Active in the late '80s, Feetpackets grouped free improvisers from the Sheffield (England) area in a creative orchestra managed by tenor saxophonist Mick Beck (who would later gain more fame on the bassoon). Pre-dating by a decade the formation of the London Improvisers Orchestra, the ensemble has left only one document, Listen, Feetpackets!, the first CD released by Martin Archer's label, Discus. The seven works included here have been recorded with ambient sound to capture all the natural dynamics of the 14-piece band. The instrumentation includes reeds, horns, a very light string section (only viola and double bass), accordion, two vocalists (Linda Lee Welsch and Mary Oliver), and drums. Some pieces are tight compositions, like Geof Walmark's "Fanfare for Mick." Others consist only of a set of rules or grouping instructions. The group is not always on the target: a few pieces fizzle out (including two movements from Beck's "Next Symphony") and the players occasionally fail to produce anything more than noise. But when things fall into place, they get very good. Charlie Collins' "Barbél" and Ross Lambert's "The Universal Church of Truth" are both challenging and entertaining, packed with show-stoppers and circus tricks. Pete Rosser on accordion reminds listeners that this instrument can play a meaningful part in an improvising group, while drummer Paul Hession shines throughout. This disc has aged rather well and provides a rare glimpse into the Sheffield scene at the time.
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