Simon H. Fell

Compilation II

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Recorded five years after Compilation I, this album represented a major step forward along the conceptual path that Simon H. Fell took for the remainder of the decade, culminating in Composition No. 30. Using a collage technique he refers to as "xenochronicity," Fell combines recorded material from distinct sessions into the same piece, resulting in a hall of mirrors approach to jazz composition. That he utilizes a good deal of relatively "standard" jazz thematic material makes it all the stranger. The listener is never quite sure whether the apparent interplay ever actually took place or was reconstructed later in the studio. Fell clearly takes a devious delight in this sort of mischief, and one gets the impression that part of his whole drive is to subvert and shake up the stodgier characteristics of even free jazz improvisation by negating some of its most prized aspects. The success if this venture lies in to what degree the listener is willing to hear the music as "jazz" or contemporary classical. Approached as the former, it can make for a frustrating (deliberately so) experience. Listened to as a postmodern collage, it has more appeal and the jazzy richness comes as a bonus. While Fell cites Mingus as a primary influence, much of his melodic material seems to owe more to 20th century serialists and may strike mainly jazz listeners as overly dry. Nonetheless, Compilation II is a fascinating work and very much different from anything else being produced by the British avant-garde at the time.

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