Improvabilly

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Bruce’s Fingers
ALBUM TITLE: Hession/Wharf/Fell
PERFORMER: Charles Wharf (ss, ts, bcl), Simon H Fell (b), Paul Hession (d)
CATALOGUE NO: BF 44 (distr. Cadillac)

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A characteristically glamorous kind of British improvising disc, set down ‘in a windowless, acoustically unpromising, dark, damp and smelly room on a small trading estate just north of the A505’. Fell and Hession are more frequently encountered on disc with saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, but Wharf is a player of similar temperament, and this is a set that stands as tall as anything in the formidable Bruce’s Fingers catalogue.

The trio speaks in a free-form language which has been part of jazz for long enough to have acquired a kind of repertoire status, and it no longer sounds especially ‘modern’ or disturbing – unless you’re waiting for a lulling chord sequence to arrive. What gives it particularity are the superlative skills of the players. Hession has built his Elvin Jones influence into a kind of never-ending drum solo that is a masterclass in dynamics, propulsion and sound-painting.

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Wharf has a slippery delivery that he modifies across his three horns: pinchy and needling on soprano, blustery on tenor, moochingly songful on bass clarinet. Fell thinks at lightning speed: he changes tack, switches from fingers to bow, and plays for the others or himself with an alertness that won’t hear of any slackness in the music. He’s the best kind of virtuoso. Most free-music discs have occasional dead spots. This one grips and won’t let go. Richard Cook