Howard Riley

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Pianist Howard Riley led one of the most exciting trios in the early '70s. With Barry Guy on bass and Tony Oxley on drums, Riley produced some of his best work on this utterly absorbing session. Riley forged an original style that shows traces of Cecil Taylor, but he emphasizes small clusters of notes, and sometimes works inside the piano. Guy's scratchy strings are fully evident, as he focuses on sound rather than the traditional timekeeping role of the string bass. Oxley and Guy use pedal-controlled amplification, but it is the totality of the performance -- the blending of three distinct, creative voices -- that rises to the top. Oxley is at his best, using tools in remarkable ways that squeeze every nuance from his collection. While there are no specific melodies, there are what the pianist refers to as "set-forms" (i.e., "graphic frameworks mixed with conventional musical notation"). The results are no less radical and just as fascinating as totally free improvisation, as the trio performs at the fringes of the musical spectrum. A colossal recording that belongs in every jazz collection as an example of the best of British improvised music.

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