recent overview of new vocal avant jazz albums, but that I kept for a later occasion for several reasons : it requires special attention, and it is not new. The trio is Mark Charig on cornet and tenor horn, Keith Tippett on organ, zither, piano, voice and bells, and Ann Winter on voice and bells. The album is a re-issue of the 1977 Ogun LP, now remastered and with an additional track.
The album is absolutely exceptional. The seven tracks are improvisations, performed in St. Stephen's Church in Bristol on some cold January days in 1977. The resonance of the church provides the ideal context for this music, that is solemn, full of drama, especially when the organ is the harmonic instrument, as on the opening track and on "Pavanne". On the other tracks, when Winter sings, Tippett plays the zither, giving the music an oriental zen-like openness. Ann Winter's singing is absolutely phenomenal. Sure, she improvises, without words, but the way she integrates with the music is stunning. On the second track "Ghostly Chances", I had to re-listen several times to discern her sustained high tones from Charig's trumpet. The fourth piece, "Ode To The Ghost Of An Improvised Past", is my favorite, with Tippett joining Winter's singing: notes are sparse, but space is everywhere, soothing and destabilising at the same time, leading to an inviting sense of disorientation.
Charig is great, filling the church with his warm and clear tones, full of wonderment and surprise, giving it the spiritual context of the church setting, which not only offers the acoustics, but also the atmosphere. The same holds true for Tippett's organ, which he keeps away from the powerful bombast you may fear from the instrument. On the title track, "Pipedream", he manages to subdue the instrument to a long sonoric backdrop for Charig's bluesy soloing.
The bonus track is called "The Trio Gets Lost In The Magic Forest", and that's exactly how it sounds, but luckily they don't get lost musically: it sounds experimental and weird, with dark and eery background tones, over which Winter uses vocal tones like shards of glass piercing the black surroundings.
Apparently, the original LP sounded terrible, and was recorded with a tape recorder, and edited "with scissors and sticky tape'", as Charig describes in the liner notes. We can only be happy that technology managed to rescue the music.
This is by any measure a powerful piece of music. It's more than thirty years old, yet today it sounds like part of today's musical environment. It's a testimony to the vision of these three musicians that even after three decades this album still sounds so relevant and powerful.
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