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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Jennifer Allum, John Butcher, Ute Kanngiesser, Eddie Prévost - Sounds of Assembly (Meenna, 2021) *****

No free jazz here, just divine, top-notch free improvisation focused on timbre and texture to create an album of otherworldly soundscapes.

Sounds of Assembly was recorded in 2013 in London and not released until April 2021 on the Japanese label, Meenna. The album features Jennifer Allum (violin), John Butcher (saxophones, also mixing and mastering of the audio), Ute Kanngiesser (cello), and Eddie Prévost (percussion).

As the album notes describe: “This recording marks the second meeting of this quartet. The occasion was an afternoon session organised for inclusion in Stewart Morgan's film "Eddie Prévost's Blood". A special location had been chosen - the large assembly hall of Prévost's old senior school, Addey & Stanhope in Deptford, London, where he enrolled in the mid 1950s.” The film can be found here, and it includes footage from the recording session, as well as an excellent interview with Prévost that is definitely worth watching!

The five tracks comprising the album clock in at 48’27”, but this is time-suspending music that compels the listener with spacious, mysterious, atemporal, aural environments that seem to pass by too quickly. Each track has a sense of unforced drama propelling the music forward in continual, seamless development. Each player demonstrates a deep and careful attention to detail for every sound they create, as if they are handling something that is simultaneously fragilely delicate and intensely powerful. The group dynamic is borderline magical in terms of balance, support, like-mindedness, and reflexivity.

The recording quality here matches the performance; this is complex music of subtlety and extremity and the recording captures and reveals all of this for we lucky listeners.

Sounds of Assembly is free improvisation at its best: non-referential, self-organizing, questioning, searching, and devoid of cliché or touchstone…a rare must hear album.