Drummer Pip Pyle is not exactly a household name in North America, but he was a major player in the English Canterbury scene of the early 1970s, occupying the drum chair on Gong's highly influential Camembert Electrique, co-founding Hatfield and the North and then working with National Health until it shut down in 1980. Subsequently, Pyle has played regularly in guitarist Phil Miller's jazz fusion band In Cahoots, fronted his own band Equip'Out from 1984 to 1995, and more recently formed Bash!, which makes its recorded debut on this live concert date (actually two dates -- one at Le Triton in Paris, and the other at a prog rock festival in Seattle, Washington). In short, Pyle is a seasoned veteran of the drum kit who, in his new group, has surrounded himself with British and French musicians of similar talents and experience. Some American jazz musicians have excelled in the understated jazz fusion style favored by Bash! -- Pat Metheny certainly comes to mind, along with early versions of Chick Corea's Return to Forever, when the cosmic vibe and egos were under control. But there's something quintessentially British about the mixture of jazz and rock that first emerged in Canterbury circles back in the late 1960s. American fusion (again, with notable exceptions) characteristically falls too much either on the jazz side or the rock side, and tends to be all chops (flash and dash) or, in later years, a slave to MIDI technology and bland and boring MOR licks (smooth jazz, lite jazz, easy listening jazz, etc.) Bash! (in spite of the name) is decidedly easy on the ears, but there's both a delicacy and a satisfying complexity to the music. The compositions, all written by group members (the majority by Pyle) are melodic and interactive. Keyboardist Alex Maguire plays both acoustic and electric pianos, and doubles on organ, guitarist Patrice Meyer uses effects boxes to get several different sounds out of his guitar (including a distinct Pat Metheny sound). Bassist Fred Baker not only cranks up the fuzz box on one piece but routinely plays melody lines in his instrument's upper register, turning it into another solo guitar instrument. And if that weren't enough to keep listeners smiling, veteran saxman Elton Dean shows up for a couple of guest spots on alto. So the ear is treated to plenty of textures and timbres. Meyer provides an absolutely dazzling guitar solo on "Spoutnik,," while "Beautiful Baguette" is a ballad showcase for Baker's splendid, lyrical technique on bass. One piece, "Carousel," has some free blowing, jagged acoustic piano and vigorous honking from Dean; it not only livens up the program but serves as a reminder that this group can go in pretty much any musical direction they choose. The closing piece, "John's Fragment," also has Maguire serving up some heavy organ funk. Other pieces ease into various mellow grooves, never jumping up and down, waving their hands in the air and yelling "hey, look at me!" but still giving the knowledgeable jazz connoisseur plenty to appreciate.
AllMusic Review by William Tilland