[full press reviews]


"Finding ways to make improv work in large groups is a challenge we rise to the way some people want to climb mountains or land on Mars. And some of the results are promising: Rhodri Davies's quiet Wstrws is a fine example. His notes make something clear before the track begins: there are no wailing sax sections here. His choice of the trumpets of Chris Burn and Matt Davis - the latter rather a young lion of the scene, as it were - as lead voices is inspired; both are quiet players, serious players, players who think while they blow and stop when their thoughts run dry. The rest of the group thrive within the discipline which this arrangement throws up." Richard Cochrane MUSINGS

"An improvising ensemble of this size necessitates special requirements among the participants - the kind of careful listening and interactive response for which British free improvisers are known. The pair of completely ad hoc performances here illustrate this, and suggest a true 'concerto for orchestra', where the details of design and direction are left solely to the spontaneous decisions of the participants. Each of the remaining pieces is shaped in some part by the personality of the conductor(s) and the distinct strategies they employ. The instrumental vocabulary used by the participants includes extended sonorities, rootless free-jazz phrasing, and concise New Music intervallic relationships - sometimes all at the same time. The effect can be quite like some of Ligeti's or Xenakis' more adventurous, complex scores - a blur of merging sound masses; brief, violent explosions and then a sorting-out of sonic debris; sparse, pointillist colours; an exhilarating if indiscernible Tower of Babel. Such music may be an acquired taste. The point is, these musicians are participating in important and exciting activities, making discoveries and creating music that otherwise could not exist, and cannot be re-created. They're keeping the 'new' in New Music alive." Art Lange FANFARE

"Concerto for Alan Tomlinson opens disc 1 with brio, the orchestra providing a perfect backdrop for the trombonist to shine. Dave Tucker's leading of Monster's Milk must also be mentioned for the richness in the constrasts he can get out of the orchestra. Disc 2 contains shorter (seven, none breaking the 12-minute threshold) and conceptualized tracks. Caroline Kraabel's Virus has the orchestra acting as a living organism in which a virus infects one organ after the other - a very good idea that translates almost graphically in the music. Simon H. Fell's Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85) is the most written piece, taking 100 beats from an Ellington-Strayhorn ballad and stretching them on 10 minutes. The result is stunning. Also worth of note are Notes for Terry Day, a piece giving room to Day's bamboo pipes (Day was a percussionist until a degenerative disease forced him to quit; the Orchestra is his first musical venture out of percussion); Burn's The Barn makes use of various subsections of the orchestra in duets and trios; Wachsmann's Changing Places splits the orchestra in four sections, each with it's own conductor! Sound quality is impeccable. A 24-page booklet gives much details on the orchestra and the pieces performed. On Proceedings, the listener is invited to discover the scope and the richness of the possibilities a large-scale orchestra can offer in an improvisational context. The broad palette covered here in terms of sound, dynamics and contrasts eliminates any chance of monotony. This record is firm statement that the London improv scene alive and kicking and still has plenty to say. A must. Very strongly recommended. **** " François Couture DELIRE ACTUEL

"Proceedings could serve as a comprehensive guide to large-scale improvisational deployment – or perhaps a nice composite glimpse of the current British Free-Improvisation movement. A 2-CD set featuring a Who’s Who of modern day stylists along with those who helped write the book, Proceedings is a grand exposition of loosely composed motifs based upon on divergent topics. Led by various conductors, the compositions are often colourful, contemplative, playfully boisterous, witty and charming, as the musicians coalesce for a series of ambitiousundertakings. Proceedings is theatrical and quite animated yet more importantly, teeming with sly ingenuity and absorbing improvisation amid light-hearted doses of fun and frolic!" Glen Astarita ALL ABOUT JAZZ

"The music is mostly structured, in ways that allow for organic improvisations, and the old chestnut of composition versus improvisation is faced head on. If I enjoyed the three totally improvised tracks most here, there is no doubt that the structured approach refreshes the tradition and leads to beautiful results. I love Dave Tucker's light touch on Monster's Milk and the typically complex ideas Simon H. Fell brings to his Ellington tribute Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85). But, as I'm sure all the contributors would agree, it's the playing that makes this one of this year's must-haves." Gus Garside RUBBERNECK

"The LIO's life as a rehearsal and concert ensemble is gratifying, and has now been formally documented with this double-disc set of some magnitude. This is a band record, an ensemble affair, a set where what you remember is the shifting, fugitive shape and sound of a big group of players who are constantly listening and following and working within each other's idea of complete accord. It's also a collective that brings more than one generation of players together, in itself a celebration of London's matchless breed of improvising voices. More!" Mike Fish JAZZ REVIEW

"This conglomeration of London-based musicians is a free improvisation lover's delight. Boasting talent galore from saxophonists Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, and John Butcher to violist Philipp Wachsmann, bassist Simon Fell, trumpeter/pianist Chris Burn, and trombonist Alan Tomlinson, the more than thirty performers appearing on this double CD push the outer edges of chaotic interplay. Performing ten "compositions" and two completely improvised pieces, there is a complete abandonment of anything approaching melody. While the usual signposts of listening experience may not be familiar, the results speak for themselves with stunning cacophony, wild individual ad group solos, and the sort of extreme game playing that makes John Zorn seem tame." Steven Loewy ALL MUSIC GUIDE

"If you look over the personnel of this orchestra you can see that it is something of a summit meeting of two or three generations of top-flight British free improvisers: Parker, Coxhill, Butcher, Day, Fell, Beresford, almost the whole gang is here. The pieces range from total improvisation to conductions where the conductor gives spontaneous cues to the musicians, creating an instant arrangement, to game pieces where the players perform according to set rules. The resulting music often sounds unearthly but intriguing with great blocks of sound buzzing like a hive of angry bees until they are punctured by a striking solo moment. Concerto For Alan Tomlinson is most like this with the trombonist braying against a busy backdrop of strings and woodwinds. On/Off has a sampler working against darts and sprays of sound for an effect that sounds alternately like Bartok and Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Monster's Milk is typical British improvisation, a constant building of small details that moves slowly from silence to a crashing din with piano and violin to the fore. The most accessible piece is Simon H. Fell's Ellington 100, which starts from a flattened-out fragment of unidentified Ellington rhythm and builds a brood ballad that works in a harp solo and a bass and drum duet and finishes with a haunting soprano sax solo by the great Lol Coxhill. There's a lot to take in here, a fascinating mosaic of sounds and ideas. If you're into the likes of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Derek Bailey's Company Week gatherings, you will definitely enjoy this." Jerome Wilson CADENCE

"The beauty of this project is illuminated by the collective free improvisation Proceeding 1, a minimalist ensemble dirge that builds into a microtonal crescendo as elongated lines overlap to sustain an intensifying organic structure of anarchic lyrical cells. The London Improvisers Orchestra proves that it is possible to expand the radical techniques of pioneers like Derek Bailey and Evan Parker and sustain them on a communal scale, a fantastic achievement that vindicates Charlie Parker's desire to have Edgard Varese design an orchestral score for him fifty years ago.  Proceedings is a contemporary creative masterpiece . . . the life journey that brings me to appreciate the significance of the London Improvisers Orchestra involves an ongoing learning curve that numbers among the most vital and rewarding dimensions of my aesthetic experience." David Lewis CODA

"A wide-ranging and impressive debut. The first disc quickly demonstrates that LIO's playing in two group improvisations (massed droning tides of chopping, squeaking, sawing sound which rise and fall with a slow but powerful pulse, inexorably building into massive crescendos) and three conductions is by and large less formal and noticeably more playful than Butch Morris's slightly arch constructions. Steve Beresford's spiky 'concerto' showcases the antics of maverick trombonist Alan Tomlinson; Evan Parker's conduction sees Kaffe Matthews' sampler taking on the orchestra's collective might. The nebulous conception of Caroline Kraabel's Virus, an envisaging of the players as an organism and the (two)conductors as regulating organs, with the players instructed "not to consciously choose what to play but just to let the simplest sound happen in response to the conducting" gives rise to a startlingly organic and unpredictable momentum of playing; Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85), Simon Fell's elegy for the great band-leader, is re-presented in all its lilting nostalgia; Phil Wachsmann's Changing Places Summer 99 divides the orchestra into four sections, each with a different conductor, all overseen by a fifth, leading to clashing, crashing flourishes; Kraabel's Notes For Terry Day assigns each player one note, which they are entitled to either play or not play, with London improv vet Day soloing on bamboo pipes on top of them. The following two conductions limit themselves in their deployment of the orchestra's resources: Rhodri Davies's Wstrws, originally composed for IST, is a spacious, spare graphic score which sets two trumpets against a carefully considered succession of instruments; Chris Burn's The Barn comprises a series of duos and trios of predetermined length, methodically working its way through the available musicians. Proceedings concludes with Adam Bohman's Press Summary, in which the musicians interpret by reading aloud or playing in response to edited press releases from Bohman's work place, resulting in a babbling tapestry of instrumental hubbub and random vocal interjections. The playing is of a high standard throughout, and considered together, these conductions make for a commendably thorough exploration of the orchestra's not inconsiderable range and resources. For those not fortunate enough to have monthly access to large group playing of this quality, Proceedings is an essential purchase." Nick Cain OPPROBRIUM

"Disc one contains five pieces, all improvisations, three of them over 14 minutes in length. Some are conducted, and Monster's Milk, with guest conductor Dave Tucker, stands out as the magnum opus on this set, thanks to the richness in the contrasts he gets out of the orchestra. Disc two contains shorter (seven, none breaking the 12-minute threshold) and conceptualized pieces. Caroline Kraabel's Virus has the orchestra acting like a living organism in which a virus infects one organ after the other - a very good idea that translates almost graphically into the music. Simon H. Fell's Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85) is the most written piece, taking 100 beats from an Ellington/Strayhorn ballad and stretching them over ten minutes. The result is an impressive, but very abstract composition." François Couture ALL MUSIC GUIDE

"Proceedings is a two-CD document of the London Improvisers Orchestra whose collective improvisations are much closer to the ideas and methodologies of contemporary classical music than they are to the mainstream traditions of big band swing. Even when that tradition is referenced by Simon H Fell's centennial tribute (Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85)), Fell stresses that the 18-piece ensemble is 'working without conventional written music of any kind, and with only the slightest links with the 'jazz tradition''. The beauty of this project is illuminated by the collective free improvisation Proceeding 1, a minimalist dirge that builds into a microtonal crescendo as elongated lines overlap to sustain an intensifying organic structure of anarchic lyrical cells. The London Improvisers Orchestra proves that it is possible to expand the radical techniques of pioneers like Derek Bailey and Evan Parker and sustain them on a communal scale, a fantastic achievement. Proceedings is a contemporary creative masterpiece that includes such triumphs as Virus by Caroline Kraabel, Press Summary by Adam Bohman, and On/Off an inspired spontaneous idea of Evan Parker's that utilises live interaction between a 28-piece ensemble and Kaffe Matthews on sampler." David Lewis CODA


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