Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston
Watts' first free improvisation record in around 25 years finds him playing soprano & alto saxophones with Weston on piano. Six superlative unedited duets recorded at Gateway Studio. 61 minutes.
Excerpts from sleeve notes:
Free improvisation. Some may think of it as the art of 'making it up as you go along'. But it is much more than that. English vocalist Maggie Nicols has spoken of the necessity for a sort of 'social virtuosity' amongst improvisers: chops and instincts and reflexes simply aren't enough to make great music in a free improv situation. One must listen attentively, and approach music-making with true openness. German clarinetist Theo Jorgensmann captured another aspect of that 'something more' quite eloquently: 'An improviser has to do everything… from production to marketing… he has to think socially when playing with others… He is the kind of person society needs today."
In addition to embodying every virtue mentioned in Jorgensmann's quote, saxophonist Trevor Watts and pianist Veryan Weston are artists whose individualism stands out in bold relief. Both possess vital, compelling voices on their respective instruments. Weston is one of a handful of free-improvising pianists leading the charge away from Cecil Taylor's all-pervasive influence. As for Watts, just listen to his alto saxophone sing, soar and exult above the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra on HARMOS, or with his own Celebration Band on their recently-released debut CD. His is a sound - and a feeling - you will not soon forget, and his musical concepts consistently transcend labels.
Now that some of his earliest work with SME is widely available (via Emanem), Watts could exploit the fact that he, along with John Stevens and Paul Rutherford, helped establish a distinctly British style of free improvisation in the mid-60s. From his work with Amalgam, he could also lay claim to being one of the first to utilise heavily-distorted electric guitar (played by Keith Rowe and/or the completely unheralded Dave Cole) and electric bass creatively in freely-improvised music. It is worth pointing out that Amalgam predated the electric free-jazz supergroup Last Exit by at least one decade.
Instead, Watts established a clearly defined musical existence outside the rarefied Euro-free improv community. The author of Watts' entry in the 'Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (5th Edition)', goes so far as to claim that he '…has to some extent turned his back entirely on abstract music.' In fact, Watts never saw himself as an exclusively 'free' player. Free improv (e.g., SME) and free jazz (e.g., Amalgam) are just two aspects of Watts' evolution as a total musician, or as Watts himself put it in a recent interview: 'I was always into developing in a whole way. So that all I'd ever learned was encompassed in the one way of playing.' Watts assembled the first of several Moiré Music groups during the early 80s. These drum-centric ensembles integrated trance-like African and Middle Eastern polyrhythms with modern jazz improvisation and Celtic traditional melodies to create a joyous new sound: a sound that was far removed from the watered-down exotica known as 'world beat'.
Though his collaboration with Trevor Watts is now entering its third decade, pianist Veryan Weston is perhaps better known for his ongoing collaborations with three other notable British originals: Lol Coxhill, Eddie Prevost, and Phil Minton. Weston first encountered Trevor Watts while playing at the Little Theatre Club in London during the early 1970s. Weston was a charter member of Moiré Music - he spent a decade with the group, about which he says: '…that was a good learning experience, especially the rhythmic thing…' He is currently part of a group with bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders that can be heard on MERCURY CONCERT. Together they chart fresh, new sonic territory for that most august of jazz traditions: the piano trio.
While working primarily with his various Moiré groups, Watts kept a hand in free improvisation via a still-unrecorded duo with drummer Liam Genockey. 6 DIALOGUES marks Watts' return to recording in a free improv setting after a hiatus of about 25 years. When asked about how free music has changed since his last recorded foray, Watts states: 'What I like about the scene, now as opposed to then, is that the players seem more open and certainly more relaxed than that previous generation's.'
The music on 6 DIALOGUES is the first hour (no edits, no extracts) of a single 80-minute recording session that took place after a day and a half of hanging out, listening to music, discussing ideas, and walking in the woods. Given their past history, it's no surprise that the rapport between these two virtuosos is, indeed, open and relaxed. The music has an organic, conversational quality, free of contrivances and trappings. Nothing - including self-editing of harmonic / rhythmic impulses - stands in the way of the free flow of ideas and emotions. Weston attributes the success of the music on 6 DIALOGUES, to the saxophonist's '…extremely acute listening ability, which I realise more and more is the key to the improviser's creative skill…,'. I would add that the acute listening Weston refers to is a skill he shares as well.
I enjoyed everything about this music from the start. Weston's angular, excitably rhythmic, and harmonically dense approach to the keyboard provides the perfect terrain for Watts' trailblazing alto and soprano. Occasionally, I get a hint of Weston's formal musical education (he holds a Masters in Music Composition from Goldsmith's College, University of London), and of Watts' extensive experiences in jazz-based improvisation, from swing to free. But these are just reference points in two music careers, and two lives, which encompass far more.
DAVE WAYNE (2002)