Making Rooms, the first release from Weekertoft, is an audacious opening salvo from what is sure to be an essential new label for creative music. Weekertoft, “ear house” in Kentish, is run by the English guitarist John Russell and the Irish pianist Paul G. Smyth. Making Rooms is a four-disc box set of live recordings from four different configurations of musicians, recorded at the end of April 2013.
The first disc, Chasing The Peripanjandra, features the power trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, Russell on guitar, and bassist John Edwards. Encompassing three tracks spread over 71 minutes, Chasing features the kind of high-level interaction you’d expect from three of the the U.K.’s best improvisers. Spastic, fiery passages alternate with surprisingly quiet and (at least by Evan Parker standards) sparse, almost lyrical explorations. The longish running time of each track works to the music’s advantage, as the trio manages to cover a lot of ground in each piece.
Stream “What! No Soap?”:
Naqsh is the second disc in the set, featuring the solo piano of Pat Thomas. Its nine tracks add up to just under an hour of music, with two pieces coming in under three minutes each. It’s a nice complement to the first disc to hear shorter improvisations. If it wasn’t understood already that Pat Thomas was one of the great pianists of our time, this disc should clarify that for anyone still in doubt. From the extended technique of “ibn Arabi” to the electronics of “for Yusef Lateef” to the almost straight ahead playing of “the letter,” Thomas shows his complete mastery of his instrument paired with an exuberant creativity.
Stream “for Martin Lings”:
The third disc, Knottings, from the trio of violinist Alison Blunt, violist Benedict Taylor, and bassist David Leahy, lives up to its name. Featuring twisted, thorny improvisations that draw as much from Béla Bartók and J.S. Bach as they do from contemporary techniques developed by people like György Ligeti and Derek Bailey, the empathetic and sensitive playing of this trio makes one wonder why this kind of improvisation isn’t taught in classical conservatories.
Stream “Square Knot”:
Seven Cities, the last disc in the collection, features the duo of vocalist Kay Grant and clarinetist Alex Ward. This might be the first time I’ve heard a duo of voice and clarinet, and it sounds wonderful. “Bristol,” the first of the seven tracks, all named for cities in England, starts with the two offering almost identical sustained lines before splitting into more staccato notes, key clacks, and tongue sounds. At their most extreme, these two acoustic musicians sound entirely synthetic, a nice contrast to the warmth and wood evident elsewhere across this disc.
Making Rooms is a powerful statement from some very talented musicians and a most welcome addition to the recorded history of creative music. I look forward to seeing what Weekertoft and all of these musicians do next.
Interview: JD Allen