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Friday, December 23, 2022

Steve Noble/ Seymour Wright –EFV (Ping Pong Productions, 2022)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

That night at Café Oto -September of 2019 it was- is one of those gigs that I’d really like to attend. Having listened to and watched live my share of free jazz, like many of you, I’m not easily impressed, or at least I pretend not to be. But this duo of two important figures of the London free jazz/free improv scene surely makes a difference.

Wright’s duos and trios (to name a few: Gamut with Eddie Prevost, Blasen with Sebastien Lexer, About Trumpet and Saxophone with Nate Wooley) are mostly playful, less noisy and surely introvert events. EFV, on the resurrected Steve Noble’s Ping Pong Production, is much different than the aforementioned. Noble and Wright have known each other for quite some time, played together a lot. On this live date their focus seems to be the transcendence to a higher level of energetic and passionate playing.

I mentioned Wright’s playing earlier because his free jazz blow outs (now that’s an aphorism, I know) were audible in rare moments in his recorded playing. On the contrary on EFV, he lets his voice be heard with intensity. At the same time his playing leaves enough room both for the listener to focus but also for Steve Noble to adjust, play along or lead. Since you follow this site, you are probably familiar with his prolific career that spans over three decades.

Noble is one of the most important percussionists of our time in improvisation and that is no exaggeration. I, the listener, am the receiver of a constant flow of ideas and sounds from his drum kit. He has built a unique style of his own that engulfs total flexibility, in adapting with fellow players. But what about their playing as a duo?

Well, in the small interview that accompanies this text, I am wondering if EFV is, something like at least, a culmination of their playing together. This is improvised music and the most enjoyable moments (I won’t say the “best”) come unannounced and impromptu. This cd provided the thought that certain ideas, like sketches, existed beforehand, materializing, though, into something not exactly as predicted. Which is great, isn’t it? I mean, this is the essence of improvisational music, if I’m allowed the liberty to give it some kind of definition…

So, probably the biggest quality of this cd (apart from their playing which I enjoyed) is that you do not know what to expect next and that is the greatest quality in music I believe.

Interview with Steve Noble

Fotis N: You have an extended discography (as a fan, i'm pretty aware of this...), spreading in over three decades. What new does this duo bring to it?

Steve Noble: I have been intending to re start Ping Pong for a few years, but for many reasons it has not been till now (summer 2022) that it has happened.

EFV (the duo with Seymour) is the first but there are many more to come.

Here is the list:

  • PPP005- 4ts - duo with pianist Pat Thomas (already released).
  • PPP00 - Forth to 4th - trio of Alan Wilkinson, John Edwards and myself (the cds have just arrived today).
  • PPP008- Will be a duo with Alex Ward is almost ready for production.
  • PPP009/10/11/12- This is a 4 cd box set entitled HEMP. It's an homage to 4 drummers who have been a constant inspiration since the day I bought my first drum set back in 1972- they are H= Han Bennink, E= Ed Blackwell, M = Milford Graves, P = Phil Seamen. This should be released in a few weeks. It is a series of solos and duos with Alex Ward, Gabriel Wonck, Alan Wilkinson and James Allsopp.
  • PPP013- A duo with trumpeter Alex Bonney- hopefully ready for production in a few months time…

There are plenty more planned, but I think it is best to get the above mentioned cds out and hopefully sell them-

Each release is 300 cds-

-You have been playing with Seymour Wright for a long time now. Is this cd something like a culmination of your shared time and ideas? Was it material that, both of you, felt an urgency to get it out there?

Seymour and I have been meeting up to play on a weekly basis for many years. This has been greatly helped by having access to the Cafe Oto Project Space- this is where we did the recordings and the two photos were also taken in this space. It is also where I am able to do my daily practice.

I wouldn't say it is a culmination, but more like an insight into what the regular meetings

Have developed into. We are still playing most weeks, so maybe it is just the end of chapter one and the start of chapter two (or 3 or 4) after the release of EFV(Energy/Frequency/Vibration).

I invite other musicians too - James Allsopp and Alex Bonney are some.

-You seem to record and play, mostly at least, in small ensembles. Is this a coincidence or something you prefer?

I do prefer smaller groups The duo is probably my favourite -plenty of space and nowhere to hide! But solo concerts have also been quite regular over the last seven years.

Larger groups are of interest. I have a new trio (SOStrio) with 2 younger players, bassist Otto Wilberg and alto sax player Sam Andreae (a cd release is forthcoming) and a quartet with Yoni Silver, Ute Kanngiesser and Alex Paxton -I need to make a recording soon.

-Is it possible to make a living as a musician in the covid dystopia? How has it changed your daily routine, practice, opportunities?

It is never "easy" if you choose to play a music that is very much marginalized and the last 3 years have not been easy - and what is to come may be just as bad!

I am able to play between five to seven gigs a month (mainly in London) and use the Oto Space on a daily basis and I must say I feel very positive about my music/ drumming- maybe I needed a period of reflection - and it definitely gave me the impetus to start releasing cds again.

-Is improvisation, in any musical field not only in jazz based musics, still important and do you feel people are still interested in improvisational music?

Improvisation is and will always be important, regardless of whether it seems it is 'in ' or 'out' of a certain hipster mentality. It is fundamental not just to music but to everyday life.

I have no intention of changing my ways- just to keep on keeping on!



Anonymous said...

Great review and interview with an all-time favorite. Very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Where is the label available? A search came up empty.

Anonymous said...

Ditto - thanks for this .... and where are PP recordings available?

Fotis Nikolakopoulos said...

Hello everybody.
Do try directly to Steve Noble:

Shermy Chen said...

Hello Fotis, are you still using this account? I can't find your email.
I saw Alex Ward and Steve Noble perform in shenzhen last week, and then I found your interview with steve, and I was hoping to translate the article to my WeChat public account

1) This translated article will not be used for profit
2) The author of the article and the source URL will be marked.
3) It will end with a thank you to you and Steve, and of course it will be published only with your permission.