Emanem owner Martin Davidson organized the first edition of the Freedom of the City festival in May 2001. He subsequently released a pair of two-CD sets documenting the event, separating performances by large groups from those of smaller units. This set presents extracts from seven concerts ranging from solo to quintet. Most of these "acts" have previously recorded for the label. The trio of Ian Smith (trumpet), Gail Brand (trombone), and Oren Marshall (tuba) was featured, along with a couple of senior improvisers, on Smith's Daybreak CD. Here they present an interesting set, sparse and textural. It lacks a little bit of assurance but the unusual instrumentation makes up for it. The trio of Veryan Weston, John Edwards, and Mark Sanders is simply excellent, all three exploding in "WESEDSAN B" (all track titles consist of the first two or three letters in each player's name). The performance by Maggie Nicols, Caroline Kraabel, and Charlotte Hug was their first public apparition as a trio. They recorded their debut, Transitions, a couple of months later, but they were already finely attuned to each other. Pat Thomas' solo piano set doesn't match what can be found on his CD Nur, mostly because of poorer sound quality -- a surprising isolated case. The violent chords in "THO 1" contrast heavily with the more meditative mood of his earlier effort. Tony Wren's Quatuor Accorde shines throughout the 17-minute "WREWASHUGDUR 1." John Butcher and Steve Beresford deliver a playful set of sax and electronics. Finally, the all-star (?!) quintet of Phil Minton, Paul Rutherford, Lol Coxhill, John Russell, and Roger Turner lives up to expectations (without exceeding them). Freedom of the City 2001: Small Groups contains some very nice moments of free improv, plus it can serve as a loose sampler of Emanem's roster.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2