Early days in British improv
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 03/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the problems with early British improv has been that recordings haven't always been easy to get a hold of, since a number of them were recorded for larger corporations that haven't been very interested in reissuing them. For instance, the classic 1968 SME date _Karyobin_, recorded for Island, was unavailable until very recently, with the Chronoscope reissue. ECM still hasn't reissued a number of notable dates, like the Music Improvisation Company's final recording, or the Bailey/Holland duets. Deutsche Grammophon has a 3-LP set of free improv in its archives which they have never reissued. -- Fortunately Columbia has recently reissued a pair of Tony Oxley discs from this period, though I'd suggest snapping them up before they vanish again. _The Baptised Traveller_ is not strictly free-improv because all tracks involve composed materials (even a version of a Charlie Mariano tune), but the radicalness of the musical language is nonetheless apparent, especially on the opening blasts on the 1st track, & the freedoms of the last track, "Preparation". This is closer to American free jazz, in fact, than the MIC or (some lineups of) the SME; in particular I've never heard Evan Parker sound so directly Aylerish--it's quite revelatory listening for anyone who's only heard his more "mature" work. It's a terrific band, rather similar to _Karyobin_'s lineup: Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, Derek Bailey (who only plays on the 2nd side of the original album), Jeff Clyne & Oxley himself, playing "straight" kit rather than the more extravagant nonstandard kit & electronics he increasingly turned to in the 1970s. Documentation of Wheeler's "out" playing is rather thin on the ground at the moment, so this is especially welcome--& he's in marvellous form. Any fan of free-improv will want this album: it still packs a punch."
Peter | Newton, MA USA | 10/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have owned this album for only about a week now and it is only my second exposure to Oxley (the first being Extrapolation), and as far as I know, my first exposure to the rest of the band, though I had read about and have been slightly more familiar with Evan Parker. While I do think that this album in its entirety is fantastic, Stone Garden is a particularly moving piece of music. I found Stone Garden to be the most immediately enjoyable track on the album, but as I've come to know Crossing/ Arrival and Preparation I've come to appreciate them on the same level, though musically I do think Stone Garden is stylistically seperate from the rest of the album, beyond being the only track not written by Oxley. I think because the music, as I hear it, lacks a rhythmic or even tonal center, it creates the searching/ wandering traveller feeling that Oxley apparently had in mind. I'm having trouble describing the playing on this album. Tony Oxley is especially propulsive but he always seems to remain sensitive to the context of the music. I think the band's playing throughout is superb and always serves the compositions greatly. I have taken a lot away from The Baptised Traveller in the short time that I have owned it and I would not be surprised in the least to find myself increasingly attached to the music as time goes on."