Bob Downes

Open Music

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Although flute player Bob Downes contributed to numerous fairly mainstream rock and jazz-rock records, his 1970 album Open Music is, in accordance with its title, an outlet for some of his most adventurous and experimental excursions. While it's not the wildest of free jazz, it's definitely on the free side. His flute's augmented by numerous horns, percussionists, and bass as it roams and punctuates compositions with irregular rhythms that usually have a spacious feel, despite the number of instruments employed. Side one of the original LP was solely devoted to the 22-minute "Dream Journey: A Score for Blind Sight by the Ballet Rambert," the first jazz score to be commissioned by a British dance company, according to Downes' portion of the sleeve notes on the 2010 CD reissue. In keeping with a piece composed for ballet, it's wistful with unpredictable alternations of flute, percussion tinkles, dramatic quasi-bop, and explosive rumbles, as if it's a soundtrack to a quirky film with a slowly unfolding plot whose outcome is far from certain. The shorter cuts that follow are mostly in a roughly similar vein, yet sparser and more lyrical. These often have a slightly queasy and nervous mood, especially when low drones underpin his flute on "Ghosts in Space" before the piece moves on to violent paroxysms. The closing number, "Electric City," is a frenetic jazz-rock number entirely unlike the rest of the album, furiously funky electric guitar colliding with turbulent horns as the rhythm section lays down a tense groove. It's early fusion at its noisiest, but not typical of a record that is for the most part on the contemplative side, if not in the context of the kind of jazz you can hum or tap your feet to.