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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Keith and Julie Tippett Live At The Purcell Room

Live At The Purcell Room
Keith & Julie Tippett

Recorded at the London Jazz Festival in 2008 and originally broadcast on Radio 3’s admirable Jazz on 3 series, Keith and Julie Tippett are in fine form. A musical partnership that was always remarkable from the outset, the duo are in a reflective, introspective mood for the bulk of this continuous suite.

In the early sections, whilst Julie cautiously enunciates the words of a self-penned poem, embers of slow-burning chords, and chiming clusters of dissonant harmonies offer up any number of potential avenues for the singer to explore.

As is often the case with the pair, alongside the sedate sections there are more fractious tussles. Here the words melt into staccato ululations competing with frosty splinters of prepared piano. With melodic threads rapidly unravelling, scat associations exchange febrile greetings before scuttling off into unknown scales, and starkly nebulous territories.

The control each musician displays has its own breath-taking drama, a product of their own unique brand of musical telepathy. At around 30 minutes, there's a quiet intensity brewing between them as delicate tumbling notes scatter like falling leaves whilst Julie offers long, intimate notes, barely above a whisper. Occasionally a musical box, whose sugary Tinkerbell melodies twinkle forlornly will briefly take centre stage, enabling the duo to regroup and gather up from the edge. There are so many revelatory moments of connection and interplay that it’s impossible to note them all.

Suffice to say that between the pin-drop silences, and amidst the wood blocks, singing bowls, bells, shakers and other sundry percussive clutter accumulated over a partnership now into its fourth decade, there exists an almost tangible sense of trust and communion between the pair. In each other’s company they are utterly fearless - much like the music they so compellingly create.


Stephen Iliffe said...

Thanks for keeping us up to date with Keith Tippett's output. I began delving into his oevre in the past year inspired by a love of his contributions to KC's In The Wake of Posiedon and Islands. I don't know if you have ever heard his solo piano Mujician, it's quite astonishing how he single-handedly turns a grand piano into a whole orchestra. By the way, did Keith ever play live with KC, and if so, does it feature on any of the KC Collectors Club albums, or was his work restricted to their studio works?

Sid Smith said...

Hello Stephen, thanks for dropping in again. Totally agree about your point about the way Tippett turns the piano into an orchestra! I missed Mujician when they were in Newcastle recently but have seen them a couple of times. Like any improvised music, they can be hit and miss but when the hits come, they're like nothing else on the planet. Lovely stuff!

Tippett only ever worked with KC in the studio sadly, but was asked to join the band on a couple of occasions by Fripp. What a live outfit that would've been, eh?

Stephen Iliffe said...

One can only admire Keith for resolutely sticking to his own free jazz path and refusing the Prog Rock Dollar - his gain and our loss, I guess. What I really love about Cat Food and Formentera Lady and other tracks of that ilk is that pop sensibility interleaved with striking free jazz flourishes. I like that tension between structure and chaos. I assume Groon must be his doing too. I agree about the hits and misses, it could be quite an expensive business buying up Keith's stuff with little idea of what you're going to get!? I am looking for something of his quieter and more lyrical side without the constant uptempo/dissonant side (as much as I like that too when I'm in the right mood). Is there anything in that vein you'd recommend?) Thanks, Stephen

Sid Smith said...

Keith told me that although he liked Crimson's music it wasn't his path and so he went on his own way. You have to respect a character like that don't you?

Groon was in fact an RF idea that had its origins back in Giles, Giles & Fripp. Probably heavily influenced by John McLaughlin's Extrapolation album as well.

If you're looking for something more quiet or lyrical from KT then you might want to try the Fripp-produced Blueprint album (I did the sleeve notes for the La Cooka Ratcha edition although the BGO version might be sonically better). Mind you, that one has quite a lot of dissonant bumps in the road.

Perhaps the most conventional album KT has recorded is this one.

It has straight songs, the odd bluesy ballad as well as bit of the old elbow-thumping improv as well.

Stephen Iliffe said...

Perhaps someone could invent a KC virtual reality game in which one could mix and match one's fantasy line up - anyone for Fripp, Lake, Bruford, Tippett and Travis!? Ta for the tip off about Blueprint, I've seen it around but didn't realise it was RF-produced. My wallet is now £10.99 lighter than the last time I looked. Cheers, Stephen


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