Music For 10(0)

SIMON H. FELL  Music For 10(0)

[full press reviews]


"The Simon Fell tentet clears the way: mostly of postmodernist flatulence, moralising and pseudo-liberal, with texts you'd call Dadaist if the play of references weren't also mutilated by so many subversive twists and turns. Clearing the way of all musical politeness, anyway, with dense improvisations which occasionally give way to arrangements chiselled with sculptural detail. From Dionysiac blow-outs and conflagrations through to sleep-walking harmonies, this disc should be ranked as the most important discovery of the Leo Lab series and its current releases." Alexandre Pierrepont JAZZ MAGAZINE

"Well worth investigating by listeners with even a cursory familiarity with the English improvised music scene. Fell is a very able composer. His overtly jazz-flavored charts like HMV swing with conviction, while the deftly orchestrated Crash cogently jump cuts from lyrical sweetness to jarring textures. The ensemble includes some very strong players, including a trio of avant-tough tenor players - Charles Wharf, Pete Minns and Mick Beck - and drummer Paul Hession. Yet, with such a crowded bandstand, there are few opportunities for Fell's considerable facility as a bassist to stand out. Search out the albums on his Bruce's Fingers label for his work with smaller ensembles." Bill Shoemaker JAZZTIMES

"Although Fell's small group work has been justly praised in these pages, it's his large ensemble work that really showcases his individuality in arranging and compositional prowess. Compilation I and Compilation II showed a musician who knows how to write for improvisers, who was interested in using unique voicings and compositional structures and who wasn't afraid to take chances . . . . . . [Music For 10(0)] may be Fell's best recording yet. Fell knows how to write for improvisers much in the way Mingus did . . . . . Fell explores the group to the fullest . . . . . Crash is a gorgeous ballad with theme statement by the french horn, followed by a reed chorale. Gerols features the three tenors (no, not the opera guys) with a fierce and mighty solo by longtime Fell cohort Charles Wharf . . . . . Each movement features a poem about a different record store in Leeds. It's obvious from the barbed tone of these poems that Fell didn't care if he got his disc into any of them. There's a particularly vitriolic diatribe against Branson's Virgin empire. Some of these had me laughing out loud. Black Cat starts with the line "Petulant horder of over-price, the dark dragon scowling contempt and knowledge." I've never been to Leeds but I think I've been in that store. If you haven't checked out Fell's music, I suggest strongly that you do so soon. He's made some of the most exciting improvised music to come out of Britain this decade. This is a good place to start." Robert Iannapollo CADENCE

"I'm a big fan of what Fell does . . . . . and as time goes on my admiration for his determination, stamina and taste grows apace." BRIAN MORTON

"It's the kind of rough and raucous stuff that happens when ten free improvisers get together, but Fell and drummer Paul Hession keep things varied enough, with swift changes of pace and texture." Linton Chiswick TIME OUT

"A very impressive piece of work, both in terms of conception and realisation." MILO FINE

"Admirers of Fell's earlier large-scale Compilation II will know all about his predilection for intense, multi-layered, sometimes chaotic energy - Ivesian at times. The ten piece group assembled on Music For 10(0) deliver similar contrapuntal pleasures, but with a sharper focus on combinations of instrumental colour and contrasts in dynamics . . . . . Amid the disciplined ensemble playing, the 11 movements feature some fine soloing, notably Beck's tenor sax (Movt. VIII - Jumbos) against Mingus-influenced, swinging horn and rhythm sections. Movt. IV - Virgin, the most unusual, involves an unsettling juxtaposition of English pastoralism and dissonant free improvisation with Wilkinson's angry baritone in fine voice . . . . . the complex resonances of the richly inventive music . . . . . the literary dimension of Music For 10(0) does represent a brave leap into the unknown . . . . . challenging, multi-dimensional  . . . . . Fell's idiosyncratic vision is at its most adventurous here . . . . . (a) major work." Chris Blackford THE WIRE

"Chaotic, dense, swinging, pastoral . . . . . Fell's ambition is to be applauded. His idiosyncratic vision makes challenging and exhilarating music, performed enthusiastically by the 10-piece." Chris Blackford RUBBERNECK

"Some of the music is superb. Highlights include the opening of Virgin, where a beautiful chamber melody is assaulted by some violent alto sax intrusions, and a driving, strident tenor solo from Pete Minns on HMV. In fact, all the sax players are terrific throughout." John Eyles RUBBERNECK

"A particularly delirious, resounding work based on the forms of a free (perhaps even liberating) music." REVUE & CORRIGEE

"Music as far out as one would expect from the sleeve info. Six notes into this disc and you realise you've wandered into dangerous terrain . . . . . The energy and shock value alone are worth the price of admission, especially when compared to tepid fare by neo-lounge players who barely match a bumper-car ride for thrills. Fell is an A ticket if abrasive music and bad attitude is the ride in mind . . . . . If whatever you've got in mind for your next unassigned fifteen bucks isn't this disc, you probably won't drop it on anything that gets to you or smacks you around as memorably as these guys could have." Dave McElfresh JAZZ NOW

"Phew, what an album. Music For 10(0) is insolent, witty and explosive. At first, it reminded me of Charles Mingus; Mingus' music likewise has this fresh, explosive power. But in contrast to Mingus, who disdained uncompromising, untrammelled free jazz, Fell welcomes such free, savage moments . . . . . a raging witches' cauldron . . . . . clever, cynical poems . . . . . mercilessly, texts and musicians' contributions tear our consumer paradise into little pieces. Creators and partisans of demanding music get trampled on by the entertainment industry, but the avengers, Simon H. Fell and his ensemble, strike back without quarter!" MY WAY

"It's difficult to talk about a recording which one loves passionately . . . . . how to share this visceral passion with others? . . . . . Without a break, 75 minutes of amazing activity, bringing you to your knees, constantly regenerating itself from the point of total exhaustion, with a group momentum in perpetual renewal. Without a break. Well, we pause a moment for the voice to hold forth, but the seething passion froths up behind (and within) the words, and we can tell we can't hold back the likes of Wharf, Minns (incredible first solo!), Beck, Wilkinson; not to mention Paul Hession, the propulsive lungs of a pulverising machine, destroying and cleansing from top to bottom, practically impossible to describe such an unstoppable torrent . . . . . as I said, it's difficult . . . . . " Philippe Renaud IMPROJAZZ

"There was a time when the free-music scene was all furious faces and angry sounds. There's no doubt that the passion and the commitment remain, but on the evidence of this piece, there is now also an openness to other styles and, the saving grace, a sense of humour. The next decade should have much to offer." Pete Martin THE GUARDIAN

"Another big, important, eclectic work . . . . . deserves to be heard!" CHRIS BLACKFORD

"Though close listening reveals much scrupulous organisation by Fell, the music writhes in a way that sounds utterly spontaneous, and many of the textures and juxtapositions are as dramatic and undiscovered as anything free music can throw out. It's all pretty hilarious and great and ludicrous in roughly equal measure . . . . . certainly rewarding on its own terms." THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ ON CD

"The experimental avant-jazz/poetry combination of Out To Lunch and Simon Fell produced an electrifying performance. Lunch read extracts . . . . . to Fell's magnificent cacophony of squealing, scraping, amelodic double bass accompaniment." Alistair M. Horne VARSITY

"Ample opportunity to enjoy the beauties of Free Improvisation, the successful combination of composition and improvisation and - not always, but frequently - British humour." Pepsch Muska JAZZ LIVE

"This kicks in really hard. When the large ensemble plays the prelude with full power - the baritone sax roars, the bass clarinet rumbles mightily and skids, the french horn peppering up above - you need to have pretty tough ears. If you have a noodle-noodle pop ear or a blissfully swinging attitude you're not going to get very far with these jazzers from northern England. With wide-open horns, ecstatic circles and zigzags of rhythm, heftily scraping guitar strings and fizzy reminiscences of swing, these ten improvisors and poet dive into the ocean of Free Improvisation. Between unexpected leaps of composition, gushes of ecstasy and tongue-in-cheek irony accompanied by a black humour of biting, sometimes meditative social and cultural critique - given all of that, there's not very much room left in the movements for boredom. Peaceful passages, gourmet blues and almost minimalist stand-stills do however leave enough room for productive relaxation. But you know the next explosion is on its way. Compacted storms of improvisation clean your ears and brain of all the lazy habits of consumerist deadness to sound." MS JAZZ PODIUM

"Fell's bizarre panorama comprises truly contorted swing reminiscences, boppy passages, obscure new-music borrowings and much - very much indeed - that counts as what we call Free Jazz: hysteria, catharsis, comic noises, screaming. This thoroughly tradition-associated scene-setting is not however what makes this CD so special (though reason enough to spend some of the day's most beautiful, dissonant hours with it). But what is the recording about really? Well - it's about record shops. To these sounds, Wire-author Ben Watson proclaims texts by Out To Lunch. While Fell contrives a lucid construction from music and text, Watson performs - in piercing tones - poems about the joy and pain of record-buying." Felix Klopotek SPEX

"John Zorn and Simon Fell have demonstrated that sympathetic scoring can fire improvisors . . . . . " Ben Watson HIFI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW

"A big composition in eleven movements, big band swing music with plenty of space for free blowing. Some passages, for example, Movement IV sound like a Colliery Brass Band or Salvation Army band blowing a melancholy air in the bitter Northern air. Although the full piece takes some 90 minutes to perform, sections can be removed and re-arranged as necessary; I saw a slightly truncated one at the LMC Festival, and it's very good indeed live. With the added bonus of ranting poetry from Ben Watson, who declaims with poisonous zeal against the hypocrisy and counter-revolutionary forces of record shops in Leeds." Ed Pinsent THE SOUND PROJECTOR


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