9 Points In Ascent


[full press reviews]


"Another fine release from Bruce's Fingers. Given what you would imagine to be a fairly limited pallet of sounds & timbres from these particular instruments, it's extraordinary the range of colours on display. This must surely be the mark of gifted players turning their prowess in towards the needs of the music. Superbly recorded by Halliwell at UEA in Norwich, capturing what was no doubt a memorable day's music making." Nick Smith AVANT

"Bassist Simon H. Fell thrives on extreme situations (Hession/Wilkinson/Fell, Descension, Ist). Yet he never omits the direct, gratifying groove that signals jazz. Here his continuous, lightfingered responses to Halliwell's Braxtonish exploration of the nastier end of the alto have a buoyant swing reminiscent of the lines Charlie Haden played for Ornette. Sometimes Fell's bowing gets so close to the sound of Halliwell's sax the mind reels; sounds lift off from the instruments and appear to speak pure ideas. Both the burden of tradition and the jadedness of repertoire are jettisoned as Halliwell and Fell vault themselves into the next chapter of jazz. Superb. A:1" Ben Watson HIFI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW

"A brilliant celebration of free improv; purely acoustic, no studio trickery, just two unique voices engaged in the kind of slippery dialogue no-one has heard bass and saxophone enter into since Parker and Guy." Richard Cochrane MUSINGS

"Deceptively complex, this duo of Graham Halliwell's alto saxophone and Simon Fell's string bass brings forth an incredible array of sounds, leading to improvised music of the highest order. Halliwell wears a coat of many colors, all of which shine with brilliant intensity. His abrasively abstract tones, with occasional flutters or multi - phonics, inhabit a broad expanse, stretching boundaries, and interweaving constructions of intense beauty. Fell's bass can be slow and brittle, or energetically frenetic, with a full, in-your-face sound. The clever packaging, which lets the listener change the cover at whim, and the clear sound, are icing on the cake." Steven A Loewy ALL MUSIC GUIDE

"Halliwell and Fell released the extraordinary CD 9 Points In Ascent earlier this year, a duo recording of singular lucidity which comes highly recommended by Western Civilisation." Richard Sanderson WESTERN CIVILISATION

"Halliwell's alto pops, trills and squeaks, and Fell's double bass rumbles, rattles and moans in response. The recording was direct to digital master, preserving fine details of a kind often lost in the relative murkiness of customary free music documentation. Titles such as Simple And Unified Complex Of Several Free Lines and Wave-like Line Accompanied By Geometric Line suggest an austerity, which is belied by the richness of the sound and the sympathetic character of the musical exchange." Julian Cowley THE WIRE

"Halliwell explores a great variety of timbres and textures, not to mention moods and tempos, on this rich and varied album (his debut full-length recording), and is not afraid to resort to lip-smacks, growls and sudden spurts of sound to make his musical points. Fell is a fine, propulsive bassist and a sparkplug of the UK improvised scene and their duo work, from explosive scrabbles through slow slithers to the odd burst of pure noise, will greatly please followers of improvised music." CP JAZZWISE

"The simultaneous publication of these 3 CDs (9 Points In Ascent, Frankenstein & Composition No. 30) demonstrates once more Simon H. Fell's catalysing method of operations, comparable to that of William Parker in New York. An instrumentalist with a proven technique, the bassist has also established himself as a composer with a passion for experiment, and both these aspects of his personality are evident on each of these discs. On the first, saxophonist Graham Halliwell's playing is characterised by a cutting edge which carves sharp corners onto this incident-packed discourse. Rapid animated phrases of a cool heat are often in opposition to minimal sequences working with air or key sounds. These random contextualisations allow Fell to utilise all the possibilities of his bass whilst exploring the spaces between the activities of his unpredictable companion." Gustave Cerutti IMPROJAZZ

"The pseudo-geometrical titles and the overall sound of this disc may recall Evan Parker, and Halliwell certainly shares some similar techniques. He is particularly fond of the soft, undulating texture which Parker creates with, say, Barry Guy, but he has some tricks of his own too. He prefers to follow what one might call a more jazzy logic in his solos, spontaneously creating lick-like phrases which make sense in context but are not typically pursued as motifs for very long. It's good to hear Fell in such an exposed space again. His work as a composer is undoubtedly important but, like his hero Charles Mingus, it's easy to forget what a fine bass player he is. He has an undeniable legitimate technique, but prefers to pull the bass in other directions, most of which will be familiar to the improvised music initiate. His quickfire chromatic rumble, however, punctuated by noise-effects with seemingly impossible fluidity, is something all of his own. Fell's most impressive duo and trio partners tend to meet him on his home ground, which is good old-fashioned improvised interaction with the emphasis on moving the music forwards and minimising the scrabbling about which comes with the territory. These are taut, focused dialogues on the whole, musical ideas darting from one player to the other without ever seeming to come to rest. Indeed, the very obliquity of this music will probably remind some listeners of Parker and Guy (or Barre Phillips) even if these are musicians with something quite different by way of technique and approach. All of this is a credit to Halliwell, whose temperament seems to fit with Fell's so seamlessly. These are both players with a rich palette of sounds and enough technique to get beyond gimmickry and into music of considerable depth and variety. One never misses a drummer here - Fell alone plays plenty of percussion in between his notes - and the addition of a third player might well have detracted from the rich texture which these two produce unfettered. Indeed, this feels oddly like a kind of re-fried energy music; no screaming blues references, but such agitated rhythms, such a rush of ideas, that the listener can be left rather exhausted, if paradoxically energised." Richard Cochrane RESONANCE

"Fell's strong, resourceful bass playing has never sounded better than on 9 Points." Steve Beresford MUSICIAN

"Fell demonstrates his considerable prowess getting around his fiddle in both traditional and extended techniques, and Halliwell gives us some nice fluttering, screeching, and droning. There are a couple of distinguishing features to this disk, most involving its lower-energy material. I was taken by the opening of Free Curve To The Point, which bears some resemblance to the dreamy slow movement of Ruth Crawford Seeger's wind quintet. The gentle beginning to Wave-Like Line is also soothingly atmospheric, as is the last minute or two of the title tune." Walter Horn CADENCE

"An acerbic quality pervades these nine improvised duets between altoist Graham Halliwell and bassist Simon H. Fell, with the Britons paying close regard to textural details and micro-gestures. Intelligent, intense music." CODA

"It's Fell's authoritative, full-bodied bass playing that first grips the attention, and the recording's clarity does justice to the breadth of his imagination – seamless transitions from the rhythmic to the percussive, to guitar-like strums and dramatic finger rubs are all part of the expressive lexicon he draws upon. Halliwell displays admirable composure and resourcefulness, especially in the alto's upper register, producing intriguing 'aquatic' and windswept sounds on Free Wave-Like Line With Accent; the frequent delicacy of his playing is reminiscent of John Butcher, and like Fell he's quick to sense a balladic mood taking shape. A confident and engaging rapport throughout." Chris Blackford RUBBERNECK

"Completely focussed on the extremely personal voices and their clear interaction. Halliwell is capable of a purity of tone and elegance of phrasing, sometimes rustling like silk, sometimes suddenly closing in on one fragment which he dissects or grinds into powder. A most appropriate response to Fell's restless pulverisation of his strings...." Alexandre Pierrepont JAZZ MAGAZINE

"The saxophonist is an anti-virtuoso, the bassist a virtuoso who makes light of that skill. Awkward, edgy, full of sudden squalls, or very occasional shafts of light. ***" THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ ON CD


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