Click here to [close]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Keith Tippett Octet - From Granite To Wind (Ogun, 2012) ****

Back in the 70's when I was studying at art college I was very lucky to witness Elton Dean's Ninesense, my very first 'real' jazz concert. I'd only just started discovering jazz via a project that I was involved in at my college and the music completely blew my head off. One of the things that I really loved was the piano player ...... and that of course was Keith Tippett. After hearing that group live I listened to many albums with Keith on them, Harry Miller's seminal Family Affair, the incredible Pipedream with Mark Charig, Centipede, The Keith Tippett Group - Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening and later on the great Mujician records. Such great music, and such an original way of approaching the piano. If you're looking for stimulating piano music search out Keith's Dartington concert solo recording.

This record returns or at least reminds me of the great Ogun period of the 70s. Intense tight ensemble work that really packs a punch, with plenty of free-form blowing and excellent themes that give direction to the music. The music, as just mentioned, brings back memories of the 70s period which in the UK was full of South African influences. Musicians such as Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani, Louis Moholo, Chris McGregor, Harry Miller and others, brought to the UK jazz scene an intense mixture of South African melodies and rhythms, combined with very fiery melodic and free improvisation.

Keith Tippett's latest record brings back these ideas but on his own terms. Along with piano, bass and drums, the octet's front line is made up of 4 saxes and a voice (Julie Tippetts), giving it a wonderful colour. Keith Tippett uses his ensemble to punctuate and develop the central theme which comes back from time to time in different versions. These sections provide a platform for the next soloist to jump into the hot brew of rhythms and either sink or swim. Melodically the main theme is an attractive combination of bouncy South African rhythms and contemporary post-bop lines, very listen-able.

Strong solos from all the horn players are aided by a heavy rhythm section that pushes each player to their limits. Each sax player gets a chance to react with the ensemble and believe me they all blow up a real storm. However, it's great to hear Paul Dunmall soloing with some 'straight ahead' post-Coltrane blowing, something I've not heard since his Spirit Level days. Although most of the record is intense ensemble work, further into the piece (+/- 35') Julie Tippetts sings a very beautiful languorous ballad section. This gradually develops, moving us towards the close of the piece. It's a wonderful way to finish as one is unaware of being ushered gently towards the close of this fine musical journey.

The record only has one (1) track lasting 47 minutes in total. But I can assure you that this is very satisfying listen and it's length is almost like sitting through a live set from the group. 

Finally, I should mention that all the musicians play at high intensity throughout this piece. Add to that the voice of Julie Tippets which darts around the various musical groupings and you have a solid group that really keeps you glued to your seat for the whole performance.

Highly recommended .... maybe for Santa's Christmas stocking (hint)!   

Personnel: Paul Dunmall: tenor and soprano saxophones; James Gardiner-Bateman: alto saxophone; Kevin Figes: alto and baritone saxophones; Ben Waghorn: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Julie Tippetts: vocals, seed pods, Balinese xylophone, toy xylophone, struck thumb piano; Keith Tippett: piano, pebbles, maraca, woodblocks, music box; Thad Kelly: double-bass; Peter Fairclough: drums  

You can buy the album from 

© stef