The Chris Burn Ensemble records sparsely (to say the least). That is why the release ten years later of this concert recording from 1991 doesn't feel awkward at all. The sound quality is excellent, and the performance is stellar. Some of the musicians involved have considerably modified their approach in the course of the decade, especially saxophonist John Butcher and violinist Phil Durrant (who by 2001 performed almost exclusively on electronics). Yet The Place 1991 (from the venue it was recorded in) sounds fresher and more lively than previous documents of this group. The ensemble for this occasion consisted of eight musicians: Butcher, Durrant, flutist Jim Denley, violinist Stevie Wishart, cellist Marcio Mattos, guitarist John Russell, Matt Hutchinson (synth and electronics) and of course leader Chris Burn on piano (no trumpet this time). Evan Parker joins on tenor saxophone for "Blocks and Arches." The group performs one collective improvisation ("Hammer Hint") and loose compositions by Burn and Butcher. Most of the time, the directions only specify successions of groups of musicians, textures, or contrasts. For the first time the group performed a piece by an outsider, Keith Rowe's "Pollock #82," which turned out to be a highlight. Another is found in "The Piano Ate Card" featuring Wishart's hurdy-gurdy. The alien sound of this instrument, paired with sharp improvisational ideas from the other musicians, result in one of the most captivating moments on this CD. Of course the music remains abstract and difficult, but The Place 1991 is also surprisingly organic. Something happened that night.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture