Joseph Holbrooke Trio

The Moat Recordings

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The Moat Recordings were a series of taped improvisational pieces by the original Joseph Holbrooke Trio -- Gavin Bryars (bass), Derek Bailey (guitars), and Tony Oxley (drums and percussion) -- who reunited after 30 years (Bryars had not even spoken to Bailey and Oxley until they were in a soundcheck -- no ill will involved) for one concert in Cologne in 1995 and for these recordings. They subsequently performed a concert for about 12 invited guests in Moat Studio one evening, and played a concert in Antwerp. This material was recorded in the studio for Gary L. Todd's venerable Cortical Foundation. Cortical was unable to release it because of Todd's tragic accident -- a fall from his apartment balcony -- that has left him hospitalized ever since. The package, in typical Tzadik fashion, is elegant and stylish, with the black backdrop and gray drawings of the trio's instruments, gold lettering introducing the band, and the title layered above it all. The booklet is 32-pages long with exhaustive notes and a postscript by Bryars and a short essay by Bailey. Though terminally ill, Bailey was informed and participated in the release of these recordings. These two discs contain a total of 15 improvisations. They are deeply communicative and empathic, and in some cases perhaps even telekinetic, as in "Crooksmoor" and "Radio Bossa" on disc one, and "Cortical," "Holderness," and "From Bar Seven" on disc two. Describing the playing would be ridiculous since what is here is truly beyond language. Even Bryars in his liner notes offers only technical details (how he mic'ed his bass, the two guitars Bailey used, Oxley's use of a conventional kit, etc.) to describe the music this group performed in afternoon-long sessions. He does far better explaining the trio's love for jazz and how they grew as an improvisational unit from modal jazz. This is free music, it is attentive music, played with passion, restraint, and a sense of adventure and humor. It is the first of a series of recordings that Tzadik will be issuing, and it is subsequently brilliant. Why? Simply because these players understood the nature of improvisation is a kind of sonic and psychic language of communication, not noodling, not showing off, and not being academic in the least -- a tough thing when you consider the steel-trap minds of these three. Tzadik is a perfect home for this set; it fits into the family. One can only imagine the delight on John Zorn's face when he was approached by Bryars to issue them. For fans of free improvisation, this is a sure and intriguing, utterly satisfying bet.

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