Two Falls & A Submission HESSION / WILKINSON / FELL Two Falls & A Submission

[full press reviews]


ďWilkinson and cohorts use co-operative tumult and tumble as a thesis; linearity is evident, but Wilkinson defers to collective swirl and push. His horn is up front and sometimes sounds the lead instrument, but this isnít really the case, and his cryptic vocals are totally visceral and unnerving. Fell endures low volume but on The Submission he sparks a woozy arco that snaps him into focus and takes the activities to outer space. The perpetually raw Hession similarly suffers the mix with loss of tonal variation but keeps this train moving way ahead of schedule. The recording captures a pure communal flame making session.Ē Ben Hall THE WIRE

ďThis album will surely blow your socks off, and I can already start by highly recommending it to anyone interested in forceful free jazz and in sax trios. The three lengthy pieces on this album are freely improvised, yet all three have an uncanny sense of unity and direction : raw, merciless, powerful, loud, but interestingly enough never noisy - although that is of course relative. The trio has been playing and recording together for the last twenty years, and that can be heard, felt even, as all three move forward as a three-headed monster, but then one with a heart as big as it is raw, because they do not shy away from emotional delivery. Sometimes the storm dies down a little for slower, calmer moments, yet the intensity and the raw sensitivity never diminish, an amazing accomplishment. The trio demonstrates how musical drive, expressivity and forward motion can be achieved without clear rhythm but with incredible pulse and collective energy. It is in any case their best album so far, rawer and with a more attentive audience than on Bogey's, with more unity and coherence than foom! foom!, less chaotic and with better sound quality than The Horrors Of Darmstadt, ... and it shows how the trio has managed to perfect its style and approach, making it even more direct, more impactful and cohesive. The real deal in free jazz!Ē Stef FREE JAZZ BLOGSPOT

ďIn their heyday in the í90s, the threesome was an awesome prospect both live and on disc; all three played with the kind of wild freedom that had characterized í60s free jazz (yes, jazz, not improv) but had not been heard much since. Around 2000, after the release of St. Johnís on the Ecstatic Peace label (proprietor Thurston Moore was a fan), they went their separate ways. When their 2010 reunion tour was announced, many wondered if the three would still generate their former fire. They need not have worried. Right from the first notes of the opener, First Fall, the years fall away as all three simultaneously hit top gear in a bravura display of high-energy improvisation. Wilkinson immediately grabs the limelight, straight away playing with a raw intensity that other saxophonists might hit once a night; for Wilkinson, that is the baseline from which he then builds. Alternating between saxophones, he solos relentlessly, keeping a seamless barrage of phrases flowing from his horns. When he does intermittently pause from blowing, he is likely to pour forth improvised, wordless vocals with as much gusto as he plays. It seems entirely appropriate that Two Falls & a Submission takes its title from the parlance of all-in wrestling. Hession and Fell never act as support players. Throughout, the drummer matches Wilkinsonís intensity, never letting the pace flag so as to keep the pressure up. At times it sounds as if he and Wilkinson are involved in a one-on-one duel to see who will crack first; of course, neither of them does. For his part, Fell stokes the fire with his own propulsive phrases, constantly driving things forward and holding them together. The end result is an amalgam of three equal contributions that fit together perfectly; the absence of any one of them would make the whole feel incomplete. Even when the three move down a gear ó as they sometimes must, given the relentless pace they set ó they still retain all the qualities that make this trio special: intensity, togetherness, equality. Awesome stuff.Ē John Eyles DUSTED

ďThereís nothing polite about Two Falls & A Submission (3Ĺ stars), the first new recording in more than a decade by three of Englandís most devoted and ferocious free-jazz practitioners. The trio subscribes to a particularly bruising style echoing Peter BrŲtzmann, marked by fierce overblowing, lacerating tones and frenetic rhythm. Wilkinson continues to be a marvel on baritone, ranging from gut-rumbling honks to upper-register squeals that could raise the dead.Ē Peter Margasak DOWN BEAT

ďPressurized intensity would appear to be Wilkinsonís favored mode of expression. In truth there are points during the CDís 60 minutes, when reed slurs, cries and mastication appear inadequate for all he wants to express. At those occasions he begins vocalizing, either with echoing basso puffs or acute yelps. On First Fall for instance, these arenít random grunts, but yodels, whoops, lip-bubbling and chanting that fit the narrative the way similar verbal outbursts from tribal musicians complement their playing. Nonetheless, with First Fall percolating for more than 32Ĺ minutes and the other two tracks nearly 16 and almost 13 minutes respectively, itís evident that the saxophonistís productivity has no beginning and no end. Tracks appear to finish when he runs out or breath or stamina, not ideas. On later tracks with Fellís sprawling, percussive bass strokes and Hessionís drags strokes and shivering cymbals behind him, Wilkinson lets loose with throated reflux from the baritone saxophone that so quickly soars to screaming altissimo that you wonder if he has actually returned to the smaller sax. Even as The Submission ends with a cornucopia of reed-shredding harmonics and shrill split tones, itís nearly certain that the defining climax of moderato and curvaceous line extensions comes from the alto. With more than one-half hour devoted to First Fall however, the saxophonist as well as his cohorts have even more space in which to explore the variants of dissonant interaction. Backed by Fellís unvarying rhythmic pulse and Hessionís drags, rebounds and door-banging smacks, Wilkinson keeps spinning new tones and timbres from his horns. When he isnít vocally screaming multiphonics, the saxophonist builds up a collection of abstract lines, staccato vibrations and intense glossolalia as well as juddering bites and snorts. At points the drummer responds with cross sticking and drumstick scratches on a cymbal top as Fell scrubs spiccato textures. And, as elsewhere, there are sequences, almost always played on alto saxophone, where the reedist proves that, if so inclined, he can create a moderato, impressionistic interlude. Those intervals donít last very long however, and shortly afterwards Wilkinsonís reed playing is off in the stratosphere again, packing enough ideas and reed timbres into his exposition that would give many other saxophonists material for a dozen forays. Finally as the rhythm section rolls along unperturbed and sympathetic, the saxophonist trades the split tones and flutters for slides and silences.Ē Ken Waxman JAZZWORD

ďFirst Fall last for over half an hour but like all these performances seems to be imbued with a sort of inner logic, the kind that only comes from years of playing together. Initially Wilkinsonís volcanic alto sax squalls above the polyrhythmic flow of Hessionís drums. Hession is consistently busy here, rolling around his kit with an unstoppable flow. Wilkinsonís all action approach defies his colleagues to be anything less than busy, his vocalised shrieks almost demand an urgency and his two band mates donít disappoint. The rumble of Fellís bass is an omniscient presence as his two colleagues go head to head. At certain points Wilkinson removes the sax from his mouth and sings/chants in almost primal fashion, itís one of his signature moves. Sometimes the music cools down from boiling point to embrace more impressionistic moments, freely structured scuttlings with the musicians probing the outer reaches of their instruments. Gradually the intensity builds again with Wilkinson wringing almost animalistic sounds from his baritone as Hession clatters around him. This is followed by a bout of almost shamanistic vocalising from Wilkinson before he finally falls silent to allow a brief dialogue between bass and drums before re-emerging on alto. At first heís almost lyrical but the music becomes darker and more exploratory with Wilkinson making use of multiphonics before gradually ramping up the intensity again, his sax whinnying belligerently as the trio throw themselves into a sustained high energy coda. Taken as a whole the piece represents a journey, with peaks and troughs but with the trio never losing their intensity and focus. Itís not an easy trip but if listened to in the right frame of mind itís one that is utterly absorbing- and you have to admire their physical resourcefulness if nothing else. The Submission begins with dirty sounding solo baritone complete with Roland Kirk style vocalisations, a tour de force crashed by the thunder of Hessionís drums. Then itís all out sonic assault as the trio grab the audience by the throat only to fall away into a sinister, unnerving central passage featuring Wilkinsonís ghostly, wordless vocal, Fellís eerily bowed bass and Hessionís low register mallet rumbles. When Wilkinson picks up the sax again the sounds he produces are almost unworldly, sounding strangled and full of brooding menace. Eventually something relatively more conventional emerges with a lengthy Wilkinson solo above the incessant polyrhythmic rumble of Hessionís drumming as the fifteen minute plus extravaganza plays itself out to the obvious delight of the Monmouth crowd. Second Fall is shorter but begins in similar fashion with solo Wilkinson, his other worldly sounds later underpinned by sepulchral arco bass. Hessionís drumming is fluid and impressionistic and thereís some more vocalising from Wilkinson before a sax melody tentatively emerges and Wilkinson solos relatively conventionally above Hessionís insistent polyrhythmic flow and Fellís powerfully plucked anchoring bass. Itís not quite as full on as its predecessors but the trio still build up a fair head of steam with Wilkinson and Hession again going to head. Thereís a tendency throughout this recording to view these two as the grapplers with Fell acting as a kind of referee. Iíll admit that I donít always find improv the easiest of genres to get on with, I like the idea of it but donít always find it easy to listen to, particularly on record. However it is thrilling to watch the process live, the thinking in the moment, the visual impact of extended instrumental techniques, the things that canít always be appreciated on radio broadcasts or on album. Another analogy often used to describe the improv process is ďpainting pictures in soundĒ and thereís a certain irony in the fact that Wilkinson trained as a painter completing a Fine Arts degree at Leeds University before turning to music. Artís loss was surely musicís gain. Recommended, but not for the faint-hearted.Ē Ian Mann THE JAZZ MANN

ďIf youíre a Briton of a certain age, the Hession/Wilkinson/Fell trio were the antidote to clichťs about English insect music; to anyone else who caught on, they were evidence that free jazz of a very high order was not only still being made, but it didnít have to sound just like records that were recorded before anyone saw that posthumously released picture of Lyndon Johnson with long hair. Then they spent a decade doing other things, some of them quite superb, but nothing quite the same as this trio ó proof positive that they were on to something not only great, but essentially personal. Those guys had chemistry. Then they got back together in 2010; if you were that Briton, this record, made in Monmouth during that reunion tour might be proof that the guys still have it. The rest of us, who havenít been so well situated geographically or temporally, will have to settle for saying that this is (ahem) free jazz of a very high order, capable of hitting as hard as your favorite BrŲtzmann-led combo, playing as nuanced as your favorite Parker/Guy/Lytton set, and audibly, utterly in the moment.Ē Bill Meyer TOKAFI

ďCoffee required. Strong coffee. Hession/Wilkinson/Fell are three free jazz musicians jamming. Literally, they are jamming their sounds into one another, each note a miniature bumper car going at hyper speed, crashing into whatever other notes are lucky enough to exist split-seconds away. Notes. Thereís a million of them on this album, at the very least. The drummerís got this Buddy Rich big band style, but somehow even more ferocious (more ferocious than Buddy? Listen and call me a liar). The sax squawks and honks like Ornette Colemanís, and the bass playing is somewhere in the Miroslav Vitous realm Iíd say. The point is that this record showcases some absolutely impeccable playing, each instrument boldly flexing muscles and diving head-first into one another with grappling acrobatics. The title of the album hints that this is something of a wrestling match, but itís hard to consider these three as opposing forces in any way. This is a playful bout, more about exercise and fun than it is about bragging rights or ďwinning.Ē Itís an interplay, an exchange, and like the best jazz, itís really a conversation. First Fall, the first of three tracks on the record, kicks off with a striking intensity before things drop off after about ten minutes into an extended moment of textural experimentation, scraping cymbals, playing the bass with the end of a metal chair (maybe?), and the sax moaning and groaning in controlled stuttering bursts, like itís frantically searching for breath. Elsewhere, the trackís daunting 30 minutes of music contain a lot of sheer randomness. Flying scales, drums toppling over themselves in 32nd-note craziness, and bass glissandos bookending areas of Ron Carter-style post-bop walking lines. Oh yeah, and one of them vocally barking along at times. And though the ďtrioĒ itself is nicely highlighted for the most part with no real instrument especially featured, Alan Wilkinson on sax does feel like the bandís leader. In certain spots, he takes off in stunning cadenza solos, growling a baritone saxophone, screeching in incredibly high-pitched shrieks (real nails-on-chalkboard types of sounds that are paradoxically pleasing to the ears), and really just generally a lot of ripping. This album, it ripsóitís a tough one to make it through in a sitting for casual home listening, but it makes you really wish you were at this show. As much a spectacle a thing it is to hear, it surely must have been something else to actually witness.Ē Crawford Philleo FOXY DIGITALIS

ďTwo Falls & A Submission, recorded in Monmouth, is the first proper Hession / Wilkinson / Fell disc since 2000's St. Johns on Ecstatic Peace!, but the trio hit like they hadn't missed a beat. On First Fall they jump in feet first: Wilkinson's baritone is searing and ecstatic, while Fell's painterly blend of arco and pizzicato triangulates the saxophonist's shakedowns and Hession's massive, angular swing. Once the saxophonist moves to alto, they work through soft and sinewy interplay, Fell and Hession breaking up time with intricate patterns, though they quickly return to characteristic peppery shouts. The Submission begins with a mÍlťe, furious arco and floor-shaking rumble a diabolical assist to Wilkinson's lung-busting, ruddy-faced salvos. Following a passage of guttural sparseness, his alto is front and center and the trio moves towards freebop in a manner recalling BrŲtzmann, Parker and Drake Ė harrowingly intense, but kind of groovy. I'm tired of hearing English improvisers described as coolly detached (you still hear people say that), especially since a group like HWF is so full of red meat and fire.Ē Clifford Allen PARIS TRANSATLANTIC

ďFellís recordings with Wilkinson and Hession were probably the first to garner notice in the international press. Here was music that exploded, picking up on the precedents of American and European fire music and hurtling them forward. Two Falls & A Submission captures the group during a 20th anniversary tour, and they burst out of the gate with Wilkinson braying full-bore over Fellís churning rumbles and Hessionís thundering salvos. While thereís no shortage of bluster and muscle, thereís also a structural sense that begins to reveal itself as Wilkinson blasts forth phrases which get looped, inverted, and shredded over his partnersí momentum. Fell and Hession function as far more than just a rhythm section: one can hear Fell pick up the reed playerís ideas and thread them into his roiling fury, and Hession responds with crashing cymbals and volatile thwacks. The three improvisations arenít quite unrelieved in their fury, balancing molten force with passages of open, textural interaction. This set is full evidence of a power trio still on top of their game and this is their best-recorded document yet, revealing the full range of their sound.Ē Michael Rosenstein SIGNAL TO NOISE

ę HWF transcende complŤtement la formule sax / contrebasse / percussion par une osmose organique des trois compŤres et une urgence aussi expressive que rťflťchie qui nía rien ŗ envier au meilleur trio de Peter BrŲtzmann. Ľ Jean Michel van Schouwburg ORYNX


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