Available as MP3 download (£6.00) and Audio CD (£12.00)
Tony Bevan : Tenor & Bass Saxophones
Orphy Robinson : Vibraphone, Steel Drum, Marimbula, Percussion, Electronics
John Edwards : Double Bass
Ashley Wales : Soundscapes & Electronics
Mark Sanders : Drums & Percussion
A magical and transporting, down by law, A-list masterpiece, bass saxophonist Tony Bevan’s Bruised is among the very deepest and most rewarding albums to come out of the UK this year, performed by a joined at the head, heart, and hip, genre-busting, genius lineup.
It’s free improvisation, Jim, but not as we usually know it—so instinctively architectural that it’s hard to believe it was collectively created wholly in the moment, and is now released entirely free of overdubs, edits, or any other post-prod studio artifice (but it was, and it is). It’s free improvisation for people who think they don’t like free improvisation—and for those who know they do.
An acknowledged Jedi master of free music since the mid-’90s, with all the profile—or rather lack of it—that comes with the territory, Bevan’s name is becoming more widely known right now through his featured participation on the Steve Reid Ensemble’s mindbending mutant mutha, and international cult hit, Spirit Walk, on Soul Jazz Records.
Bruised will appeal both to devotees of Reid’s free-your-ass-and-your-mind-will-follow aesthetic and to fully paid up, inner circle initiates of free improvisation. Massively, toweringly original, there are nonetheless distinct echoes of the early astral jazz of Pharoah Sanders: Bevan’s masterful use of overtones, split tones, and deep down, bar-walking honks; the trippy drums and tuned percussion backdrops which are features of most tracks; the joyous lyricism of all the players; and the leisurely explorations of atmosphere, vibe, and texture. Sanders’ signature motifs are brought up to the present, and into the future, by the assmilated music of the last 35 years and by live sampling and electronica.
The chemistry between the musicians is just perfect. Bevan, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Mark Sanders are of course three acutely responsive and uniquely creative group improvisors. Their lines are framed and enriched by Orphy Robinson’s mostly-abstract tuned percussion (check out his marimbula, a giant bass thumb piano, on “Rhinocrat”) and live sampling (the mutated steel drum reverberations shadowing the bass saxophone on ”Bruised” are out of this world wonderful), and the sonic inventions of Springheel Jack electronicist Ashley Wales, a subtle, musicianly, and compelling presence throughout, especially enjoyable on “Sunhouse” and “Taxi Dance.”
If you love the Steve Reid Ensemble’s Spirit Walk, it’s an ace high certainty you’ll love Bruised just as madly, just as badly, and vice versa. Do the right thing, stay in the rhythm. Chris May (All About Jazz)
Movement two started with swooshing bleeps and squelching swathes of electronics from Ashley Wales as Bevan’s gruff fog horn of muffled purring grew into whooshing helicopter blade churns. Stark interludes and drifting cymbals from Sanders connected breathlessly with the twists and jolts of brilliantly inventive bassist John Edwards while Orphy Robinson’s furious steel drum frenzy shrieked with clanging screams as proceedings clattered onwards like a distant transcontinental mail train under moonlight in the desert outback.
James McGowan, Jazzwise, UK
This is a spontaneous, structureless set from a group of classy improv-specialists including saxophonist Tony Bevan, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Mark Sanders. These are wild cards enough, but two even wilder ones join the enterprise in the form of vibraphonist Orphy Robinson and Springheel Jack electronics performer Ashley Wales.
But the music has a remarkable tautness and sense of purpose. The title track is even a strange, lurching, regular tune, that sounds like Jan Garbarek in a bathroom with a Jimi Hendrix disc playing next door. Free-music with a lumpy, guttural charm. John Fordham (The Guardian, June 17, 2005)
Tony Bevan’s music is easy to like but hard to pigeonhole. Although at times his muscular saxophony is reminiscent of Free Jazz at it’s most adventurous (such as in his trio with John Edwards and Sunny Murray), the musical contexts in which he places himself usually demand something more than ecstatically charged heat and bluster, and he always rises to the challenge.
But nothing he has previously done will prepare the listener for “Bruised”, his most ambitious and most successful recording to date. Bevan plays sparingly and with great care on conscious of how finely balanced the group dynamic is, and how easy it would be to destabilise it. “Leviathan” is, peculiarly, an eventful piece in which nothing much seems to happen. But it’s loose interlocking of light, clicky percussion and staccato arco bass by Mark Sanders and John Edwards (Free Improv’s very own Sly ‘n’ Robbie) Orphy Robinson’s Steel Drum and the occasional blurts of electronics from Spring Heel Jack’s Ashley Wales, easily sustains attention throughout its 16 minute duration.
Of the five other pieces on “Bruised” “Tempranillo” and the title track, the latter with its sometime shadowy electronic distortion of the saxophone line, are much more highly charged, but although they take the music to the brink and keep it there, control is never relinquished. The unpredictability of “Bruised” is refreshing, and much of that is down to Robinson (who also plays the kalimba-like marimbula, percussion and electronics in addition to his first instrument, vibraphone) and Wales. They make a huge contribution to the overall sound of these pieces, the direction the music takes, its atmosphere, speed and duration. But it’s invidious to single out individual players when this is such a great group effort. One to live with, one to savour. Brian Marley, “The Wire”, July 2005.
From its assonantally punning title, it could also have been easily called “Bruce”, to the strength of the performances, this is a total joy. I’ve never found myself dancing to an improv record before, but that’s just what happened with the title track. Whether it’s the racy “Tempranillo” or the behemoth that is “Leviathan”, this looks a cert for end of the year honours. The use Robinson makes of the Steel Drum on “Sunhouse” and “Leviathan” is astonishing and his vibes on “Tempranillo” are a delight. His rapport with Sanders and Wales is remarkable and Sanders is one hell of a big sounding drummer. It would be all too easy to get lost in that mighty sound. Wales’ ability with sound lies in the knowledge that less is often more and even when he pushes to the front he uses electronics to serve the group. That Bevan and Edwards are never less than exceptional goes without saying. Whether it’s his wide toned tenor on “Rhinocrat” or his agile use of the bass sax on “Leviathan”, Bevan has a wonderful timbre – possibly the finest in this area of music. Edwards is as ever supremely confident and is really one of those complete musicians, whose technical ability is the springboard for a bold creative mind. This is a summit meeting of five musicians at the top of their game. Duncan Heining, Jazzwise, July 2005
Production Information : FOGCD005 (May 1st 2005)
All pieces recorded live in Gateway Studio, Kingston-on-Thames, England, on July 10th and November 28th 2004. All Compositions by Bevan (PRS), Robinson (PRS), Edwards (PRS), Wales (Chrysalis Music) and Sanders (PRS).
Produced by: Tony Bevan and Ashley Wales. Recorded by: Steve Lowe, assisted by Gurjit Dhinsa Mixed by: Asa Bennett at “The Depot”. Mastered by: Jamie Masters at Audiolab West, Buckingam, England.
Photography by Claire Potter
Concept and design by Paul Dunn @ diablo
C & P Foghorn Records (uk) 2005