Should you be leaning away from the vertical, this should suit you very well indeed.

577 Records

Alex Ward – clarinet, electric guitar; Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet, flugelhorn;

Otto Willberg – double bass; Andrew Lisle – drums

Recorded at Snorkel Studios, London, UK, November 29 2019

Though limiting himself to clarinet and guitar on this recording, Alex Ward is recognised on the UK’s improvised music scene as a prominent contributor and a talented multi-instrumentalist, expanding his repertoire to alto sax, bass guitar, keyboards and voice.

Although formerly apprenticed to Derek Bailey and seen as a Free artist, subsequent years have placed him in an environment which brings together full improvisation as well as composition.  His wish to create such a milieu is surely satisfied by Furthered.

It should not pass unnoticed that there are a number of record companies ‘out there’ which are a great help to the Improv and Free artists in getting their work known and distributed and 577 Records is one such, so much so that All About Jazz commented “577 Records is putting out some of the most interesting improvised music today”, while Bandcamp went with “Guided by a mission to capture the ephemeral, to keep jazz relevant, and to foster a collaborative community of artists, the music 577 releases is timeless, masterful, and mystical”.  Thoroughly deserved.  There are many others and I am not ignoring them – just too many to list in this review.

Such is the diversity of Ward’s work that it requires a similar diversity between the solo artists and bands who perform his ‘compositions-for-improvisers’ and who work at collaborating in improvisation by composing, declaiming, performing, playing or singing off-the-cuff, with whatever materials fall to hand.  Apart from his own groups and his improvisational work, he also works in ensembles of different formats and sizes.  His particular, inimitable vigour and ingenuity add interest and flavour to all of those endeavours.

The group ‘Item 4’ intends that all of its musicians will be given time and space to play and to improvise individually and collectively and that Ward’s compositional intrusions will be restricted or minimised.  The band is considered to be made up from among the most idiosyncratic and stimulating musicians on the London scene and the results of their close collaboration in this and other assemblies is heard clearly.

Since becoming a professional jazz musician, Charlotte Keeffe has moved progressively towards improvised music and her unique approach and passion for jazz, experimental and freely improvised music sees her performing regularly both as a soloist as well as part of a diversity of dissimilar ensembles, including her own quartet.

Otto Willberg is a musician clearly involved in improvisation and other forms of exploratory music. He is interested in the uncertain areas that are buried beneath transparent classification but involve disparate modes of both listening and playing and unceasingly lets things modify.

Andrew Lisle exhibits an absolutely exclusive, energetic style.  He works with the group Kodian Trio and is often the first-called-for as drummer on the UK Free-impro scene.

Should you be leaning away from the vertical, this should suit you very well indeed.

Reviewed by Ken Cheetham