Various Artists

Freedom of the City 2002: Small Groups

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When it comes to compiling highlights of a free improv festival, you can count on Emanem owner Martin Davidson to zero in on the most significant performances. This double-CD set chronicles the small groups (solos, duos, trios) featured at the 2002 Freedom of the City festival. Equity has nothing to do with it. If Roger Smith, the trio of Lol Coxhill, Paul Rutherford, and Ian Smith, along with the duo of Chris Burn and Matt Hutchinson, are allotted under 20 minutes each, it doesn't mean that their music is of a lesser quality. Actually, Smith's "Under the Greenwood Tree" makes a perfect companion to his then-recent solo album, and represents solid historical value since he had not played live for ages. But two artists get the lion's share. On Disc One, we have a 35-minute set from Sylvia Hallett, and that's a blessing considering how short her discography is. In "Swarming" and "Violet Revisited" she plays a bicycle wheel with a bow, using her voice and digital delays to construct dreamy soundscapes similar to the material on her album White Fog. For the other pieces she turns to the musical saw, the violin, and the sarangi, always managing to make the instrument sound like something else. Disc Two ends with a 36-minute set by Evan Parker and John Russell, their first recording as a duo. Highly creative and attuned to each other, the musicians pulled off a memorable performance that, by itself, gives you enough reason to acquire this album.

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