For some, this (finally released) live double-album of a legendary gig from 1998 is a longed-for treat, a godsend. To others, it might well be a bafflement; a world to be entered by means of password if one wishes to comprehend more than the bare musical notes.
Pianist Keith Tippett is a revered icon of many years' standing in the field of experimental jazz and improvisation. Making his mark since the late '60s, he's fronted his own bands such as Centipede in the 1970s and, more recently, Work In Progress, as well as having supplied piano for a couple of King Crimson albums and recorded live with Stan Tracey. Students at Cardiff's music college are currently benefiting from his experience and still-highly-active spark of ingenuity.
This single piece of music, made up of seven movements or threads, runs to two CDs. It makes all the sounds that both the aficionado and long-distance observer would expect to hear from this era of jazz. Horn sections make frantic modal and time-splitting runs, female vocals sing mostly wordless lyrics, and drummers make good use of rim shots and brushes. Time signatures have a recognisable jazz awkwardness and there is much in the 21-strong ensemble that recalls the Dave Brubecks of decades before the performance date. Granted, a harmony and unity has been forged from this many headed beast that would have brought an almighty cacophony and divine resolution in this live arena, but the individual ear will clearly be the judge in this matter.
6Jane Oriel's Score