Since the early part of the '70s, John Martyn has explored various shades of folk, jazz, rock, and blues, often in tandem with double bassist Danny Thompson. This union has yielded some amazing moments both in the studio and on-stage, as is documented on such recordings as Bless the Weather, Solid Air, and Live at Leeds, to name a few. Recorded 15 years prior to its release in 2001, and nearly a decade since they had last appeared together on record, The Brewery Arts Centre Kendall 1986 is a live pairing of the two, along with drummer Arran Ahmun, in a primarily acoustic setting. Interestingly enough, a John Martyn record hadn't featured any acoustic guitar since 1977's One World, which was the last time Thompson had done a session with him. Throughout their time working together, whether on the original recordings or in concert, Martyn and Thompson have always relied on chemistry, pure musicianship, and a sort of jazz-like spontaneity, all of which are apparent on The Brewery Arts Centre. Over the course of 17 tracks, Martyn and company round up many of the usual suspects from his extensive catalog, including "Solid Air," "Bless the Weather," and "May You Never," placing them in familiar surroundings, while later tunes like "Angeline," "Lookin' On," and the beautiful "Sweet Little Mystery" seem equally at home here. Thompson and Ahmun, whether setting a groove or falling in around Martyn's sometimes affected, sometimes straightforward guitar, are masterful throughout. Other highlights include a conga and bass-driven "One Day Without You," the subdued passion of "Make No Mistake," and the haunting moodiness of "One World." The only real drawback, as is the case with many of these One World live recordings, is the somewhat lifeless sound. The Brewery Arts Centre may not necessarily be essential, but it should be of interest to fans.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach