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Avant-garde free improv label Confront issue unheard 1970s recordings by Tony Oxley and Alan Davie for the first time

Elaboration of Particulars is an extraordinary release from the avant-garde free improv label Confront who have just issued these 1970s recordings by Tony Oxley and Alan Davie for the first time. A very absorbing, unearthly listen, it's hugely …

Published: 14 Jun 2021. Updated: 36 days.

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Elaboration of Particulars is an extraordinary release from the avant-garde free improv label Confront who have just issued these 1970s recordings by Tony Oxley and Alan Davie for the first time. A very absorbing, unearthly listen, it's hugely compelling, challenging and above all full of vitality.

A series of eight electro-acoustic ''particulars'' free-jazz icon Oxley heard last year on a 2011 duo recording with Cecil Taylor made in Neuberg seven years before Taylor passed away, is here more than 30 years earlier in 1977-8 in another duo with Scottish painter and musician Davie who died in 2014. Davie's abstracts can be found in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He uses piano, ring modulator and percussion. The duo made this recording in Hertford where Davie lived. Oxley and Davie had been playing together since the beginning of the 1970s. **** (4-stars)

Link to the Confront site on Bandcamp. Alan Davie, 'Portrait of a Buddhist' (1960), above. Image: Wikimedia

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5 jazz indies leading the way this month: June 21 selections

Before getting to the detail it is worth asking what do we look for in a label? It isn't necessarily format although that is sometimes significant. Our view is that if the tracks are worth it they would sound good on whatever format you choose to …

Published: 13 Jun 2021. Updated: 40 days.

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Before getting to the detail it is worth asking what do we look for in a label? It isn't necessarily format although that is sometimes significant. Our view is that if the tracks are worth it they would sound good on whatever format you choose to put the material on, within reason. The underwater gymnasium mix put out on a flexidisc with artwork that looks as if Fido has eaten the designer's homework and chewed the sleeve notes written by the bassist's mum all lovingly rendered with sloppy kisses in the signature flourish may need a rethink.

Zoning in a little more what we look for is a certain personality. It needn't be a narrow taste and most labels do flit around restlessly within certain parameters. Often it's the outliers that work, the albums that resonate with the core label values but actually sound like nothing else on the label. We look for meaning in other words, not necessarily a fancy livery and lots of mission statements although when the label's graphic look is stunning it's always a plus. Above all what we look for in a label are the extra ingredients that lift the imagination and enhance the dreaming in the music, a subtlety and a care and attention that has its own artistic life chiefly through the quality of the sound (especially when the album is mastered properly) and the titling and sequencing of tracks, how the tunes are picked and perhaps indications of why. Good labels have ideas and put them into action. These are the indies putting out the work we enjoyed most over the past few weeks, some familiar from earlier in the year, Sunnyside again cooking with gas, some not so much:

1. Birmingham label Stoney Lane for the marvellous new Xhosa Cole and Young Pilgrims releases;

2. New York's Sunnyside for the surprise piano trio of the year, the elegant Todd Cochran TC3 and Then and Again, Here and Now;

3. London's Ubuntu for lots of quantity, high standards, and above all where there's a Wes there's a way and Road Song by Nigel Price certainly the play it is;

4. Seattle's Origin for the outstanding Time Traveler by Nnenna Freelon, one of the best vocals albums of the year so far;

5. Barcelona's Fresh Sound New Talent for Countdown by Simon Moullier. The vibes certainly describe.

Nnenna, top

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