Howard Riley

In Focus

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The second album by the improvisational piano duo of Keith Tippett and Howard Riley, In Focus (originally released in 1984 on Affinity Records and reissued by Jazzprint in early 2003) is both more structured and more chaotic than First Encounter. That album had a few rather formless, aimless patches on it that made it tough sledding for all but the most devoted free improvisation fans. Based on their respective solo styles, it seems that Riley takes the improvisational lead on the aptly named In Focus: While still clearly an improvisational album, these two long pieces have clear beginnings, middles, and ends, with a traceable musical arc throughout. "In Focus, Pt. 1" is the more relaxed of the pair, with some long, bop-oriented sections that almost sound like Thelonious Monk performing in duet with Bill Evans. "In Focus, Pt. 2" is where the two really let off, featuring some prepared piano work by Tippett that makes his instrument sound like a Balinese gamelan constructed largely out of the leavings of an abandoned junkyard. The climax of the piece features a positively crazed, Cecil Taylor-like Riley solo set against a racket that sounds like Tippett is playing the strings of his piano with an un-rosined violin bow. The lyrical outpaces the cacophonous overall, however, making In Focus an acceptable starting point for those new to improvisational free jazz.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2
blue highlight denotes track pick