Monday, 29 January 2018

Review of Closer to You by Amalgam in New York City Jazz Record Feb 2018

This is the text of Marc Medwin's excellent review:

Trevor Watts, who turns 79 this month, has been pushing at the geographical and formal boundaries of improvised music for more than half a century. To label him a formative force in the British improvised music scene would be to underestimate his importance. His reed playing has continued to be as multivalently energetic today as it was when he co-founded the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) in the mid '60s. Putting together an absolutely astounding rhythm section is one of the things Watts does best. By 1978, when Closer to You was recorded, bassist Colin McKenzie and drummer Liam Genockey had gelled into a rock-solid hard-driving but hair-width subtle support system, all characteristics readily apparent on this expanded version of the album. 'Keep Right' wears its odd metrics lightly, bass and drums forming ever-tightening rings of intricacy around the jagged saxophone lines. Contrast that relatively brief bit of off-kilter dance with the weighty opening of the album's sustained high point, 'Dear Roland' where McKenzie orchestrates with a dazzling display of harmonics and Genockey punctuates with pithy pointillisms. Both spend much of the track's opening minutes coloring the swathes of silence separating the leader's multiple saxophone work, rendering the dedicatory title especially relevant by obvious but non-cliché references to Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Watts' exhortations guide while never dictating, as in the high energy opener 'De Dublin Ting', where he launches into alto triplets as the rhythm section slams and grooves with alacrity. 'South of Nowhere's second half bristles with New Thing vigour largely thanks to Watts' high register runs. Energy music is evident on the best of the bonus tracks, the aptly titled 'Albert Like' bringing Archie Shepp phrasing into a mix peppered liberally with McKenzie's funky breaks. The album channels that nebulous beast then known as 'fusion' without calling too much attention to any one genre or style.

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!