During the spring of 2003, Milo Fine spent five-and-a-half-weeks in London -- a time of explorations, playing and networking that has yielded a good number of recordings, the most impressive being this two-CD set released on Emanem. The bulk of the material presented here was recorded live with large groups at Tony Wren's monthly concert series Free Radicals, held at the Red Rose, over two months (April 2 and May 7). Sandwiched between these sets are shorter duets and trios from one studio session and another concert. Disc one begins on an involving, shapeshifting 38-minute piece featuring Fine (on clarinet and piano for the first quarter, on drums afterwards), violinists Angharad Davies and Philipp Wachsmann, bassists Wren, Simon H. Fell and Marcio Mattos, vocalist Marj McDaid (who actually remains very quiet throughout, almost unnoticeable), and longtime Chris Burn Ensemble member Matt Hutchinson on synthesizer and electronics. The piece includes a wide range of dynamics, lots of sub-group interplay and acute synergy. The three duets between Fine and clarinetist Alex Ward are of a different breed. The clarinet duets get expansive, even raucous, while the clarinet/drums duet "Fine Ward Mill Hill" provides the highlight of disc one, thanks to its playfulness and all-around engaging quality. The last performance on this disc is by Fine, Paul Shearsmith (pocket trumpet) and Gail Brand (trombone). The trio shows promise, but this particular piece is slightly bland, lacking the levels of invention and sensibility witnessed earlier. Disc two is entirely given over to the May Free Radicals concert, featuring Fine (again on clarinets, piano and drum set), instrument-builder Hugh Davies and the Quatuor Encorde quartet, which evolved from Wren's Quatuor Accorde and here comprises Wachsmann, Mattos, Wren and violistCharlotte Hug. The first piece (performed as the group was waiting for Wachsmann to arrive) includes some overstretched moments, but otherwise this is a very fine concert of intelligent, sensitive, mostly-acoustic free improvisation. Fine manages to marvelously blend in his percussion work with the interlacing strings (his piano playing is not as successful, but still relevant). This second disc invites repeat listens and is alone worth the price of admission.
AllMusic Review by François Couture
Track Listing - Disc 1