc Charig’s cornet stresses a powerful shift in the collective dynamics.
This time Keith Tippett takes the band leader’s stand no less than a piano stool and even gives a composer’s reins to his sidekicks – to an extent where a keyboard sits comfortably while riding shotgun and calling shots. And though Tippett’s not too happy with a rock aura which resulted from such an approach, and maestro’s own presence on three KING CRIMSON platters, it’s a showcase of his creative span as well as the listener’s gain.
From the polyrhythmic carnival of “This Is What Happens”, where writer Nick Evans’ trombone vies for a vim whim with fellow brass-burrowers and Keith effusively exercises his Gil Evans chops, on to the slick electric jive of “Black Horse”, chords are translated to memorable riffs. They’re most monumental in the neon sway of “Green And Orange Night Park”, as nocturnal unison sporadically shoots solo rays into the crackling ether, whereas it’s Dean’s “Gridal Suite” that pitches the mightiest, sweetly dissonant in places, grind. And when the free jazz sweeps through leader’s early piece “Thoughts To Geoff”, Gary Boyle’s guitar adding to the aural assault and Roy Babbington’s bass anchoring it, the melodic method to this finely tuned chaos renders it vivacious, especially once ivories provide an icing to the stereo-panned hot fudge. Ignoring it is tantamount to suicide, and the dedication embedded in these grooves can’t be nonreciprocal.