Wednesday, May 02, 2007

To punk jazz or not to punk jazz?

We like to show our fairness and not just put up the good reviews. So here are two, by Phil Johnson from the Independent on Sunday (of Led Bib) and Jack Massarik (of the Evening Standard) of Finn Peters.

Reviewers are just privileged punters with just the chance to have their own views in the printed media. That makes them as fallible as the rest of us. For example, Phil Johnson is really just taking it out on punk jazz, and the likes of Soft Machine, rather than on Led Bib per se.

"As with most things, you can blame post-modernism. But what irks about the punk-jazz trend, apart from music college grads squawking like they're down and dirty Bowery boys, is hearing something that wasn't that great in the first place, done so much worse. Drummer/ composer Mark Holub's quintet Led Bib have an unusual two-alto front- line, add Soft Machine-prog to the normal Ornettelite, and there are even electric bass solos. But Soft Machine had Elton Dean, who was a master. Having sat cross-legged through the original without having much fun, I'm unwilling to concede that this has much reason to exist at all."

Jack Massarik on Finn Peters.
"The best jazz, we know, is supposed to be the sound of surprise. Yet even so it was a bit much last night to catch what was billed as a promotional gig for Finn Peters's new album, Su-Ling, only to find the altoist using another line-up and playing different music altogether. Gone were bassist Tom Herbert and guitarist David Okumu, replaced by tuba specialist Oren Marshall and trombonist Trevor Mires.

And without warning, his album's glossy multi-cultural sophistication was substituted by a raucous old-fashioned free-improv free-for-all. Blame the full moon. Peters, a Jekyll and Hyde saxman if ever there was one, had somehow transmuted from versatile but glib neo-bop sessionman to discordant, self-indulgent iconoclast, mangling Sixties themes by the liberated likes of pianist Mischa Mengelberg and altoist Carlos Ward.

Presented as lofty original compositions were negligible whole-tone phrases of the kind wittily used in passing by true improvising masters like Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. Apart from Peters's broad flute tone on Ballad Boy, the only truly enjoyable moment came when Marshall produced an extraordinary series of deep burping and bubbling noises which suggested that his giant bass-tuba had suddenly turned nasty and was about to eat him alive."

P.S. The second set was fully devoted to the music from the album. So no guesses as to who didn't hang around for it. And what's so wrong with Mischa Mengelberg anyway?

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