King Crimson

ProjeKct One: Jazz Cafe Suite

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The 22nd installment of the King Crimson Collectors' Club series of archival performances contains some of the music that ProjeKct One unleashed during their criminally brief existence from December 1 to December 4, 1997 at the Jazz Café in London. The quartet featured on this release includes Bill Bruford (drums/percussion/mixing), Robert Fripp (guitar), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar) and Tony Levin (bass/Chapman Stick/synthesizer). They became the first sub-division [read: ProjeKct] of the mid-'90s double-trio incarnation of King Crimson. Its passing also marked the departure of Bruford from the greater King Crimson orbit. Musically, these completely improvised instrumentals seem to reflect the individual personalities of each band member rather than forming a cohesive statement from the ensemble. This is not meant as a debasing comment, but rather an observation of the lack of complete musical unification. The three suites included on this disc are, in essence, a pastiche of sounds from all four nights; rather than an unedited account of the proceedings. Although that enters the realm of revisionist history, it likewise allows for more cohesive listening away from the context of the 'real time' experience. This style of compilation recalls a similar technique incorporated into the improv-heavy Thrakattak (1996) -- which was culled from the mid-'90s reformation of King Crimson, and includes contributions from Crimson mates Adrian Belew (guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (percussion). "Suite One" is the longest of the three and begins with Fripp's layers of soundscapes over which Gunn and Levin slowly reveal themselves. Bruford's entrance offers a substantial focus with some potent counterplay from Levin. This four-way exchange is both inspired as well as maddeningly schizophrenic. There are several distinct moments of utter joy and unfettered musical brilliance that instantly recall the majesty of the mid-'70s King Crimson improvisations. Sadly, those threads are short-lived. "Suite Two" is immediately dominated by the rhythm section. The delicate low vibrations from Levin resonate profoundly with Bruford's cymbalistic sputtering. Fripp's trumpet-like leads recall the late-'60s and early-'70s jazz /rock fusion of Miles Davis. Again, there are hints at greatness and some inspired passages -- especially in the contrasts between Fripp's languid, chiming drones and tones when juxtaposed with Bruford's impulsive bombasts. "Suite Three" offers a sampling of this quartet's variety of textures, ranging from the heavy thump backbeat, courtesy of Levin, to some gritty guitar leads from Fripp. While the opening groon [read: a term coined by Fripp to describe something in between a 'groove' and a 'groan'] brings to mind a neo- or post-modern Sun Ra, the pulsating backbeat propels the suite into a funkier and less sporadic musical space. It is unfortunate that this combo deteriorated so quickly as they truly never had an opportunity to organically develop a unique musical language between themselves. That said, King Crimson enthusiasts whose leanings include the unpredictability of free-form improvisation should not pass up this volume for both its significant historical value as well as its adept performances.

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