• 1. IMPROVISATION 1 (21:08)
  • 2. IMPROVISATION 2 (05:42)
  • 3. IMPROVISATION 3 (11:41)
  • 4. IMPROVISATION 4 (05:09)
  • 5. IMPROVISATION 0 (25:20)
  • 6. OFFCUT 3 (01:45)
  • 7. OFFCUT 1 (04:30)
  • 8. OFFCUT 2 (11:27)
  • 9. IMPROVISATION 5 (05:09)
  • 10. IMPROVISATION 6 (10:53)
  • 11. IMPROVISATION 7 (04:34)
  • 12. IMPROVISATION 8 (06:26)
  • 13. IMPROVISATION 9 (03:44)
  • 14. IMPROVISATION 10 (03:14)
  • 15. IMPROVISATION 11 (07:34)
  • 16. EXTRA 1 (07:52)
  • 17. EXTRA 2 (11:36)
  • 18. EXTRA 3 (06:52)
  • 19. ON TOUR 1 (13:45)
  • 20. ON TOUR 3 (12:52)
  • 21. ON TOUR 2 (12:34)

Chapter One

Double Bass [With Amplification] – Barry Guy
Guitar [With Amplification] – Derek Bailey
Piano – Paul Rutherford (tracks: 1-1, 1-5, 2-3)
Trombone – Paul Rutherford (tracks: 1-3 to 2-2, 2-4 to 3-6)

Classic performances by the innovative trio of PAUL RUTHERFORD (trombone & piano), DEREK BAILEY (guitar) & BARRY GUY (double bass). Reissue of Incus 3/4, plus about 100 minutes of previously unissued material from the same and another concert & studio sessions. 194 minutes.

Excerpts from sleeve notes:
Paul Rutherford formed Iskra 1903 in 1970 with Derek Bailey and Barry Guy. All three musicians had worked together in larger groups, starting off with the 1966/7 edition of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble that can be heard on WITHDRAWAL. However, they had a strong desire to work as a percussionless trio. It's not that they were or are anti-percussion - each of them have subsequently worked in various settings with numerous percussionists - it’s just that they felt a need for this sort of instrumentation.

Rutherford named the group after 'Iskra' (the Russian word for spark) which was the paper that Lenin edited before the Russian Revolution. The '19' indicates 20th century music, and the '03' is the number of performers. (There were occasions when the group became Iskra 1904 with the addition of Evan Parker, while Rutherford's larger groups have been known as Iskra 1912 and Iskrastra.)

The 1970 ICA concert was one of their earliest performances as a trio. Neither the group nor its members had quite acquired all the distinctive characteristics that were reached in subsequent years. However, one could hardly say that this mostly laidback and sublime music was immature. One unique aspect was Rutherford's extensive use of piano, something he was experimenting with at the time - he even did some solo gigs as a pianist.

It was originally intended to issue music from this concert on an LP on the Turtle label. Improvisation 1 and (the recently named) Improvisation 0 were selected for that release. Unfortunately, Turtle stopped production before this LP came about, so nothing appeared until late 1972, when Improvisations 1-4 appeared as half of an Incus double LP.

Additional material from this concert recently turned up on a tape labelled "ICA Offcuts". After all these years it is not possible to ascertain exactly where these extracts were cut off from - they can just be listened to as three bonuses in their own right at the start of the second CD. (Around this time, the trio recorded somewhat subdued music for a film, which can be heard as BUZZ SOUNDTRACK.)
The first edition of Iskra 1903 arguably reached its peak two years later. In addition to all the evidence on this CD set, there is a fine 1972 concert later issued as GOLDSMITHS. The fully fledged 1972 studio session heard here was recorded to make up the other half of the double Incus LP.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to locate the tapes for Improvisations 2-11, so these pieces had to be taken off the Incus LPs. In spite of using some noise reduction, the inherent limitations of vinyl are noticeable. However, this music is too good and too important not to be available again.

The previously unissued Extra studio session that starts the third CD is unusual in that all three musicians can be heard both acoustically and amplified. As usual, the two string players used volume control pedals to alternate between the two modes. Uniquely on this occasion, the trombone was alternately played into two mikes, one of which went directly to the mixing desk, the other which went to an amplifier and speaker which was in turn recorded using another mike. There is acoustic/amplified separation for all the instruments in the resultant stereo picture.

The final three pieces come from late 1972 when the Musicians’ Co-operative was On Tour in Germany. As well as the LJCO, several small groups performed at each concert, so each was allocated about a quarter of an hour. The surviving recordings are not in pristine condition, but, as before, the excellence of the lively music overcomes that.

This first version of Iskra 1903 lasted about four years, during which time they were rightly considered to be one of the very finest groups around. It was, perhaps, the last long-term fixed-personnel group that Bailey worked in. When Rutherford reformed Iskra 1903 in about 1977, it was with Philipp Wachsmann and Barry Guy - a trio that performed sporadically for about 15 years.
MARTIN DAVIDSON (2000 revised 2004)

Album label: 
Release date: 
01.04 / 2000
Recording date: 
02.09 / 1970
Recording location: 
London 1970 (1-8), 1972 (9-15), 1971 (16-18), Donaueschingen 1972 (19), Berlin 1972 (20), Bremen 1972 (21)
Artwork design : Nigel Rollings / Martin Davidson
Mastering engineer : Martin Davidson
Producer : Martin Davidson
Recording engineer : Hugh Davies (1-8), Bob Woolford (9-15)

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