Clear Frame

Clear Frame

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Clear Frame is already an all-star group in its original quartet form, with Lol Coxhill (soprano sax), Charles Hayward (drums), Hugh Hopper (electric bass), and Orphy Robinson (steel pan and vibraphone) all being seasoned free improvisers enjoying or having enjoyed fruitful careers in more accessible styles of music. Adding guest Robert Wyatt on cornet is only icing on the cake. This is a rare outing for the singer, outside his own albums, and his delicate, somewhat fragile lines easily find their place within the group's sound. And what sound is that? The freest side of the Canterbury scene -- or the proggiest side of free improvisation. Think of the more improvised permutations of Soft Machine (Soft Heap, for instance) or Hugh Hopper's improvisation projects. The music is entirely improvised, but the rhythm section still works for the most part as a rhythm section, Hopper weaving recurring basslines and Hayward constantly playing with the beat (either from inside or outside of it). Coxhill also remains on the more elegant side of his sound palette. The X factor on this eponymous debut is Orphy Robinson who, since his days in acid jazz, has been pushing the envelope on London's free improvisation scene. His steel pan playing brings an unusual color to these recordings. The eight pieces included on Clear Frame may have been reworked to a certain degree, as some selective reverb and possible overdubs seem to suggest, but the immediacy of a live free session has been maintained and the music, although at times meandering, is generally exciting and fresh.

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