Soren Anders

Environ Days

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Environ Days is a document of compositions played by an aggressive improvising group of musicians led by John Fischer at his performance space in the mid-'70s called Environ, the first and most well known of the loft jazz scene's spaces during that magical era. Most directly collaborating with Fischer is Perry Robinson, clarinetist and vanguard jazz wildman. It was he who enlisted the others here, who include Lester Bowie, Charles Tyler, Arthur Blythe, Marion Brown, Philip Wilson, Mark Whitecage, Rick Kilburn, Thom Whaley, and Armen Halburian. Not everybody plays on every track, and there are sketchy liner notes as to who played what on which track, but the rough ideas are there, making for a charming document. Soloists are always delineated, so that makes it easier. What comes across is how truly open to suggestion this music is -- whether it's Marion Brown's solo on "Polka," informed by two different modal figures coming from Bowie and Tyler, or the changing motifs in "Foggy" and "476," where the horn section offers a wide berth to Fischer, who uses it to bring them back in, or the underpinning of percussion figures on the bassline in "Poum!," where Halburian corners Fischer's voice and extrapolates from it the sound of the drum and its voices before feeding back into the ensemble. In all cases, this is a fine snapshot of a moment in time when everything seemed possible because on the outside nothing was. Environ Days is an awesome recording that gives a deep listen to the music of the loft scene, not a glimpse of its makers.

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