Friday, 5 January 2018

Monday, 18 December 2017

Great review of Closer to You at Point of Departure

Trevor Watts Amalgam
Closer to You
Hi4Head Records HFHCD019
Recorded in May, 1978, this reissue of Closer to You features saxophonist Trevor Watts, electric bassist Colin McKenzie, and drummer Liam Genockey in a set marked by a dynamic mix of free-wheeling raucous energy and a more somber, almost mournful atmosphere. Watts’ Amalgam gets out of the gate like a rocket ship on the opener, “De Dublin Thing.” His careening, wild alto saxophone is a vehicle of nearly unbridled spirit, and while his overblowing may not be for everybody, it does add to the urgency and immediacy of his playing. Genockey gets all over his kit, and McKenzie propels the trio while setting up his drummer for a number of hits and fills. “South of Nowhere” begins in a quieter mode that’s free of time, with Watts’ lamentations giving way to a groove. After a decrescendo that ends in near silence, McKenzie jumpstarts a whimsical march that sets the foundation for Watts’ playful Braxtonish excursions.
The album’s centerpiece is the nearly twenty-minute “Dear Roland” – ostensibly for Roland Kirk, given his death a year earlier and Watts’ simultaneous playing of alto and soprano. As on “South of Nowhere” the trio begins in a soft, sparse, and darker mood which is occasionally interrupted and augmented by alto/soprano screeches, gongs, and tom rumbles. Watts plays a three note motive that McKenzie immediately echoes and transforms into the basis for a groove, which the trio explores for several minutes before fading and returning to the opening framework. The piece’s narrative arc and varied sonic textures make for an engaging conclusion to the original album.
This reissue also includes five previously unreleased bonus tracks. As before, Watts, McKenzie, and Genockey absolutely get after it. “Albert Like” has a weird, almost funky r&b feel over which Watts blows a series of catchy earworm hooks – that is until the cut abruptly ends, as if the tape ran out. The freely improvised “Bottle Alley” – which doesn’t quite have as much purpose as the other selections – has an audible tape hiss. And while the rocking, uptempo burner “Mad” scintillates, the intensity of the album’s original four tracks make what comes after almost too much. Bonus tracks or no, this new version of Closer to You – even in its quieter moments – hits fast and hits hard.
—Chris Robinson

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Heath Common on Drystone Radio, The Writers Bookshelf.

Heath Common will be appearing on The Writers Bookshelf on Drystone Radio (103.5FM) on the evening of 26/9, talking about music, poetry & life in general!

Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston & Mark French's Cafe Oto film in St Leonards 22/9!

FRIDAY 22nd SEP 2017. KINO in St Leonards. Free event. Mark French film "Dialogues with Strings" featuring Watts/Blunt/Marshall & Weston "live" at CAFE OTO, then "live" performance of Trevor & Veryan's QUANTUM ILLUSION PROJECT. It will be a full house. See you there.

Excellent review of Closer to You by Trevor Watts' Amalgam in RnR by Andrew Darlington

At first glance, co-producer Keith Beal's dripping, dribbling cover art is a messy colourful abstraction, until, the more you look, the more it assumes human form and expression.
Amalgam is a similar concoction. Alto-man Trevor Watts was a vital ingredient in free-jazz Spontaneous Music Ensemble, collectively exploring the outer limits of improvisation with John Stevens.
Long-time Melody Maker favourites, the various line-ups of his more accessible side-project, Amalgam, also produced a series of fine albums, led by Prayer for Peace in 1969. By the time of this 1978 set, originally issued on cult Ogun label, they'd pared down to a power trio.
From the dizzying blizzard that Trevor's staccato sax soars and dances across the sharp attacking jazz-fusion rhythm interactions of bassist Colin McKenzie and Liam Genockey's precise drum-pulse, on opener 'De Dublin Ting', we're into the slower, more considered, three way conversation 'South of Nowhere', before nodding to Roland Kirk on the full-eerie, almost-twenty-minute original vinyl second side.
Although abstract in its compressed flaring fold-ins, overlapping telepathic trick-trips, internal squiggles and wrangling dynamics, repeated playing reveals its intensely human form and expression. Now, the four original tracks' playing-time is near-doubled by a wealth of archive bonus cuts.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Superb five star review of Heath Common & the Lincoln 72s by Nick Toczek in RnR July/Aug 2017

Over several CDs, Bill Byford, lyricist and frontman of Heath Common, has been mining his past. The songs, each of which forms a succinct chapter of what's becoming a fragmentary sung autobiography, form an unique record of life in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Latest addition, Heath Common, offering five episodes each from his childhood in early-60s Halifax and his later years in late-60s and 70s Notting Hill Gate, is the best yet, featuring a far fuller sound employing an impressive array of musicians and singers.
Of the five Halifax songs, the standout 'Spirit of Ogden' encapsulates his vivid, almost filmic, evocations, while 'Mixenden I'm coming Home' shows touching affection.
By way of contrast, the more objective London quintet recalls Beat culture, starting with the upbeat and celebratory 'Satori in the Sky'. This is followed by his paen - set in the early 80s - to seminal artists 'Basquiat and Warhol', the former then in tragic drug-addled decline. 'Still Howling' recalls the mid-60s Poetry Olympics at the Royal Albert Hall, organised by Michael Horovitz and featuring, among many others, Beat icon Allen Ginsberg. Suffused with healthy tongue-in-cheek cynicism, Byford's detailed audio-pictures are so much more than mere rose-tinted nostalgia. Strongly recommended!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Brilliant five star review of Closer to You by Trevor Watts' Amalgam by Philip Clark in Jazzwise 220!

It's good to have this one back. Originally released by Ogun Records in 1979, Closer to You features the trio incarnation of Trevor Watts' Amalgam born after table-top guitarist Keith Rowe left the group following the release of their mighty albums Over the Rainbow and Wipe Out.
Sans Rowe, the textures and structural manoeuvres are cleaner and more directly etched. 'De Dublin Ting' - take no notice of the decidedly Father Ted-like title - is a rollicking piece of badass harmolodic funk in which Watts plays Russian roulette with displaced beats, while 'Keep Right' develops as a stately blues-immersed ritual. Amalgam had always been the place where Watts ran with compositional ideas that would have felt alien to the work he was pursuing with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and the extended 'South of Nowhere (With Quiet Beginnings)'has an air of composerly architecture as those quiet, whispered beginnings evolve into granite sounds. The 20-minute 'Dear Roland' (Kirk presumably) slowly develops into a stark, relentless procession, led by saxophone multiphonics that grind against and are illuminated by, resonant metallic percussion. This reissue comes supplemented by five previously unheard tracks from the same session - sketches for what finally emerged.