Out to Launch is a questionable pun, but three out of four pieces this CD presents were performed at launch parties for Lol Coxhill's retrospective double album Spectral Soprano (a must-have, by the way). Yes, "parties": at the last minute, the concert from October 31, 2001 turned into an "unlaunch" party when news arrive that the album was not ready -- and in fact would not be released by the label that was supposed to (it finally came out five months later on Emanem). Making the most of the situation, Coxhill grouped his attending friends and musical colleagues of the evening (including Steve Beresford, Paul Rutherford and Veryan Weston) into "The Unlaunched Orchestra" to perform an 11-minute group improvisation. The piece works as a contrasting interlude, but the real focus of the album is Coxhill's solo playing on soprano saxophone. "Music for Feathery Fronds" is a half-hour long performance recorded in Chicago as part of the 2002 Empty Bottle Festival (his performance in Rutherford's septet has also been released on the latter's CD Chicago 2002). Slightly jazzy, at least hinting at the man's work of the '60s and '70s, it follows a singular and -- one must admit -- captivating trail of thoughts. But the real treat is the 40-minute set (in two parts) recorded at Sound 323 in March 2002. Here, Coxhill's soprano playing reaches new heights in sinuosity, notes bending in a dance that evokes soulful cabaret singers at least as much as avant-garde saxophone. This man is a snake-charmer.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture