Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black Top with Steve Williamson, No. 1

Like the bear in the woods, no, make that the tree, just because you don't hear something doesn't mean it isn't worth hearing. Black Top is a good example. They have been together since 2011, propelling forward with a free avant music that I am glad finally to hear. The new album has the matter-of-fact title No. 1 (Babel Label). The group is a duo, multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas. For their new album tenor and soprano sax work is nicely provided by Steve Williamson. This is London-based music, avant freedom with a kind of New Yorkish edge.

The occasional tape loop and real-time interaction combine for a live program that generates genuine excitement. They call on some tribal pan-African influences via marimba and percussion, wide-ranging pianism with a flair and some great sax work. Some of it grooves with that steady-state regularity but unpredictability that keeps it out of the programmed formula realm.

What's especially nice here is the unexpected quality of their free explorations. The artists don't play what you tend to hear these days, in that there is a propensity for memorable inventions that have their own structure and logic, more so than a "completely" open, multi-lane freeway approach would dictate.

It's the avoidance of avant cliche that keeps your ears in an expectant mode. The band delivers. They are more inclined to listen to each other and construct blocks of inspiration out of the responses and gestures. Not to say that there is anything wrong with a multi-independent avantness, of course. Just that they are slightly less "new music" oriented in that way than some other bands. And also of course that can only work if the instant-compositional inspiration happens. It does.

For a thorough hoot I would recommend you hear this one. Black Top is happening! You can grab No. 1 at the following BandCamp link:

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