Chris Burn

The First Two Gigs

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The title says it all. This CD culls excerpts from this quartet's first two concerts, in May and September 2000. Of course, Chris Burn, John Butcher, Rhodri Davies, and John Edwards have all worked together in various groupings, large and small, but this particular combination was still novel when the first three cuts were recorded in Walthamstow (England). All four musicians are highly talented improvisers; if harpist Rhodri Davies is still less-known than his acolytes, it is only because of his younger age. This album is pure British free improv. Influences and sound-alikes range from Iskra 1903 and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble to the Chris Burn Ensemble. Butcher went for a more extroverted sound this time around (although some of his breath work can be heard in "Russelliana" and a couple more places). Burn spends equal time playing the keys of the piano and moving objects on the strings. In such groupings, Davies is always the most puzzling player. First, the range and possibilities of his instrument are still widely unknown to the public. Second, his music tends to cross over Burn's inner-piano playing and the high end of Edward's bass range. Thus the listener can have a hard time assessing what he actually plays -- finding out often results in surprise and respect. His playing is best heard in the last three tracks (from The Red Rose Theater in Holloway, England) and especially in "Scharlachglut," where he takes a prominent role. That track's finale stands out. The rest of the disc is filled with great free improv, very abstract and difficult, but rewarding. Recommended.

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