Just by adding up the numbers, it seems that Raw Tonk has slowed down during this whole year of the covid pandemic. Nevertheless RT’s catalogue still makes the label as one of the most adventurous in free improv and free jazz right now. This cassette only release came out late in 2020 strengthening the bonds of the label with the cassette underground that still seems to be flourishing. Given the diy aesthetics of every release from Raw Tonk, this adds up to the homemade status of the label.
Colin Webster, the saxophonist behind the label, is quite prolific with releases on Raw Tonk but other labels as well. His playing is quite energetic, balancing between improvisational small gestures and more traditional a la “fire music” blow outs. On Okey Dokey he plays alto saxophone and his distinct voice has lowered the volume. Okey Dokey is a duo with Daniel Thompson who plays acoustic guitar, and both sides of the cassette were recorded live in two different venues clocking on almost fifty five minutes.
Even though most of Webster’s oeuvre comes from the fruitful and free spirited “tradition” of free jazz, Okey Dokey is far closer to the free improvisational margin of sound. In fact, it seems like it is continuing the improvisational trajectory of important labels like Incus, reminiscent of seminal releases like the Bailey/Parker duo's The London Concert. But apart from images of the past, this release stands on its own as a statement of today.
Their free playing is a constant dialogue of strings and breathing. The percussion qualities of the acoustic guitar give way to a more droney sound, while Thompson also utilizes a bow and actively forces the guitar to challenge the saxophone. Both sides of the cassette reveal two musicians in a constant flux of ideas and interactions pushing each other to the limits of their playing. There are no moments of silence but a linear, full of energy plucking, blowing, gargling, droning and what ever else their respectful instruments are able to produce. And hell, they push them to their limits as well. What I find really intriguing and exhilarating as a listener is when some music takes me by the moment, strengthening –minute by minute- my belief that music can produce wonderful results and feelings of solace and pathos. Okey Dokey is one of those recordings.