London Improvisers Orchestra


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The London Improvisers Orchestra had been playing once a month for over a year when Proceedings, its first album, was recorded (in July 1999). The ensemble varies in number and staff, but most of the musicians involved in the project were present at the recording session -- 31 of them, their names reading like a who's who of the London free improv scene. Luminaries like Evan Parker, Steve Beresford, Lol Coxhill, Terry Day, and Philipp Wachsmann mix with up-and-coming improvisers like John Butcher, Mark Sanders, John Edwards, and Rhodri Davies. The orchestra is comprised of woodwind, string, and brass sections, along with percussion, harp, piano, guitar, sampler, and "objects" (Adam Bohman's electro-acoustical setup). Proceedings is a two-CD set, the first released by the British label Emanem. Disc one contains five pieces, all improvisations, three of them over 14 minutes in length. Some are conducted, and "Monster's Milk," with guest conductor Dave Tucker, stands out as the magnum opus on this set, thanks to the richness in the contrasts he gets out of the orchestra. Disc two contains shorter (seven, none breaking the 12-minute threshold) and conceptualized pieces. Caroline Kraabel's "Virus" has the orchestra acting like a living organism in which a virus infects one organ after the other -- a very good idea that translates almost graphically into the music. Simon H. Fell's "Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85)" is the most written piece, taking 100 beats from an Ellington/Strayhorn ballad and stretching them over ten minutes. The result is an impressive, but very abstract composition. A 24-page booklet gives many details on the orchestra and the pieces performed. This first album shows all the potential of the London Improvisors Orchestra, but the ensemble's 2001 offering, The Hearing Continues, offers a more mature statement.

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