Opabinia was a long tail of a record in that it got little or no profile at the time of release. But when you go back to it listening rewards your effort while other records with instant appeal released at the same time you might never want to listen to again. Ever!
On Extremophile (*** Iluso Records) minor changes are in the air but the appeal is still largely the same. Will it have the same staying power? Gone is pianist Alexander Hawkins but Spanish drummer Javier Carmona, and Carmona’s fellow countryman, the Madrid-born reeds player Ricardo Tejero are back, the quartet filled out by Alex Ward adding guitar to supplement his more usual choice of clarinet.
Lash proves he does not need to operate under the shadow of the charisma of Hawkins. He is generally better known as a double bassist and as on the earlier record here on Extremophile he ditches bass guitar. The album (no idea what the title means in all pertinence, the word something to do with micro organisms, the cover certainly a clue) includes music by Cecil Taylor (a reconfigured additional mixedness to ‘Mixed’ a piece that appeared on Gil Evans album Into the Hot and later The Cecil Taylor Unit / Roswell Rudd Sextet) and bizarrely 14th century French composer Solage I say bizarre in that it is not exactly an obvious connection and nor does the style of the album suddenly switch to another musical genre entirely although I’d guess the distant chromaticism of ‘Fumeux fume par fumée’ appealed to Lash obliquely.
Everything on the album, the sign of an original method or narrow focus take your pick, is Lashified which means it sounds in headline terms like free improv dressed in his furiously involving signature style.
The group interplay favours very wild resolutions punctuated by eerie calm, the wildness particularly a factor on the Taylor piece. Bar lines are unceremoniously ignored and the heavy lifting is all to do with Lash’s fine sense of pulse, his ingenious timing and sixth sense as an improviser, and the loose engaged multi-directional style of Carmona that thrives on player empathy and listening skills that needs everyone to scavenge long and hard for moments to lift the music into illuminating skies beyond the tyranny of the earthbound notes.
Recorded in Bristol last summer there is more group clarity than Opabinia in the chordal collisions and as for pithy guitar statement say on ‘Mr S B’ that aspect of what the band can do indicates a new candour. Easier to digest than before, the fact remains Lash is scandalously under-recognised. That must change and hopefully will as his elaborately conceived intuitive creativity is more than worth more of us getting to know. SG Useful link Iluso Records site
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