Sunday, 27 March 2016

Record Collector Magazine (Spencer Grady) review of Cynosure by Trevor Watts String Ensemble (HFHCD018) March 2016

The case for the common image of free improvisers as a bunch of Po-faced, polemically puffed up theory-pushers gets the eye-bite from this keen re-issue. Saxophonist Watts, newly liberated from John Stevens' close watch, threw off the shackles of non-idiomatic dogma in the mid 70s to revel in an astonishing series of flesh-quaking polyrhythms which presage much of his later Afro-influenced work, most notably with the Moire Music ensemble.
Unlike the unhappy tyrannies which tormented Watts' SME tenure, here he'd fired up a collective for cow-handed carnival, cheering merry with a suite of flexible compositions, rowdy and partially unhinged, delivering a distinctly British take on the big band blowouts of both Ra and Kuti. The rawness of these recordings - three live cuts from a 1976 performance at London's Notre Dame Theatre have been appended to the original tracks - do nothing to diminish the joyful zeal of their fratchy attack, the tinny tones disseminating the boundless enthusiasm like a nipper with a super-soaker primed with punch.

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