Paul Rutherford

Chicago 2002

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Free improv albums rarely come as satisfying as this one. The occasion was special (Paul Rutherford's American appearances are few and far between), the line-up premiere and the menu varied. Recorded on April 26 and 27, 2002, live at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, this CD is a celebration of the trombonist's music and the impact which British improvisers who came of age in the late '60s and early '70s had on a younger American generation. First up is an unedited 32-minute solo. Rutherford is still in very good shape: inventive, resourceful, and absolutely capable of keeping an improvisation interesting for that long. Perhaps his most seductive feature is the fact that he doesn't mind pausing to catch his breath or change mutes, using silence as a source of expectation. "Loliloquy" is a structured improvisation in the form of a loose concerto for Lol Coxhill, who accompanied the trombonist for this trip. On the second date, the Englishmen are joined by Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mats Gustafsson (tenor sax), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Kent Kessler (bass), and Kjell Nordeson (drums). A bit weaker than the first date, but only because the improvisers seem to have become accustomed to one another, it serves as a prelude of sorts to "Blue Bottle," a fantastic 20-minute group improvisation which features stunning interplay, a wide exploration of dynamics and colors (including an electrical episode from Lonberg-Holm when he hits the distortion pedal), and an unmatched level of excitement. It sounds like seven of the finest improvisers trying to inject meaning to the chaos of the universe by contributing more chaos to it, and it's one of the finest pieces released in 2002. Imperfect sound balance results in the two trombonists being squeezed into the same stereo channel, but that's a very minor flaw considering the quality of the music. Highly recommended.

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