Lol Coxhill

Spectral Soprano

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AllMusic Review by

There are very few versatile artists in European improvised music who hold the importance of Lol Coxhill. His highly personal style on soprano and tenor saxophones (fluent and lyrical yet capable of shrieking outbursts) and his ability to perform with everyone and in every style from jazz standards to the weirdest electro-acoustic improv, backed by his enduring sense of humor, draw the figure of a maverick musician. Spectral Soprano, a collection of mostly unreleased tracks recorded from 1954 to 1999, charts most of his ventures. This two-CD set was assembled for release by Mash in 1999, but finally came out on Emanem three years later. A 20-page booklet full of photographs and liner notes completes this marvelous set. The producers chose a non-chronological order, allowing listeners to experience the stylistic shifts and contrasts in all their glory. The earliest pieces are bebop numbers salvaged from 78 rpm records. Out of the '60s, listeners get a couple of pop songs by Tony Knight's Chessmen. The '70s and '80s were mostly kept under wraps, but listeners are treated to some music for dance, a duet with Steve Miller, and a couple of numbers with saxophonist Bruce Turner. More than half of the set comes from the 1990s, and features Coxhill improvising with various musicians from the London scene, including Veryan Weston, Steve Beresford, and John Edwards, along with his groups the Recedents and the Melody Four. Highlights abound and come from all directions: The Recedents' "Brits Abroad" is top-quality improv and the rockabilly vibe of "Messin' With the Man" brings a smile to your face, while "Embraceable You/Quasimodo" and "Murder in the Air" are exquisite examples of avant comedy theater. The concluding piece with the London Improvisers Orchestra is just icing on the cake. Highly recommended.

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