The Gearbox Explodes!
Available as MP3 download (£6.00) and Audio CD (£12.00)
Sunny Murray : Drums
John Edwards : Double Bass
Tony Bevan : Tenor & Bass Saxophones
Released under the titular leadership of drummer Sunny Murray, The Gearbox Explodes! features the same line-up as Home Cooking In The UK (Foghorn Records, 2004), and is in practice another exercise in collective music making of the purest and least hierarchical kind. Murray’s leadership is confined to establishing an opening tempo and beat for each of the three tracks, and, later, bringing them to a close.
Music so wholly unpremeditated and in-the-moment as this requires listening musicianship of the highest degree, and courage on the part of its creators. The analogy has probably been used before, but free improvisation is not unlike skydiving. In defiance of caution, or indeed sanity, you jump out of a plane into a void and trust in your parachute, or in this case your fellow musicians, to bring you down safely.
The Gearbox Explodes! succeeds because Murray, tenor and bass saxophonist Tony Bevan and bassist John Edwards are each fearless and have, over time, developed a level of group empathy which enables deep and vigorous interaction.
Murray (born 1937) is an elder statesman of the music with an impressive provenance—he played with pianist Cecil Taylor in the early 1960s, was featured on saxophonist Albert Ayler’s totemic Spiritual Unity (ESP Disk, 1964), and made his debut as leader with Sunny Murray Quintet (ESP Disk, 1966). Bevan and Edwards are younger, but both are seasoned adepts of British free improv, and have recorded and performed together frequently since making Nothing Is Permanent But Woe (Foghorn Records, 2000).
Recorded live on tour in 2007, the new album opens with “Right On Guys,” a 38-minute tour de force of fierce, but nuanced, energy and considerable rough beauty. Bevan takes the first “solo” (the term is relative in this context), playing the tenor with unusual lyricism for the first four minutes, before moving into more abstract and intense terrain. Twenty minutes later he returns on bass saxophone, over a free rhythm which morphs under Murray’s direction into a conventionally swinging 4/4 section with propulsive walking bass. Between times and later, Murray and Edwards delight with duets brimming with novel sounds and textures (Edwards’ reverberating, wrenched strings are especially memorable).
“Right On Guys” is packed with incident—it’s like a big dipper ride, one which leaves the listener exhilarated and intoxicated. The track segues into “Hold It Right There,” by comparison a rather uneventful bass saxophone showcase, but at about six minutes one that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
The closing “The Gearbox Explodes!” is another incident-packed collective workout, its first 10 minutes performed over funky drum and bass lines, before moving into free rhythm, still with an R&B feel, for the second half. Another remarkable album from this hard-wired trio.. Chris May, www.allaboutjazz.com, March 14, 2008
True artists thrive on opposition. Last month, the London Jazz Festival misplaced the veteran saxophonist Charles Gayle’s trio at a swanky Southwark “jazz restaurant”, but the musicians held their nerve as a waitress reassured unhappy diners: “Don’t worry. It is jazz.” Likewise, Sunny Murray beat new paths around the kit with Cecil Taylor in the 1960s, but a double booking at a Newcastle jazz club last year saw his trio decamp to the working men’s club opposite. You can sense Sunny’s boys start to snag the regular drinkers during the first of three lengthy binges. The saxophonist Bevan relishes accompanying a legend; Edwards is the best bassist in Britain. All play like they have something to prove. Stewart Lee, Times Online, December 9, 2007
FOGCD009 : The Gearbox Explodes (Foghorn Records Oct 1st 2007)
Recorded direct to mini-disc using one microphone by Paul Kelly. Post-production: Chris Trent. Thanks to Roger Telford, Paul Kelly and particularly Chris Trent for working miracles with the source recording.
Excerpts from this concert will appear in the documentary film ‘Sunny’s Time Now’ by Antoine Prum to be released in 2008.
All pieces are free improvisations by Murray (Murrayisum Music, AFL, Sacem, BMI)), Bevan (PRS), Edwards (PRS),
Designed by: Paul Dunn at diablo
C & P Foghorn Records (uk) 2007