Monday, 29 January 2018

Review of Closer to You by Amalgam in New York City Jazz Record Feb 2018

This is the text of Marc Medwin's excellent review:

Trevor Watts, who turns 79 this month, has been pushing at the geographical and formal boundaries of improvised music for more than half a century. To label him a formative force in the British improvised music scene would be to underestimate his importance. His reed playing has continued to be as multivalently energetic today as it was when he co-founded the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) in the mid '60s. Putting together an absolutely astounding rhythm section is one of the things Watts does best. By 1978, when Closer to You was recorded, bassist Colin McKenzie and drummer Liam Genockey had gelled into a rock-solid hard-driving but hair-width subtle support system, all characteristics readily apparent on this expanded version of the album. 'Keep Right' wears its odd metrics lightly, bass and drums forming ever-tightening rings of intricacy around the jagged saxophone lines. Contrast that relatively brief bit of off-kilter dance with the weighty opening of the album's sustained high point, 'Dear Roland' where McKenzie orchestrates with a dazzling display of harmonics and Genockey punctuates with pithy pointillisms. Both spend much of the track's opening minutes coloring the swathes of silence separating the leader's multiple saxophone work, rendering the dedicatory title especially relevant by obvious but non-cliché references to Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Watts' exhortations guide while never dictating, as in the high energy opener 'De Dublin Ting', where he launches into alto triplets as the rhythm section slams and grooves with alacrity. 'South of Nowhere's second half bristles with New Thing vigour largely thanks to Watts' high register runs. Energy music is evident on the best of the bonus tracks, the aptly titled 'Albert Like' bringing Archie Shepp phrasing into a mix peppered liberally with McKenzie's funky breaks. The album channels that nebulous beast then known as 'fusion' without calling too much attention to any one genre or style.